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Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Crystal Lake (Mount Adams Wilderness) -08/13/2022

For our day trips we try and keep our driving time time to trailheads under 3 hours (preferably two and a half or less). The one exception to that is Mount Adams which sits right around that 3 hour mark from Salem. Due to the distance we don’t get there as much as we’d like but we’d put it on this years schedule. We’ve been turning more to Matt Reeder’s guidebooks and hike #16 his “Off the Beaten Trail (2nd edition) was the hike that we’d originally planned on. While doing some research on the Riley Camp Trail I learned of a use trail not far from the that trail’s junction with the Pacific Crest Trail that led to Crystal Lake so we decided to extend his suggested hike a bit.

A very favorable forecast, sunny skies with a high in the low 50s, provided a green light for our plans and we made the long drive to the Riley Camp Trailhead.
IMG_9133The Riley Camp Trail (Trail 64) on the opposite side of FR 23.

A short distance up the trail we stopped to fill out a day use permit (free) and review the wilderness map on the signboard.
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Trail 64 led gradually uphill through a nice forest.
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A little over one and a quarter mile from the trailhead we came to a signed junction with the Riley South Trail (Trail 64A).
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We stayed left on the Riley Camp Trail which almost immediately entered the Mount Adams Wilderness.
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IMG_9155We weren’t aware that the Forest Service was employing wilderness greeters.

IMG_9157May I see your self-issued permit?

We had started to notice a fair number of mosquitos near the junction and were forced to turn to the Deet. We’d been pretty luck so far this year at avoiding the little blood suckers but not on this day. While they weren’t anywhere near as bad as we’ve had them before they were persistent between the Riley South junction and the end of the Riley Camp Trail at the PCT. With the bugs after us we kept a decent pace as the trail continued it’s gradual climb through the forest.
IMG_9161The trail was in pretty good shape with just a few downed trees to step over/under.

IMG_9163First look at Mt. Adams through the trees.

Near the 2.7 mile mark the trail briefly entered a 2015 fire scar.
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IMG_9181

IMG_9182

IMG_9184Luna Lake

IMG_9188Aster

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We left the fire scar behind as the trail turned north passing by a series of ponds/lakes (mosquito breeding grounds).
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IMG_9214More Mt. Adams.

IMG_9220Paintbrush and lupine

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Beyond the mosquito birthing centers the trail began to curve back to the east and entered Riley Creek Meadows.
IMG_9238

IMG_9232Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_9242Riley Creek along the trail.

Just over 4.5 miles from the trailhead we crossed Riley Creek.
IMG_9248Riley Creek at the crossing.

Beyond the crossing the trail made a final 0.3 mile climb to the PCT.
IMG_9253A trail sign up ahead at the junction.

We turned right on the PCT which brought us back to Riley Creek after 0.2 miles.
IMG_9256PCT marker on the tree.

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IMG_9263Riley Creek below the PCT crossing.

We detoured briefly upstream to revisit our dinner spot during an overnight trip in 2017 (post).
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IMG_9269White mountain heather

IMG_9271A nice paintbrush

After the short detour we continued south on the PCT to Burnt Rock (just under half a mile from Riley Creek).
IMG_9274Mt. Adams behind us as we headed south.

IMG_9276Sheep Lake

IMG_9282Mt. Rainier behind a line of clouds.

IMG_9290Burnt Rock behind the snags left over from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire.

Alpine false dandelionAlpine false dandelion

IMG_9295Grouse

Near Burnt Rock we looked for a user trail heading toward the mountain and took a left onto it once we spotted it.
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It was another half mile to Crystal Lake. The use trail was fairly easy to follow. It did steepen just before the lake.
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IMG_9303Hummingbird visiting paint.

IMG_9307Mountain heather

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IMG_9316On the final pitch.

IMG_9315Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_9321Phlox

IMG_9320Almost there.

IMG_9322Not Crystal Lake, just a pretty little tarn nearby.

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Fortunately mosquitos weren’t an issue up here so we were able to relax and spend a good deal of time exploring around the lake and a little beyond.
IMG_9327_stitchMt. Rainier

IMG_9326Just a bit of snow left around 6300′.

IMG_9332The little tarn we’d passed.

IMG_9334While not big Crystal Lake was deep.

IMG_9341View down from the rocky ridge on the south side of the lake.

IMG_9344The rocky ridge along the south side of the lake.

IMG_9357We continued a tenth of a mile beyond the lake for a dramatic view of Mt. Adams.

IMG_9354We could hear a waterfall below on Riley Creek.

IMG_9353Zoomed in on the waterfall below.

IMG_9347Crystal Lake from above.

IMG_9359Mt. Rainier with Goat Rocks to the right.

IMG_9364Mt. Rainier

IMG_9362Some of Goat Rocks.

IMG_9367Golden-mantled grounds squirrel

After a good break we headed back down past the lake and back to the PCT.
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IMG_9381

IMG_9383

IMG_9385

IMG_9389_stitch

IMG_9392Getting ready to drop down.

IMG_9398Clark’s nutcrackers

IMG_9401Butterfly on mountain heather.

IMG_9409Saxifrage

IMG_9410Violet

Alpine speedwellAlpine speedwell

IMG_9414A checkerspot

IMG_9418A crescent

IMG_9422Mountain bluebird

IMG_9425Northern flicker

IMG_9429I’m guessing a warbler of some sort. We saw quite a few of these little yellow birds but had a hard time actually getting a photo.

We turned right on the PCT and followed it back to the Riley Camp Trail and then followed that trail back to our car.
IMG_9431Mt. Adams from the PCT.

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IMG_9434

IMG_9435Adams Glacier

IMG_9441Riley Creek at the PCT crossing.

IMG_9445Wildflowers along the PCT.

IMG_9449Bee on valerian

IMG_9451Butterfly on valerian

IMG_9454Another butterfly on valerian

IMG_9456Looking back at Mt. Adams from the Riley Camp Trail.

IMG_9462Passing through Riley Creek Meadows.

IMG_9469Gentian

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IMG_9480We only saw a couple of beargrass blooms.

IMG_9485Pollinators on fleabane.

IMG_9503False hellebore

IMG_9506Luna Lake and Mt. Adams from the trail.

The mosquitos remained a nuisance as we made our way back to the car so we kept a brisk pace. When we arrived back at the car there was a family preparing to set off for an overnight stay. They had an extra half of a pizza due to getting a free pie after the pizzeria initially made the wrong one. They offered us the extra since they couldn’t take it with them and we gladly accepted. Lunch was solved and dinner wound up also being solved when my parents took us and our Son (who was visiting for our Nephew Tyler’s 4th birthday party) out to Gilgamesh Brewing’s The Woods. It was a great ending to the day.

Our hike to Crystal Lake came in at 12.6 miles with approximately 2900′ in cumulative elevation gain. While I typically don’t share tracks for off trail hikes this one is listed on several prominent hiking websites so am including it below. If you do visit please be respectful, tread lightly, and Leave No Trace. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Crystal Lake

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Starway Trail to Silver Star Mountain

The late snow melt in in SW Washington had prompted us to push a planned hike to Silver Star Mountain at the end of June to next year but when we found ourselves in need of a substitute for another hike we took the opportunity to pull it back into this year. This would be our fourth visit to Silver Star Mountain having previously taken Ed’s Trail in 2013 (post), the Bluff Mountain Trail in 2015 (post), and the Grouse Vista Trail in 2019 (post). Those hikes had taken place on July 1st, June 27th, and June 24th respectively so this was a later visit for us, but we knew that the late snow melt had delayed the wildflower display so we still expected to get to experience that.

Our inspiration for this visit came from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) which was printed in 2019. Reeder calls the hike to Silver Star Mountain via the Starway Trail as “by far the most difficult….”. He also mentions that the last two miles of driving on FR 41 to reach the trailhead are “potholed and rocky” while the Forest Service states “Trailhead is best accessed by high clearance vehicles due to rough road conditions.” The Washington Trail Association also mentions that “…most of the roads accessing the trailhead have been severely degraded…” This last description was probably the most accurate description of what we encountered for the final 3 miles on FR 41. The road didn’t have pot holes, it had craters. Our Outback scrapped the ground twice emerging from said craters and I can’t imagine how a low clearance vehicle could make it given the current condition of the road. In fact there was a sign at the Sunset Falls Campground with slash going through a low clearance vehicle. We parked at a pullout near a gate at the FR 41/FR 4107 junction. Reeder mentions that you can drive 4107 approximately a half mile to the start of the actual Starway Trail at Copper Creek but if the gate gets closed your stuck. Looking at the gate we weren’t sure if it even still closed but we were more than done with driving at that point.
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We headed down this one lane road approximately a half mile to a small parking area near a bridge over Copper Creek.
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It was an overcast morning which was a welcome sight for this hike. Reeder had recommended not attempting this hike on warmer days due to the steepness of the climbs. The forecast for Silver Star was for a high in the low 60’s with partly sunny skies. We hopped that by the time we reached Silver Star we’d be greeted by those partly sunny skies, but the low 60’s temperatures were what we were really after. Beyond Copper Creek the trail followed an old road bed as it gradually climbed for a little over a quarter of a mile to a fork.
IMG_8154Overgrown roadbed that is now the Starway Trail.

IMG_8156The fork with the Starway Trail to the right.

The trail began to steepen here but didn’t really pick up steam until reaching a couple of switchbacks 0.4 miles from the fork.
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IMG_8160Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_8157Beardstongue

IMG_8164Paintbrush

IMG_8166Taken from the first switchback this gives a little reference for how steep the trail was.

The switchbacks only lasted a tenth of a mile and then the trail shot almost directly uphill. The grade varied between steep and really steep for three quarters of a mile where it finally leveled out for a bit on a bench along the ridge we had been following.
IMG_8168Pictures never do justice to just how steep trails are.

IMG_8180Almost to the bench.

IMG_8183Level trail!

A section of trail on the bench passed through a carpet of foam flower. We’d never seen so much of that flower in one area.
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IMG_8192Inside out flower

For about a half mile the trail avoided any overly steep climbing and then it once again headed uphill in earnest.
IMG_8195The trail starting to steepen again.

Every website I checked agreed with Reeder that the Starway Trail didn’t see a lot of use. They all mention the steepness of the trail and that the trail was faint and could be difficult to follow. After having hiked the trail we can confirm the steepness but it appears that someone or some agency has put a good deal of work into improving the trail. We had no trouble following the tread and there were a couple of places where a series of short switchbacks appear to have replaced sections that went straight uphill.
IMG_8197The first set of what appeared to be fairly recently built switchbacks.

At the top of the switchbacks the trail emerged in a small meadow where it once again leveled out.
IMG_8199Approaching the little meadow.

IMG_8203A little bit of blue overhead through the fog.

IMG_8208Tiger lily

IMG_8209Paintbrush

IMG_8210Wood rose

IMG_8211Thimbleberry

I had gotten to this level section first and looked for a place to sit down and wait for Heather but the meadow was too wet so I found a log in the trees at the far end and had a seat.
IMG_8212Into the trees to look for a log.

For a little over a half mile the trail climbed gradually alternating between forest and small meadows before arriving at its high point just below the wildflower covered Point 3977. Along the way we emerged from the clouds and got our first glimpses of Silver Star Mountain and Mt. St. Helens.
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IMG_8220Silver Star Mountain

IMG_8224Bunchberry

IMG_8229Our first view of Mt. St. Helens

IMG_8230Zoomed in on Mt. St. Helens.

IMG_8232Arriving below Point 3977.

IMG_8239Point 3977

IMG_8241Pollinator on catchfly

IMG_8242The pink vetch was very bright.

IMG_8243Silver Star Mountain from the trail below Point 3977.

IMG_8244Rose

IMG_8246Wildflowers on Point 3977.

IMG_8249Bluebells of Scotland

IMG_8252Sub alpine mariposa lily

IMG_8257Checkerspot on Oregon sunshine

IMG_8261Lots of purple larkspur amid the other flowers.

IMG_8265A few columbine were hiding in the mix.

IMG_8266Violet

We surprised a fellow hiker as he rounded Point 3977 from the other side. He said he hadn’t expected to run into anyone on the Starway Trail. He’d started at the Ed’s Trail Trailhead and was doing a big loop using the Starway Trail and then road walking FR 41 & 4109 back to his car. He climbed up Point 3977 and we continued on planning to do that same thing on our way back. On the far side (south) of the point the Starway Trail suddenly dropped heading steeply downhill through a meadow.
IMG_8268Starting down.

IMG_8272Looking back up.

For nearly the next three quarters of a mile the trail alternated between steep descents and more gradual downhills losing a little more than 500′ in the process. Then the trail shot back uphill gaining over 300′ in the next 0.3 miles before arriving at a junction with the Bluff Mountain Trail.
IMG_8273Stars on the trees marked the Starway Trail at times.

IMG_8274Pinesap emerging from the ground.

IMG_8276A cairn at the end of this brief level section marked the start of another steep descent. By this time we’d lost enough elevation to be back in the clouds.

IMG_8279Part of the elevation loss was to drop below some interesting rock outcrops.

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IMG_8282Fully back in the fog.

IMG_8284Time to climb again.

IMG_8285Big root balls.

IMG_8287Trail sign near the Bluff Mountain Trail junction.

IMG_8288Final pitch to the Bluff Mountain Trail.

IMG_8291On the Bluff Mountain Trail at the junction.

We turned right on the Bluff Mountain Trail which steadily climbed for nearly three quarters of a mile to a fork.
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IMG_8301

IMG_8302Lots of nice wildflowers along the Bluff Mountain Trail.

IMG_8310Another checkerspot

IMG_8313Paintbrush

IMG_8315Penstemon

IMG_8320We just couldn’t quite shake the fog.

IMG_8331First sighting of Mt. Rainier.

IMG_8333Mt. St. Helens to the left with Mt. Rainier to the right.

IMG_8334Coiled lousewort

IMG_8336Lupine

IMG_8339Getting closer to Silver Star.

IMG_8341Crab spider on fleabane

IMG_8354Spirea along the trail.

IMG_8357Bistort and mountain goldenbanner

IMG_8358First Mt. Adams sighting.

IMG_8364A crescent on bistort.

IMG_8369Penstemon

IMG_8377Wallflower with beetle.

IMG_8378Passing below Silver Star Mountain.

IMG_8379Mt. Hood

IMG_8380

IMG_8388Rock arch below Silver Star’s summit.

At the fork we turned uphill to the left leaving the Bluff Mountain Trail.
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This short connector trail climbed 0.1 miles to an old roadbed.
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20220723_110718Fading avalanche lily.

IMG_8391The old roadbed.

We turned left and followed the roadbed 0.2 miles to a saddle.
IMG_8392The summit to the left with Mt. Adams in the distance.

IMG_8393Mt. Hood to the right at the saddle.

We headed for the summit to start and met a couple with a cute puppy named Hazel, the same name as our cat that we’d lost a year ago nearly to the day (post). The puppy even shared similar colored fur to our Hazel’s.

The view from the summit was a good one on this day. The clouds were low enough that we could see all five of the Cascade volcanoes: St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson.
IMG_8399Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_8410Goat Rocks (between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams)

IMG_8400Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8402Mt. Jefferson. If you enlarge and look closely you can also make out Three Fingered Jack and the North Sister to the far right.

20220723_111756Swallowtail

IMG_8417Sturgeon Rock

IMG_8418Wildflowers at the summit.

IMG_8429Bug at the summit.

After a nice break at the summit we dropped back down to the saddle then climbed to the southern high point just to say we did.
IMG_8438Point 3977 is the the island surrounded by clouds.

There was a lot of butterfly action here.
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After tagging the southern point we headed back the way we’d come.
IMG_8451The only beargrass bloom we saw all day.

As we were passing below Silver Star we kept our eyes out for our favorite trail animals, pikas. We’d heard a few from the summit and we were rewarded with spotting one of the little rock rabbits in a talus slope.
IMG_8463The talus slope.

IMG_8456Pikas are not easy to spot.

IMG_8462On alert.

As always we kept our eyes out for other things we’d missed on the first pass.
20220723_120051Orange agoseris

IMG_8481

IMG_8483Ladybug

IMG_8488Making the steep climb back up to Point 3977.

We did wind up making the short climb to the top of Point 3977 even though the clouds had risen enough to effectively block most of the views.
IMG_8491Looking toward Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

IMG_8495Looking toward Silver Star.

The views weren’t great but the wildflowers were.
IMG_8496Possibly a Native American vision quest pit.

IMG_8498Bluebells of Scotland with at least three visible insects.

IMG_8501Some bright paintbrush.

20220723_130806Larkspur

IMG_8510A brief appearance by Silver Star’s summit.

After a short break on Point 3977 we began the relentless descent to Copper Creek. The long steep descent was not a friend to the knees but we managed to make it down in one piece. Just before reaching the bridge we passed just the second hiker on the Starway Trail for the day.
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IMG_8520Sorry knees.

IMG_8526Mock orange

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IMG_8530A little blue sky in the afternoon.

We walked back up FR 4107 to our car and began the tedious drive back down FR 41 and made our way safely home.
IMG_8534Salmonberries along FR 4107. I may have eaten a few as well as some red huckleberries along the lower portion of the Starway Trail.

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Both of those berry types are too sour for Heather who prefers thimbleberries but alas those were only beginning to show signs of ripening.

IMG_8539Looking back at the hillside the Starway Trail climbs from FR 4107.

In my research I’ve seen several different distances listed for this hike. In Reeder’s book he lists the hike to Silver Star as 10.2 miles. Our GPS units recorded 11 miles though. Some of that may be due to going to both ends of Silver Star and some additional distance may be due to the newer switchbacks (assuming they really are new). Regardless of the actual distance I think everyone agrees that the total elevation gain is right around 4200′.

I’m not sure we could have asked for a better day to do this hike on. We got some big views and lots of wildflowers while the temperature remained mild thanks to the low clouds and we saw our first pika of the year. I don’t know that either one of us would ever want to try that drive again but the hike itself was worth the effort. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Starway Trail to Silver Star

Categories
Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Goat Marsh Lake and Kalama Ski Trail – 06/25/2022

After a wet and mild Spring, Summer announced its arrival with our fist 90-degree temperatures just in time for the weekend. When it gets that warm we typically turn to the mountains for relief but that’s a little trickier this year due to there being quite a bit of snow still up in the Cascades. Even some of the lower elevation mountains are still in the process of melting out. For instance our original plan for this hike had been to visit Silver Star Mountain (post) via the Starway Trail, an approach that we haven’t done yet. While this mountain is accessible recent reports showed several remaining snowdrifts but more importantly the wildflower show is running late. To decide where to go I turned to my spreadsheet looking for hikes that I had scheduled in coming years around the end of June. Goat Marsh Lake was on the schedule for next year and while the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area is located with the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It sits at a low enough elevation that there was a chance that snow wouldn’t be an issue. Using NOAA’s NOHRSC snow depth layer on the PCTA’s interactive map confirmed that snow shouldn’t be an issue at the lake or along the loop we were planning after visiting the lake using the Kalama Ski and Toutle Trails. With a forecast high of 78 degrees it would be warm but not unbearable so with that as our plan we got an early start and headed north to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead.

We parked a little up FR 8123 from the trailhead and walked back down to the start of the trail.
IMG_4715FR 8123

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This was the Kalama Ski Trail (Trail 231) and part of the loop we were planning as well as the way to reach the Goat Marsh Trail in a quarter mile.
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We followed this path to the junction where we turned right to visit the lake.
IMG_4722It appeared the trail had been rerouted at least a couple of times to cross this dry creek bed.

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This trail led slightly uphill for 0.5 mile to our first view of the lake. Along the way we’d spotted a cow elk in the trees but she disappeared before we could take a picture.
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IMG_4730Fence at the boundary for the Research Area.

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IMG_4738Goat Mountain and Goat Marsh Lake.

The trail continued around the lake for a little over three quarters of a mile. We spotted two more cow elk and moments later noticed a whole heard, including several calves, further to the north.
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IMG_4746Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4749Trillium

IMG_4750Vanilla leaf

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IMG_4754

IMG_4761Frog on a log.

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IMG_4769The two cow elk in the middle of the grassy area.

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IMG_4777Calves lined up, this one is a bit blurry due to them moving and the amount of zoom used.

IMG_4786The elk herd not zoomed in.

IMG_4787Zoomed

After watching the elk for a while we continued on.
IMG_4794Coralroot

IMG_4795Goat Mountain

IMG_4799Avalanche lilies

IMG_4804Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4806Marsh violet

IMG_4811Frog under a log.

IMG_4814Salmonberry

IMG_4816Sign near the end of the trail.

IMG_4818At the end of the trail.

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IMG_4821Beaver lodge

IMG_4826Duck and ducklings

IMG_4836Geese out in the grass.

We returned to the trailhead and crossed FR 8123 to stay on the Kamala Ski Trail.
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IMG_4843

IMG_4844The road crossing.

We had a little trouble picking up the trail beyond the sign because there was also a campsite here with several use trails radiating from it. We used our GPS while we looked for the blue diamonds that would identify a ski trail. Heather was the first to spot one and we were soon on the ski trail heading toward Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_4848In the campsite trying to decide which way to go.

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IMG_4851Once we found it the trail was pretty obvious, at least for a while.

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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the road we came to a junction with the Blue Lake Horse Trail. The horse trail can be used to reach Blue Lake (post) to the north via the Toutle Trail or the same Toutle Trail to the south near the Kalama River (post) which we could have done here to shorten our loop. Instead we stayed straight on the ski trail.
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We had remarked several times during our Ashland vacation about the lack of mosquitos, and really insects overall, but that was not the case here. While they weren’t a big issue it was noticeably buggier here than it had been in Southern Oregon. The local birds were busy doing their part to reduce the number of bugs.
IMG_4862Gray jay with a snack.

IMG_4865Western tanager. Right after this photo he flew straight at us snatching an insect out of mid-air.

Four tenths a mile from the horse trail the ski trail made a turn away from the mountain and headed SE.
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The trail became a little more overgrown then came to a series of dry creek beds where we again had to hunt for signs of the trail.
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IMG_4881Butte Camp Dome in front of Mt. St. Helens.

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IMG_4891Crossing another dry bed.

IMG_4892Where is the trail?

IMG_4893In one of the creek beds. We were using the GPS along with looking for cairns and/or flagging.

IMG_4894Goat Mountain

IMG_4896You can’t really make them out in the photo but there is a pink flag and a blue diamond (on a downed tree) near the edge of the green trees.

We were now entering the section of trail that the NOHRSC indicated there could be some lingering snow patches.
IMG_4899There was another short brushy section before the forest opened up.

IMG_4900One of the strangest snow sightings we’ve come across.

IMG_4902My theory was bigfoot hung this.

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IMG_4916The NOHRSC estimated 2″-3.9″ of snow and that seemed to be about right.

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Unlike in the Siskiyous this melting snow had produced a fair number of mosquitos so we hustled through this section even though it was scenic.
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We encountered the first other hikers we’d seen when we arrived at the junction with the Toutle Trail (Approx 3 miles from the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead). The junction was unsigned and they were considering which way to go to find the Loowit Trail. We pointed them north (left from the direction we were coming, straight for them) on the Toutle Trail and then turned south (right) ourselves onto the Toutle.
IMG_4921Looking back at the junction from the Toutle Trail. The post with no sign is the continuation of the Toutle while the trail on the left is the ski trail.

We followed this trail south for half a mile passing through a beargrass meadow that appears to have bloomed heavily last year and a lava flow with excellent views of Mt. St. Helens before dropping to FR 81 at the Red Rock Pass Trailhead.
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IMG_4926

IMG_4932Last years beargrass.

IMG_4934

IMG_4937Strawberry

IMG_4938Phlox

IMG_4948

IMG_4952FR 81 below the trail.

IMG_4953Trail sign at the trailhead.

We crossed FR 81 and continued on the Toutle Trail.
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After 100 yards we came to a familiar fork where we had turned uphill in 2019 on our Cinnamon Ridge Hike linked above.
IMG_4961Raven flyover

IMG_4963The fork.

We were going in the opposite direction of what we’d done in 2019. Bugs were a bit more of a nuisance here so we kept a steady pace as we made a little climb then descended to McBride Lake and the Kalama River.
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IMG_4971One of several side creeks we crossed.

20220625_112201Trillium

20220625_112218Avalanche lily

IMG_4976Violet

IMG_4984

IMG_4993Goat Mountain beyond McBride Lake.

IMG_4994Sourgrass

IMG_5004Valerian

IMG_5006

IMG_5012Solomonseal

20220625_115233Saxifrage

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IMG_5028

A little west of McBride Lake the Toutle Trail crosses the Kalama River on a closed road bed.
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IMG_5031Kalama River from the road bed.

Our original plan was blown up here. We had intended to follow the Toutle Trail to the start of the Kalama Ski Trail and then take that trail back uphill to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead. The problem was I had already forgotten about the Blue Lake Horse Trail and when I had glanced at the GPS and saw a trail extending north from the end of the road bed I mistook it for the ski trail so we followed the road bed a quarter mile to FR 81. (We had a paper map with us but didn’t pull it out to confirm.)
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IMG_5035The Blue Lake Horse Trail on the far side of FR 81.

When we crossed FR 81, two things that should have tipped us off to our mistake. First the sign clearly said “Blue Horse Trail” and second instead of blue diamonds there were orange diamonds with arrows marking this trail.
IMG_5036The sign did show FR 8123 which was the road the trailhead was on so that fed into us not realizing our mistake at first.

We followed this trail for a third of a mile before we realized what we’d done. We stopped and considered our options. We could back track three quarters of a mile to the Toutle Trail or a third of a mile to FR 81 and follow one of them west to the ski trail. Another option was to continue uphill on this trail to the junction we’d passed earlier and retrace our steps on the ski trail from there back to the trailhead. All of those options meant adding distance and retracing steps. Heather suggested another option, simply heading cross-country for FR 8123 and the trailhead.
IMG_5037An orange diamond on a tree ahead.

The forest was definitely conducive to cross-country travel so we struck off in a WNW direction. The cross-country hike was about as easy as we could have hoped for and after 0.7 miles we arrived a FR 8123 just 0.2 miles from our car.
IMG_5038Where we left the horse trail.

IMG_5039Typical terrain for the cross-country walk.

IMG_5040It seems like every time we go off-trail we come across a mylar balloon. We’ve really come to despise those things. We packed it and the ribbon out.

IMG_5041The trickiest part was crossing this dry stream bed but we fortunately came to it at a spot that was perfect for crossing.

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IMG_5043FR 8123

IMG_5045Coming up to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead (and our car) on FR 8123.

I had estimated a 10-12 mile hike with only about 800′ of total elevation gain and we came in at 10.8 miles.

Our track with the cross-country portion in orange.

While it had been a warm day, the combination of shade provided by the forest and a fairly steady breeze, it hadn’t been too hot. The hike had provided a lot of diverse scenery and great views of Mt. St. Helens. The wildlife was a big bonus along the Goat Marsh Trail too. It seems like we can always count on hikes in Mt. St. Helens area to be great ones. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Goat Marsh Lake

Categories
SW Washington SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer – 06/11/2022

Another rainy weekend was in the forecast which had us questioning whether or not it was worth heading out. Our original plan had involved a hike with mountain views so we wanted to save that for a day with a clearer forecast. This had us looking for something that wasn’t view dependent. The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge a.k.a the Columbian White-Tailed Deer Refuge fit that bill and was on our schedule during the month of June in 2025. I had it penciled in for June due to one of the trails in the refuge, the Center Road Trail, only being open to hiking from June through September. While a refuge hike is typically okay on a rainy overcast day it had poured Friday and we were expecting Saturday to be similar and weren’t keen on driving over two hours to be drenched for an entire 12 mile hike. Friday evening we had all but decided to take the weekend off but just to be sure I pulled up the NOAA forecast for the refuge. To our surprise there was just a 10% chance of showers in the morning followed by partly sunny skies and a high in the low 60s. That sold us and we got our packs ready for a 5am departure the next morning.

After a brief conversation with a very friendly Washington State Trooper (I completely missed a 45mph sign and was given a warning) we pulled into the refuge HQ (open Mon-Fri 7:30am – 4pm). We had gotten the hike for this idea from the “more hikes” section of Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” guidebook as well as an entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide describes a 6.1 mile loop, which for reasons that will become evident later, is no longer possible. (I have contacted both with updated information.)
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IMG_2440A damp and cloudy morning.

IMG_2445Swallow

Our plan had been to to the described loop but after reaching the far end of the loop we were going to do an out-and-back along Steamboat and Brooks Slough Roads to add a little hiking time since a six mile loop would likely violate our rule of not having our driving time be greater than our hiking time on day trips. From the HQ we walked out of the parking lot onto Steamboat Slough Road and turned right crossing Indian Jack Slough. The loop description was to then turn right through a gate into the refuge shed/garage yard.
IMG_2441Indian Jack Slough and the garage from Refuge HQ.

The gate, including a secondary pedestrian gate were padlocked and there were “Area Closed” signs on the driveway gate. This was a bit unexpected, but shouldn’t have been if we’d have read the Refuge website more closely. What we discovered after our hike was that at some point a 0.3 section of Center Road, from Steamboat Slough Road west, had been closed to the public making the loop impossible and leaving the Center Road Trail as a 5 mile round trip out-and-back. At this point though we weren’t sure what was going on so we decided to simply head out Steamboat Slough Road and were prepared to skip Center Road and make the hike a simple out-and-back.
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Beyond the shed/garage there was a living quarters and just beyond that we spotted the first Columbian White-tailed deer of the day.
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We followed this road for 2.3 miles to the start of the White-tail Trail. It is possible to drive to this trail and park at the nearby dead end of Steamboat Slough Road.
IMG_2465Elochoman Slough

IMG_2473The first of many bald eagles we spotted (atop the dead tree across the slough).

IMG_2489Working on drying out.

IMG_2475Lots of non-native yellow flag iris in the area.

IMG_2494Little birds such as this sparrow were everywhere but rarely sat still.

IMG_2501A different eagle waiting to dry.

IMG_2503There are at least 5 birds in the tree including four goldfinches.

IMG_2507A male goldfinch takes off.

IMG_2513The morning clouds were starting to break up as forecasted.

IMG_2516One of many great blue herons.

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IMG_2539A male wood duck.

IMG_2545Another great blue heron with the female wood duck on the log below.

IMG_2548The first of several osprey.

IMG_2552Cattle in a field along the road.

IMG_2557Geese

IMG_2565Snail crossing the road.

IMG_2572Maybe a yellow warbler. I had to use the digital zoom to get between the branches so it’s not the clearest photo.

The start of the mile long White-tail trail which travels along a setback levee.
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IMG_2586There was a pole with a bunch of bird nests hung from it near the start of the trail. We’d never seen one like it before.

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It turned out to be nests for purple martins, a bird that as far as we know we hadn’t seen before.
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DSCN1586Bald eagle in the same area.

IMG_2597Slug on lupine

IMG_2600A different type of lupine.

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IMG_2605Lupine, daisies and yellow gland-weed.

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20220611_090020Bumble bee needing to dry out.

We spotted more white-tailed deer along the levee, a pair of young bucks.
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DSCN1653A look at the white tail. He gave us a better look but in that one he was also doing his business so we stuck with this uncentered, slightly blurry version.

There was also a great blue heron sitting in a nearby snag.
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While we were keeping an eye on the bucks and the heron to the inland side of the levee there were geese, ducks, and various small birds all around us.
DSCN1612Guessing marsh wren.

DSCN1637Ducks

DSCN1644Goose with goslings.

DSCN1651Common yellow throat.

DSCN1660Male gadwall?

We eventually tore ourselves away from the wildlife bonanza and continued on.
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DSCN1666There was pretty much non-stop bird song throughout the day.

IMG_2616Traffic on the Columbia River.

DSCN1668The Santa Maria on the Columbia.

DSCN1671Female brown-headed cowbird?

IMG_2619Flowers along the levee.

DSCN1676American robin

DSCN1677Red-winged blackbird chasing a heron.

When we reached the end of the White-tail Trail we turned right onto Steamboat Slough Road. You can also park near this end of the trail but you must come from the west as Steamboat Slough Road is missing a section (which is why you hike on the levee).
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We followed this two-lane version of the road for approximately 1.25 miles to a fork and turned right on Brooks Slough Road. After just 0.2 miles we passed the western end of the Center Road Trail. This end was clearly open. We talked ourselves into believing that either we missed where we were actually supposed to go or that they just hadn’t unlocked the gate yet since we were still unaware of the updated rules for the trail and decided that we would take this trail on our way back and we could do the loop after all.
IMG_2625 Note the sign does not indicate that you cannot reach the HQ from the road, it simply says it is 5 miles round trip. Online it adds that hikers must exit the trail the way they entered.

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IMG_2630Roses along the road.

DSCN1699Muskrat

DSCN1694Warbler

DSCN1716Osprey

IMG_2634Brooks Slough Road junction.

We turned right and followed this narrow one-lane road along Brooks Slough. For the first mile it ran parallel to Highway 4 then it veered away becoming a quieter walk.
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IMG_2645Another eagle sitting near the top of the first tall tree on the far side of the slough.

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IMG_2647Interesting shrub along the road.

IMG_2649The partly sunny skies had indeed materialized.

DSCN1748Kingfisher

DSCN1751California scrub jay

DSCN1755White pelicans

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IMG_2654Some sort of ornamental shrub/tree but it had cool flowers.

DSCN1771Turkey vulture

DSCN1786Couldn’t tell what type of ducks they were.

We followed the road for approximately 2 miles to what was shown on the GPS as Alger Creek.
IMG_2660Alger Creek somewhere in the grass flowing into Brooks Slough.

IMG_2661Pond on the other side of the road.

DSCN1788Black pheobe?

After a short break we headed back. It was actually starting to feel warm now but we distracted ourselves with even more wildlife.
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DSCN1798Red-tailed hawk

DSCN1803American goldfinch

DSCN1815Swallowtail

DSCN1825Cedar waxwing with a salmonberry.

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DSCN1850Goat lounging in a driveway across the highway. There had actually been a black goat in nearly the same spot on our first pass.

IMG_2669Caterpillar

When we got back to Center Road we reread the signage and stuck to our plan to try and complete the loop.
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We had been discussing all the different wildlife that we’d seen already and I mentioned that the only thing missing was a turtle. Not long after starting down Center Road I noticed something brown (that didn’t look like a cow) in the distance near the tree line. As I was staring at it a large set of antlers raised from the grass and I realized it was a bull elk.
DSCN1886The elk is in the center of the photo near the tree line.

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We watched him as he munched on grass for quite a while before moving on. At that point I said something to the effect of forgetting about the turtle because that was better. It wasn’t too much longer before we came to some more wetlands. Lo and behold there was a turtle.
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Many pictures followed before resuming our hike.
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Heather spotted a pair of egrets in a distant tree which proved impossible to get a decent picture of.
DSCN1910Here is a not so decent picture of the egrets.

We also startled up a pair of American bitterns.
DSCN1912One of the bitterns in flight.

After 2 miles we spotted a set of posts with signs where we finally understood that the Center Road Trail no longer runs the entire length of the roadbed now.
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We were less than half a mile from the HQ which was visible from where we were but we obeyed the signs and turned around. It would have been about a perfect distance for us as we were at the 12.1 mile mark when we had gotten to the closed area. Now we had to backtrack two miles on Center Road before the mile long White-tail Trail and the 2.3 mile road walk back to the HQ parking lot. Not only was this a lot longer than we’d planned but the surface had been mostly paved and what wasn’t paved was packed gravel road beds so our feet were really protesting as we retraced our steps.
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DSCN1924Heather spotted this garter snake along Center Road. Another animal to add to the days list.

IMG_2708Back at the White-tail Trail.

IMG_2711It had cooled down again which provided some relief as we trudged back.

DSCN1929A second turtle

DSCN1931Mallards

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IMG_2714Way more water in the afternoon.

DSCN1940Another kingfisher. It was in the same tree as the heron had been earlier that morning when we were watching the bucks.

DSCN1941Family swim

IMG_2719By Steamboat Slough Road we had all kinds of blisters/hotspots on our feet.

IMG_2725Arriving back at the refuge HQ.

I got to the car first, changed shoes and drove back to pick up Heather who was only about a quarter mile behind me. My GPS read 17.5 miles of almost entirely flat hiking.

Fortunately I had thought to bring my parents camera which has more powerful zoom than my point and shoot and also our binoculars which Heather had been using since there was so much wildlife to be seen. We encountered a couple of other hikers on the White-tail Trail as well as a pair of cyclists and several cars along the various roads but for the most part it was a fairly peaceful (long) hike. The one thing we kept coming back to was that if we hadn’t done the hike the we did we wouldn’t have seen some of the wildlife that we encountered. Was it worth the blisters though? You betcha – Happy Trails!

Flickr: Columbia White-tailed Deer Refuge

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Trip report Washington

Black Hole Falls – 06/04/2022

After our extended Memorial Day weekend of hiking in the Medford area we were looking forward to a poison oak free outing. While we didn’t come away from that trip with any physical repercussions from the plant it had gotten into our heads to the point where we were seeing it when we closed our eyes. As I said before I’m sure after a while people just get used to it but we weren’t anywhere near that point yet and while it is present in the Willamette Valley and parts of the Columbia Gorge it isn’t as abundant. On our schedule for this hike was a visit to Black Hole Falls along North Siouxon Creek. This was good timing as the forecast for the weekend was for rain showers which, barring heavy fog, wouldn’t negatively affect our experience here. Black Hole Falls is a hike featured in Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” 2nd edition guidebook which as the title suggests contains 55 (50 featured and 5 bonus) hikes that don’t usually see a lot of visitors. In most cases it isn’t because of poor road or trail conditions but there are more popular destinations nearby causing these hikes to be overlooked. In the case of Black Hole Falls the drive wasn’t the greatest but it also was nowhere near the worst we’d been on but it is also near the much more popular hike at Siouxon Creek (post). Note that the 2020 Big Hollow Fire affected the Siouxon Creek area (it didn’t reach North Siouxon Creek) which was reopened in August 2021.

We followed the Oregon Hikers Field Guide directions to the North Siouxon Trailhead which were also the direction provided by Google Maps as Reeder’s directions were no longer appeared accurate. (We don’t independently trust Google Maps as it sometimes tries to send you on roads that in no way shape or form appear passable.)
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The trail departing from this trailhead is actually the Mitchell Peak Trail which leads to the summit of Mount Mitchell (post) but that destination is over 9 miles away with the upper portion of the trail being unmaintained. The trail drops steeply for approximately 200′ from the trailhead before leveling out. The remainder of the hike was a series of ups and downs, none of which were too long nor too steep. There were a number of creek crossings some of which had footbridges (sometimes makeshift) or logs to cross on. Given the wet conditions we chose to ford a couple of the creeks instead of risking slipping off of a slick log. A reroute of the trail at mile 3.5 dropped below a pair of cascades where the previous tread had been washed out. At the 4.5 mile mark the trail forks with the right hand fork leading a quarter mile downhill to Black Hole Falls.
IMG_2186Dropping into the forest.

The forest along the trail was just what we’d needed with a lush green (poison oak free) under story where woodland wildflowers and mushrooms thrived. With no confusing junctions and very little blowdown along the trail we were able to fully relax and take in the surroundings.
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IMG_2194Anemone

IMG_2190Vanilla leaf

IMG_2197Baneberry

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IMG_2206Quite a few snails and slugs along the trail.

IMG_2211Starflower

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IMG_2230Some of the logs had had tiles and ropes placed on them to help avoid slipping.

IMG_2233Surprisingly this was the only rough-skinned newt we spotted all day.

IMG_2234Foam flower

IMG_2237Inside-out flower

IMG_2241There were some huge nursery logs in the forest here.

IMG_2243A good example of a makeshift crossing.

IMG_2244Most of the flowers were white or pale pink but this salmonberry blossom added a splash of bright color.

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A side trail near the 1.75 mile mark led down to a campsite near North Siouxon Creek.
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IMG_2262

IMG_2265Violets

IMG_2268This was an interesting log/bridge.

IMG_2270Millipedes were everywhere but this one was a color we hadn’t seen before.

IMG_2275These were the ones we were seeing all over.

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IMG_2276The dismount was a little awkward but doable.

IMG_2281Star-flowered solmonseal catching a moment of sunlight.

IMG_2283Fairybells

IMG_2285Solomonseal

IMG_2286False lily of the valley

IMG_2288Moss and lichens

IMG_2289Spotted coralroot

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IMG_2298Bunchberry

IMG_2309Small fall along the trail.

IMG_2312Did I mention millipedes were everywhere?

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IMG_2325Another creek crossing.

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The trail reroute at the 3.5 mile mark.
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IMG_2331The reroute

IMG_2334This was one of the log crossings that looked too slick and high to warrant an attempt so we forded here. The water was ankle deep and we crossed easily.

IMG_2335We forded just above the larger rocks in the middle of the creek.

IMG_2337The lower of the two cascades.

After fording the trail climbed up hill alongside a large tree that had fallen directly in the middle of the reroute. The presence of this tree didn’t cause too much trouble although it was wide enough that you could clamber over it except for near it’s top. I had wound up on the wrong side so I took the opportunity to follow the original trail to the old crossing before climbing up and around the root ball of the tree to rejoin Heather on the trail.
IMG_2343The upper cascade.

IMG_2344Looking across the old crossing you can see where some of the hillside was washed out.

IMG_2346Looking back at the trail from the creek. The large downed tree was the one that was too wide to climb over.

IMG_2347Most of the downed trees were like this although there was one that required ducking pretty low.

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IMG_2350We could hear the songs of wrens throughout the hike but only caught flitting glimpses of the little singers.

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IMG_2356Two of the footbridges were in a state like this. It held but we had to watch our step to not only avoid the holes but also the millipedes.

IMG_2360This was another ford/rock hop. There was a log serving as the bridge but it also looked slick. The rope in the picture was connected to the log and I almost didn’t see it (both times by).

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IMG_2362Deep pool near the crossing.

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A post marked the side trail down to Black Hole Falls.
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We turned right and descended to Black Hole Falls which did not disappoint.
IMG_2375First view through the trees.

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IMG_2382The pool was a beautiful green.

IMG_2390More cascades and clear pools were located downstream.

IMG_2388Heather taking in the view.

IMG_2394Since I was already wet from the fords I waded out in the calf deep creek to get a different angle.

In addition to the beautiful waterfall and creek there was a unique feature in the basalt to the left of the falls that looked to us like a head with a wide open mouth.
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We stayed at the falls for a while before heading back. The forest was just as pretty on the return trip as it was on the way to falls. A light rain finally began to fall in the final mile or two of the hike which felt nice by then.
IMG_2406The right fork heading on toward Mount Mitchell.

20220604_104816A really long nursery log spanning across this whole depression.

IMG_2408Camouflaged mushrooms.

IMG_2409The only trillium that still had its petals.

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IMG_2412It looked like someone took a slice of this mushroom.

IMG_2416There weren’t too many views of North Siouxon Creek from the trail but this was a nice one.

IMG_2420Sour grass

IMG_2423Youth-on-age

IMG_2428Scouler’s corydalis

20220604_130059Candy flower

With some wandering down and along the creek and at the falls our day came in at 10.6 miles and approximately 2400′ of cumulative elevation gain.

The hike had lived up to being referred to as off the beaten trail as we didn’t encounter another hiker all day. We did have a pickup drive by while we were changing back at the car after our hike but it appeared to be someone from one of the logging companies checking the area. We had passed signs for active logging operations and saw equipment on the drive in. This turned out to be an excellent hike from start to finish and one that we will be keeping in mind to revisit in the future. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Black Hole Falls

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Balfour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails – 04/02/2022

We have spent much of our hiking “off-season” addressing long overdue house projects including replacing siding, windows, floors, and now countertops. Hopefully the projects will be done shortly after our official hiking season starts. In the meantime we welcomed the start of a new month with an outing to Lyle, WA for hikes on a pair of trails along the Klickitat River. Our first stop, on the west side of the river, was at the Balfour-Klickitat Trail. The site of a former ranch this day-use area includes a short interpretive loop, picnic tables, and a wildlife viewing path.
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IMG_8374Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Point (post) on the Oregon side of the Columbia River

We headed counter-clockwise on the loop which provided views of the Columbia River and across the Klickitat to Lyle.
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The trail then turned inland along the Klickitat where a noisy group of domestic geese drew our attention to a pair of common mergansers and great blue heron.
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IMG_8405A blurry heron along the river.

We spotted a number of smaller birds in the bushes and trees as we made our way around the loop. We also took a quick detour downhill to a picnic table overlooking the river.
IMG_8407Acorn woodpecker

IMG_8417Scrub jay

IMG_8418View from the picnic table.

A short time after returning to the loop we came to a sign for the Wildlife Viewing Area near a bench where we made another short detour.
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IMG_8425This trail was not paved.

IMG_8428Woodland-stars

IMG_8434View from a bench at the end of the trail.

IMG_8435Mallards on the water below.

After checking out the wildlife viewing area we completed the 0.75 mile loop which brought our stop here to a total of 1.3 miles. We hopped in our car and drove across the river on Hwy 14 to the Lyle Trailhead. Here the 31-mile long Klickitat Trail begins. This Washington State Park trail follows the historic rail bed of the Spokane, Portland, Seattle Railway (SP&S). A 3 mile section of the trail north of Klickitat, WA is currently unhikeable due to a missing bridge over the Klickitat River effectively splitting the trail southern and northern sections of 13 and 15 miles respectively. We hiked 3.8 miles along the end of the northern section from Harms Road in 2014 (post).
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IMG_8449Starting at mile 0.

The trail starts by passing some private homes in Lyle but soon provides views down to the Klickitat River. Across the river we spotted a number of deer working their across the hillside and a bald eagle surveying the river below.
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IMG_8458Keep your eyes out for poison oak which was prevalent along the trail. Luckily the trail is nice and wide so avoiding it was easy enough.

IMG_8469Heather spotted these three deer across the river.

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IMG_8474Another group of deer.

IMG_8487Bald eagle

We had chosen this hike based on Matt Reeder’s entry in his “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook where he recommends a late March visit for wildflowers. We kept our eyes out for flowers as we went and were not disappointed.
20220402_080542Larkspur and woodland-stars

IMG_8491Buttercups

IMG_8493Pacific hound’s tongue

IMG_8495Milepost 1

IMG_8496Saxifrage

IMG_8500Balsamroot

At the 1.7 mile mark we crossed the river on a Fisher Hill Bridge. The view was great and included a series of small cascades on Silvas Creek.
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IMG_8504Silvas Creek

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We continued north on the trail passing some nice views of the river which were briefly ruined by the smell of rotting flesh (fish?) which brought back memories of the decomposing whale we passed several years ago on our Floras Lake Hike (post).
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20220402_083857Blue-eyed Mary

At mile two we passed the Lyle Falls Facility which is a fish monitoring station.
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Beyond the fish facility the gap between the trail and the river closed and the views become even prettier.
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IMG_8526Seasonal pool along the trail.

The only mountain view of the day was along this stretch with Mt. Hood making an appearance to the south.
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IMG_8536Common mergansers

A short distance upstream we passed a screw trap, an instrument used to trap and count young fish.
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We continued upriver until we reached milepost 6 where we called it good and turned around. I had gotten myself confused by misreading Reeder’s hike description and thought that there was another bridge around the 5 mile mark and had originally planned to turn around at that but since it didn’t exist (and we didn’t realize that until after passing MP 5) we made MP 6 the turnaround marker.
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IMG_8542Popcorn flower

IMG_8544Columbia desert parsley

IMG_8546Lupine

IMG_8549Balsamroot

IMG_8554Shooting stars

IMG_8560Buttercups

IMG_8561Waterleaf

IMG_8567A balsamroot amid pungent desert parsley

IMG_8564Big-leaf maple trees lining the trail.

20220402_091018Big-leaf maple blossoms

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IMG_8574Gold stars

IMG_8583Larkspur, poison oak, and buttercups

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IMG_8589Spotted towhee

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IMG_8600Squirrel

IMG_8609Dillacort Canyon

20220402_101749Red-stem storksbill

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After turning around we took a brief break on a rocky beach near MP6.
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On our way back it had warmed enough for the butterflies (and moths) to come out and we watched for them along with anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_8633Couldn’t get a good look at this small moth but it was pretty.

IMG_8643Anise swallowtail

IMG_8644Sara’s orangetip

IMG_8654Grass widow

20220402_112438Slender phlox

IMG_8672Heading back.

IMG_8685Immature bald eagle

IMG_8688Propertius duskywing – Erynnis propertius

IMG_8690The mergansers had moved to the near bank.

IMG_8698Hood behind some clouds.

IMG_8700Ground squirrel

IMG_8708Mourning cloak

IMG_8718Lizard

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View from the Fisher Hill Bridge in the afternoon.

IMG_8741Arriving back at the Lyle Trailhead.

Some backtracking and detours brought our hike to a little over 12.5 miles here giving us close to 14 miles on the day with only a couple of hundred feet of elevation gain.

Rattlesnakes and ticks are present in the area but we encountered neither on this day. It was a nice break from the projects at home and a good way to end our off-season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blafour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails

Categories
Hiking

Oregon Coast & Coast Range

Several years ago we set a goal for ourselves to hike all 500 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes…” series of guidebooks (post). Last year we completed the first of these books covering the Central Oregon Cascades (post). We followed that up by completing a pair of books in 2021 starting with Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast and Coast Range” 3rd edition. Up until the start of 2021 we had been intending to finish his 4th edition but the continued closure of the Salmonberry Railroad prompted us to revert to the earlier edition. That meant going from only needing to finish 5 hikes to 9 hikes but at least the 9 hikes were open and thus we were able to visit them. The last final featured hike happened to be featured hike #1 – Leadbetter Point (post) which we visited on 7/31/2021. Many of the featured hikes in this book are shorter hikes with some barely more than a half mile so we often did multiple hikes in a single day.

Generally speaking in order to check a hike off our list we need to have hiked a substantial portion of Sullivan’s described hike or visited the main attraction(s) he identifies for the hike. For 59 of the hikes we stuck to a nearly identical route to the one described in the book. For another 22 hikes we added to the hike, either following Sullivan’s “other options” or making it up on our own. Eighteen of the hikes were limited to the main attraction which typically involved hikes where there was an option for a shuttle from a second trailhead or as in the case of the Rogue River Trail there were options for multi-day backpacking trips. (We will get to more of the Rogue River Trail as we work through his Southern Oregon book.) Finally one hike, #86 Lower Rogue River, was cut very short due to trail damage. We may revisit that trail at a later date but we counted it as we went as far as we felt we could safely at the time.

The area covered by Sullivan in this book is unique in that it is the only area in which there are featured hikes in three states – Washington, Oregon, and California. It also contains the northern most featured hike the aforementioned Leadbetter Point. The area covered is a somewhat narrow strip running down the coastline from Leadbetter Point south to Redwoods National Park in California. A few hikes are located as far inland as the foothills of the Coast Range along the edge of the Willamette Valley.

Despite being a fairly narrow (approximately 60 miles east to west) area the hikes were quite varied from beach walks to mountain summits, sand dunes to temperate rain forests, and urban walks to the solitude of remote wilderness.

The area is home to several designated wilderness areas including the two areas that are off-limits to visitors, Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks. The areas open to visitors are the Drift Creek, Cummins Creek, Rock Creek, Devils Staircase, Grassy Knob, Copper-Salmon, Wild Rogue, and Kalmiopsis.

Two mountain ranges are home to several hikes. The Coast Range extends over 200 miles from the Oregon/Washington border south to the Middle Fork Coquille River. At the southern end of the Coast Range the Klamath Mountains begin extending south into California. The elevations for these hikes ranged from sea level to 4655′ atop Vulcan Peak in the Klamath Mountains (Mary’s Peak at 4097′ marked the high point in the Coast Range).

Lastly many of the hikes along the Oregon Coast follow the route of the Oregon Coast Trail.

Without further ado here is a list of the 100 featured hikes along with a photo (or two where two distinctly different hikes were included in the entry) from the 2009 3rd edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range”.

#1 Leadbetter Point – Hiked 7/31/2021
Bay Loop Trail

#2 Long Beach – Hiked 9/11/2017
Discovery Trail

#3 North Head – Hiked 9/11/2017
North Head Lighthouse

#4 Cape Disappointment – Hiked 9/11/2017
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

#5 Fort Columbia – Hiked 9/11/2017
Fort Columbia

#6 Clatsop Spit – Hiked 9/9/2017
Elk at Clatsop Spit

#7 Fort Stevens – Hiked 9/9/2017
Battery Russell

#8 Fort Clatsop – Hiked 1/10/2016
Fort Clatsop

#9 Astoria – Hiked 9/9/2017
Megler Bridge in Astoria

#10 Seaside Promenade – Hiked 9/12/2017
Seaside promanade

#11 Tillamook Head – Hiked 12/8/2013
Cold morning in Ecola State Park

#12 Cannon Beach – Hiked 9/10/2017
Haystack Rock

#13 Saddle Mountain – Hiked 5/31/2013 & 6/23/2018
Saddle Mountain Summit Trail

#14 Highway 26 Waysides – Hiked 6/23/2018
Four County PointFour County Point

Dooley Spur LoopSunset Rest Area

#15 Banks-Vernonia Railroad – Hiked – 4/10/2016 & 1/16/2021 (Also ran as a marathon in 2014.)
Buxton Trestle

#16 Cape Falcon – Hiked 6/22/2012 & 4/29/2017
Cape Falcon from the Arch Cape to Cape Falcon Trail

#17 Neahkahnie Mountain – Hiked 1/5/2014
Lunch on Neahkahnie Mountian

#18 Nehalem Bay – Hiked 1/1/2018
Inlet along Nehalem Bay

#19 Munson Falls – Hiked 5/30/2015
Munson Falls

#20 Bayocean Spit – Hiked 4/14/2013
Cape Meares from Bayocean Peninsula Park

#21 Cape Meares – Hiked 1/1/2018
Cape Meares Lighthouse

#22 Wilson River – Hiked 3/8/2014
Bridge Creek Falls

#23 Kings Mountain – Hiked 8/16/2010
Elk Mountain Summit

#24 Gales Creek – Hiked 2/15/2015
Gales Creek

#25 Hagg Lake – Hiked 9/13/2019
Henry Haag Lake

#26 Cape Lookout – Hiked 11/11/2011
Cape Lookout

#27 Pacific City – Hiked 10/8/2013
Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda

#28 Mount Hebo – Hiked 5/30/2011 & 5/30/2015
Mount Hebo Trail

#29 Niagara Falls – Hiked 2/12/2017
Niagara Falls

#30 Neskowin – Hiked 2/12/2017
Proposal Rock

#31 Harts Cove – Hiked 12/6/2014
Harts Cove and Chitwood Creeks waterfall

#32 Cascade Head – Hiked 8/8/2010, 6/25/2019, & 9/28/19 (Inland Trail)
View from the Cascade Head Trail

Cascade Head Rainforest TrailInland (Rainforest) Trail

#33 Baskett Slough Refuge – Hiked 7/11/2010, 5/3/2020 & 4/15/2021
Baskett Butte

#34 Valley of the Giants – Hiked 5/18/2020
Valley of the Giants

#35 Roads End – Hiked 3/6/2021
Roads End Beach

#36 Drift Creek Falls – Hiked 12/6/2014
Drift Creek Falls

#37 Salishan Spit – Hiked 8/1/2015
Salishan Spit

#38 Devil’s Punchbowl – Hiked 7/12/2012
Devi's Punchbowl

#39 Newport Lighthouses – Hiked 8/26/2017
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the Salal Hill TrailYaquina Head

Yaquina Bay BridgeYaquina Bay

#40 South Beach – Hiked 8/4/2018
Estuary TrailEstuary Trail

Yaquina Head across the jettySouth Jetty

Mike Miller TrailMike Miller Trail

#41 Ona Beach and Seal Rock – Hiked 12/11/2017
Exposed rocks on Ona Beach

#42 Drift Creek North – Hiked 9/15/2010
Drift Creek

#43 Drift Creek South – Hiked 8/3/2019
Drift Creek

#44 Mary’s Peak – Hiked 2009 (day unknown), 6/1/2014, & 6/5/2021
South side of Mary's Peak summit

#45 Kings Valley – Hiked 6/1/2014
Fort Hoskins Historic ParkFort Hoskins

Bridge leading into the Beazell ForestBeazell Forest

#46 Peavy Arboretum – Hiked 2/19/2018
Section 36 Loop Trail

#47 Chip Ross Park & Dimple Hill – Hiked 12/18/2016 & 10/2/2021
Mary's Peak from Dimple Hill

#48 Finley Wildlife Refuge – Hiked 10/21/2017, 5/31/20, & 4/14/2021
Homer Campbell Boardwalk

#49 Alsea Falls – Hiked 12/19/2012
Alsea Falls

#50 Yachats – Hiked 12/5/2020
Pacific Ocean from the 804 Trail

#51 Cape Perpetua – HIked 9/15/2010, 2/17/2013, & 10/27/2018
View from Cape Perpetua

#52 Gwynn Creek – Hiked 2/17/2013
Cummins Creek Loop Trail

#53 Heceta Head – Hiked 12/11/2017
Heceta Head Lighthouse

#54 Baker Beach – Hiked 1/15/2017
Heading back toward Baker Beach Camp

#55 Sutton Creek – Hiked 2/20/2016
Sutton Creek

#56 Cape Mountain – Hiked 9/5/2011
Nelson Ridge Trail

#57 Pawn and Pioneer Trails – Hiked 5/13/2021
Interpretive sign along the Mapleton Hill Pioneer TrailPioneer Hill Trail

Pawn Old Growth TrailPawn Old Growth Trail

#58 Siuslaw Ridge Trails – Hiked 2/20/2016 & 11/20/2021
View from the summit of the Old Growth Ridge TrailOld Growth Ridge Trail

Clay Creek TrailClay Creek Trail

#59 Sweet Creek Falls – Hiked 2/20/2016
Sweet Creek Falls

#60 Kentucky Falls – Hiked 5/9/2015
Upper Kentucky Falls

#61 Honeyman Park – Hiked 12/8/2018
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

#62 Siltcoos Lake – Hiked 12/8/2018
Siltcoos Lake

#63 Siltcoos River – Hiked 12/8/2018
Siltcoos River

#64 Taylor Dunes – Hiked 9/13/2018
Taylor Dunes Trail

#65 Oregon Dunes – Hiked 1/1/2015
View from Oregon Dunes day use area

#66 Tahkenitch Creek – Hiked 1/1/2015 & 9/16/2018
Tahkenitch Creek

#67 Tahkenitch Dunes – Hiked 1/1/2015
First look at Tahkenitch Dunes

#68 Lake Marie – Hiked 9/13/2018
Lake Marie

#69 Umpqua Dunes – Hiked 9/13/2018
Umpqua Dunes

#70 Golden and Silver Falls – Hiked 5/16/2021
Golden Falls

#71 Shore Acres – Hiked 5/15/2021
Simpson Reef

#72 South Slough Estuary – Hiked 5/15/2021
South Slough

#73 Fivemile Point – Hiked 5/13/2021
Heading south toward Fivemile Point

#74 Bullards Beach – Hiked 9/15/2018
Coquille River Lighthouse

#75 Bandon Islands – Hiked 9/14/2018
Bandon Islands

#76 New River – Hiked 9/14/2018
New River

#77 Floras Lake – Hiked 5/8/2017
Paintbrush and Blacklock Point

#78 Cape Blanco – Hiked 5/8/2017
Cape Blanco Lighthouse

#79 Port Orford Heads – Hiked 5/8/2017
Port Orford Heads State Park

#80 Humbug Mountain – Hiked 5/16/2016
View from the Humbug Mountain summit meadow

#81 Sisters Rock – Hiked 5/16/2016
Thistle at Sisters Rock State Park

#82 Otter Point – Hiked 5/16/2016
View north from Otter Point State Park

#83 Coquille River Falls – Hiked 5/6/2017
Coquille River FallsCoquille River Falls

Elk Creek FallsElk Creek Falls

#84 Hanging Rock – Hiked 5/7/2017
Hanging RockHanging Rock

#85 Rogue River Trail – Hiked 5/14/2021
Rogue River

#86 Lower Rogue River – Hiked 5/9/2017
Washout along the Lower Rogue River Trail

#87 Illinois River – Hiked 5/20/2016
Indigo Creek

#88 Shrader Old Growth Trail – Hiked 5/9/2017
Francis Shrader Old Growth TrailShrader Old Growth Trail

Oregon's largest known Myrtlewood TreeMyrtle Tree Trail

#89 Cape Sebastian – Hiked 5/18/2016
Hunters Island from the Oregon Coast Trail

#90 Boardman Park North – Hiked 5/21/2016

#91 Boardman Park South – Hiked 5/19/2016
Lupine

#92 Vulcan Lake – Hiked 5/17/2016
Vulcan LakeVulcan Lake

Little Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Peak

#93 Redwood Nature Trail – Hiked 5/17/2016
Big redwood along the Redwood Nature Trail

#94 Wheeler Ridge Bomb Site – Hiked 5/19/2016
Viewing platform for the bomb crater

#95 Oregon Redwoods – Hiked 5/13/2021
Inside a redwood trunk

#96 Stout Grove – Hiked 10/25/2015
Stout Memorial Grove

#97 Boy Scout Tree – Hiked 10/25/2015
Boy Scout Tree

#98 Damnation Creek – Hiked 10/24/2014
On the rocky beach near Damnation Creek

#99 Hidden Beach – Hiked 5/11/2017
Hidden Beach

#100 Fern Canyon – Hiked 5/10/2017
Fern Canyon

With any luck the Salmonberry Railroad will be reopened in the not too distant future so we can say we’ve completed the 4th edition as well. In the meantime there are still other non-featured hikes to explore and trails to revisit. Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2021 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe another year has passed but here we are once again looking back on 12 months worth of hikes. While 2021 was an improvement over 2020 in almost every way it still had its share of ups and downs including losing our remaining cat Hazel in June and my Grandmother in October. While the challenge of finding places to hike due to COVID in 2020 were no more, the same couldn’t be said for COVID itself and it seems like it will be around for awhile. Wildfires once again were a large factor in deciding on our destinations, another issue that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Despite these issues we had some great hikes in 2021. I slipped an extra three hikes in during the month of April to wind up hiking on 58 days for a total of 641.5 miles while Heather got 55 days in and 614.7 miles. Forty of the hikes were entirely new to us while only one, Tumalo Mountain (post), was an complete repeat. We had done that one over after failing to catch the sunrise on our first try and boy was it worth it.

Our first and final hikes of the year were on converted railroads.
Banks-Vernonia State TrailBanks-Vernonia State Trail in January. (post)

Row River TrailRow River Trail in December. (post)

Over the course of the year we managed to complete several of our long term hiking goals. A trip to Cottonwood Canyon State Park in May marked our first hike in Gilliam County which is the last of Oregon’s 36 counties that we had not hiked in.
John Day RiverJohn Day River from the Lost Corral Trail

Trips in June and July took us to the final four of the 46 designated wilderness areas (open to visitors) that we had yet to visit in Oregon. In all we spent twenty-one days hiking in 15 different designated wilderness areas.
Ninemile RidgeNinemile Ridge in the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness in June. (post)

Devil's StaircaseDevil’s Staircase Wilderness in July. (post)

Owl Creek Trail entering the Black Canyon WildernessBlack Canyon Wilderness in July. (post)

Cairn on Monument RockMonument Rock Wilderness in July. (post)

By the end of July we had also completed our goal of hiking at least part of all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast” guidebook and in August we did the same with his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington” guidebook.
Bay Loop TrailLedbetter Point, the last of the hikes from the coast book. (post)

Badger LakeBadger Lake, the last hike from the northwestern book. (post)

Finishing those two books in addition to the central Cascades book we completed last year (post) left just the eastern and southern books. We checked off 14 featured hikes from the eastern book but were unfortunately unable to make any headway on the southern book due to the wildfires and persistent smoke that plagued southern Oregon and northern California for much of the hiking season.

Our northern most hike was at the aforementioned Ledbetter Point while our southern most hike was on the Oregon Redwoods Trail near the California border (post).
RedwoodsRedwoods

The western most hike was, as usual, along the Oregon Coast at Cape Argo State Park. (post)
Shell Island

This marked the first time 3 hikes from the same guidebook marked the furthest in different directions. For obvious reasons the eastern most hike was not from the coast book but from the eastern book. That was our hike on the Wenaha River Trail. (post)
Wenaha River Trail

As we have done the last couple of years we plan on putting together 2021 wildlife and wildflower posts but we’ll leave you with a few of our favorite sights throughout the year. For the most part the weather was good but wildfire smoke often impacted views.
Falls on Fall CreekFalls Creek – February

Cascade headCascade Head from God’s Thumb – March

Columbia River from Mitchell PointColumbia River from Mitchell Point – March

Mt. Hood and Columbia desert parsleyMt. Hood from Sevenmile Hill – March

Wildflowers at Dalles Mountain RanchDalles Mountain Ranch – April

Mt. AdamsMt. Adams from Grayback Mountain – May

Big tree down over the Pawn Old Growth TrailNavigating a downed tree along the Pawn Old Growth Trail – May

Rogue River TrailRogue River Trail – May

Golden FallsGolden Falls – May

Mt. HoodLenticular cloud over Mt. Hood from Surveyor’s Ridge – May

Whychus CanyonWhychus Canyon – May

Deschutes RiverDeschutes River – May

Whychus Creek OverlookWhychus Creek Overlook – May

Old growth noble fir standForest on Mary’s Peak – June

North Fork Umatilla RiverNorth Fork Umatilla River – June

Tower Mountain LookoutTower Mountain Lookout – June

Malheur River TrailMalheur River – June

Meadow along the Round Mountain TrailMeadow on Round Mountain – June

Mt. Jefferson from Santiam LakeSantiam Lake – July

Three Fingered Jack from Lower Berley LakeThree Fingered Jack from Lower Berley Lake (and a butterfly photobomb) – July

View from Subsitute PointThe Husband and Three Sisters from Substitute Point – July

Lookout and Round Mountain from the Ochoco Mountain TrailOchoco
Mountain Trail – July

Red SunRed Sun through wildfire smoke from the Monument Rock Wilderness – July

Canyon Mountain TrailCanyon Mountain Trail, Strawberry Mountain Wilderness – July

Fields Peak, Moore Mountain, Moon Mountain and Second PeakAldrich Mountains – July

Summit of Mount MitchellMt. Mitchell summit on a rare poor weather day – August

Mt. BachelorMt. Bachelor – August

View from Cottonwood CampCottonwood Camp, Big Indian Gorge in the Steens Mountain Wilderness – August

Wildhorse Lake TrailWildhorse Lake, Steens Mountain Wilderness – August

Sun behind a cloud over FrenchglenEvening at the Steens Mountain Resort – August

Little Blitzen GorgeLittle Blitzen Gorge – August

Riddle RanchRiddle Ranch – August

Sun through a line of wildfire smokeMorning in the Pueblo Mountains – August

Cairn along the Oregon Desert Trail in the Pueblo MountainsOregon Desert Trail, Pueblo Mountains – August

View from the Harmony TrailMt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake – August

Harmony FallsHarmony Falls – August

Loowit FallsLoowit Falls – August

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake from Norway PassMt. St. Helens from Norway Pass – August

Mt. HoodMt. Hood from the PCT in the Indian Heaven Wilderness – September

Mt. Adams and Soda Peaks LakeMt. Adams and Soda Peaks Lake, Trapper Creek Wilderness – September

Jubilee LakeJubilee Lake – September

View from the Rough Fork TrailRough Fork Trail, Blue Mountains – September

Heritage Landing TrailHeritage Landing Trail, Deschutes River – September

Forest along the old roadbedMcDonald-Dunn Forest – October

Old Summit TrailCascade Mountains from the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness – October

Three Fingered Jack from Round LakeThree Fingered Jack from Round Lake – October

Mt. Hood and Lookout Mountain from Flag PointMt. Hood from the Flag Point Lookout

Mt. Hood from Lookout MountainMt. Hood from Lookout Mountain – October

214 TrailSilver Falls State Park – October

Laurel Hill Wagon ChuteLaurel Hill Wagon Chute – October

Off trail down Barlow RidgeBarlow Ridge, Mt. Hood Wilderness – October

Fern Ridge Wildlife AreaFern Ridge Wildlife Area – November

Here’s to an even better 2022. Happy New Year and Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Trapper Creek Washington Washington Cascades

Soda Peaks Lake – 09/06/2021

For Labor Day we headed back up to Washington where we’d been able to mostly avoid smoke from the numerous wildfires in the West. We’d spent the day before in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (post) and today we were returning to the Trapper Creek Wilderness for the first time since 2013 (post). The wilderness areas are just eight miles apart, separated by the Wind River Highway (and Wind River).

Our planned hike for the day was inspired by a featured hike in Sullivan’s 5th edition of his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” book. While Sullivan describes two options for hike #34, Trapper Creek, both were a bit short for us after the 2 hour drive to reach the closest trailhead. His first option is a 3.8 mile out and back to what he calls the “Grove of Giants”, a stand of old growth cedar trees starting at the Trapper Creek Trailhead. His second option (beginning at a different trailhead) is a 5 mile out and back to visit Soda Peaks Lake. Our plan was to park at the Trapper Creek Trailhead and do an out and back hike passing the Grove of Giants, then continuing on the Soda Peaks Lake Trail to Soda Peaks Lake and beyond to a viewpoint on the rim above the lake.

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The Trapper Creek Trail started out nearly level which made for a nice warm up before climbing.

Not far from the trailhead the unsigned Dry Creek Trail joined from the right.

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Warning sign for burned trees due to the 2020 Big Hollow Fire (there’s that four letter “F” word again). The wilderness had been closed most of the year due to that fire (and some bad winter storms) and was only reopened in August.

The trail climbed gradually along a hillside above Trapper Creek for three quarters of a mile to a 4-way junction with the Observation Trail which we had been on in 2013.

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The Observation Trail.

We stayed straight on the Trapper Creek Trail here.

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For the next three quarters of a mile the trail gradually descended to a unnamed creek crossing.

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On the far side of the creek we turned left onto the Soda Peaks Lake Trail.

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We followed the creek downhill ignoring a side trail joining from the left and came to a footbridge over Trapper Creek.

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Sign at the jct with the side trail joining from some private cabins.

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The trail then passed through a stand of alder before turning left and reaching the Grove of Giants just under half a mile from the Trapper Creek Trail.

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One of the big trees was down.

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At the grove the trail made a sharp right turn and began an arduous three mile climb gaining over 2300′ of elevation.

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Lousewort was just about the only flowers left blooming along the trail.

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Grey jay

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Observation Peak from the trail.

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Huckleberry leaves

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Woodpecker

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There were three short stretches in saddles where the trail briefly leveled out giving us a respite from the climb.

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Fungus amid some bark.

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Big rock outcrop along the trail.

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Mountain ash changing into its Fall colors.

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Mt. Hood from the trail.

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Mt. Hood

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Red bunchberries and a blue berry from a queen’s cup.

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Mt. St. Helens from the trail.

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Mt. St. Helens

The only real obstacle came about a quarter of a mile from the lake where a large tree trunk blocked the trail. It was too wide to step over and at too steep an angle to climb over.

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The only option was to climb steeply uphill to pass around the top of it.

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Mt. Adams from the trail.

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Almost to the lake which was busy with folks that most likely took the shorter route in.

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Day use area at Soda Peaks Lake.

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I don’t think we’d seen anyone all morning on the trails so the barking dogs and yelling people (maybe they were just talking loud but I wasn’t used to hearing voices) were enough encouragement to move on after a short break. The rim viewpoint that we planned to make our turnaround point was another 1.1 miles and 600′ of climbing away. The trail immediately climbed away from the lake from the day use area.

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It then curved around the north side of the lake passing through several rock fields where we heard a few pikas but were not able to spot any.

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Not a pika, but it was a cute chipmunk.

After some gradual climbing the trail got serious and switchbacked steeply to the rim where it turned right following it for 0.2 miles to the viewpoint.

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Mt. Rainier

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Mt. Rainier

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The Goat Rocks with a smoke plume rising behind them to the north.

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Mt. Adams with Soda Peaks Lake in the trees below. The row of peaks in between Mt. Adams and the lake is the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

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The Red Mountain lookout where we’d been the day before.

There were more people coming down the trail headed for the lake. After a moment admiring the view and catching our breath we also headed back down. We stopped again briefly at the lake then said our goodbyes.

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It was a long descent and our knees were happier once we were back on the Trapper Creek Trail. Heather also suffered a yellow jacket sting on her calf on the way down which wasn’t a nice surprise.

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Mt. Hood and some vine maples.

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This stellar’s jay almost hit Heather in the head.

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Back on level ground.

The hike wound up being 12.5 miles with 3800′ of elevation gain. It was in the 80’s when we arrived back at the trailhead and the heat just made the hike a little harder. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable day in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Soda Peaks Lake

Categories
Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek – 09/05/2021

The horrible wildfire season finally thwarted one of our planned trips when California announced that all National Forests would be closed over Labor Day Weekend (and at least through September 17th). This was at least the third year in a row we had a backpacking trip in the Siskiyou Wilderness planned but either fire or weather has kept those plans from happening each time. Much like last September many of the areas that aren’t on fire are suffering from unhealthy air quality due to the smoke so our options were limited. (How I miss the days of rain being the driving factor on where we were going to hike.) One of the areas that has been less impacted by the smoke has been SW Washington and so we turned to that area once again for a pair of hikes over the holiday weekend. We skipped Saturday as smoke was an issue pretty much everywhere save for the Coast and Coast Range and waited for the next system to push the smoke east (sorry Central Oregon).

For our hike on Sunday we turned to Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” 2nd edition. In his Indian Racetrack and Red Mountain description (hike #15) Reeder describes an alternate loop using the unmaintained Basin Lakes Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail as an alternate to the 7.4 mile out and back that he suggests. We’d been to Indian Racetrack and Red Mountain as part of a diffent loop (post) so this other loop sounded more interesting than the out and back. We figured if the old Basin Lakes Trail was too hard to follow we could simply turn back and still do the out and back as described since it was only 2 miles to the basin then an additional mile up to the Pacific Crest Trail. We started our hike at the Falls Creek Horse Camp. The Falls Creek Trail heads southwest from the horse camp descending to Falls Creek Falls.
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The trail we wanted, the Indian Racetrack Trail, began on the opposite side of Forest Road 65.
IMG_4451There were no signs for the obvious trail.

Once we were on the trail we ignored an unsigned side trail on the right which presumably led down to Falls Creek.
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Approximately 0.2 miles from FR 65 a second trail joined from the left at a wilderness signboard.
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Approximately 120 yards beyond the signboard we arrived at an unsigned fork.
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The Indian Racetrack Trail continued to the right while the abandoned Basin Lake Trail veered left. While the Forest Service no longer maintains the trail (or even lists it on their website) the tread was obvious and based on the number of road apples on the ground it is used fairly regularly by equestrians.
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IMG_4459Entering the Indian Heaven Wilderness

A half a mile up this trail we came to a small meadow where a couple of hikers were camped.
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They warned us that where were quite a few trees down the closer you got to the Basin Lakes but that didn’t dissuade us and we continued on. The trees weren’t much of an issue and in most cases clear paths simply went around them.
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We crossed a branch of Falls Creek just under a mile along the trail.
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The tread continued to be fairly easy to follow for another half mile and then it vanished, at least from our sight, near a gully.
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After a few minutes of hunting for it (which included crossing and recrossing the gully) we decided to simply follow the tallest ridge in the direction of the lakes using our GPS and Reeder’s map. A quarter mile later we were looking down at Peggy Lake on our left.
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We stayed on the ridge above Peggy Lake and turned on the far end made a hard right toward Janet Lake.
IMG_4488Typical vegetation and trees on the ridge.

IMG_4491We rediscovered tread as we dropped to a saddle near Janet Lake.

IMG_4494Sign at the saddle between Peggy and Janet Lakes.

We did walk down to the bank of Janet Lake to admire its reflection.
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From Janet Lake it was another 0.1 miles to an unnamed (at least officially) Basin Lake, sometimes on tread and sometimes not.
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IMG_4513Sleepy ducks

IMG_4516I believe Oregon Hikers calls this one “Cindy Lake”.

We passed another lake on our left a quarter mile later.
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That was followed by what appeared to be a mostly dry lake bed on the right, now filled with green grass.
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We were now at the eastern end of the basin facing a steep climb up to the Pacific Crest Trail. We needed to gain almost 500′ to reach that trail and at the moment we weren’t sure if there was any tread to follow up.
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We scanned the hillside but couldn’t pick anything out so we put our route finding hats on and identified a small saddle where it looked like a trail would go and headed for it. As we approached we stumbled on tread.
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IMG_4534The small saddle we’d been aiming for.

From there we were able to follow a faint path up and out of the basin.
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IMG_4543Heather down to the right between a couple of trees.

20210905_090147Me getting close to the top.

IMG_4546The top of the ridge.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs right along the ridge (despite where it’s shown on Google Maps) and passes over the top of Berry Mountain to the south. After catching our breath we turned right and headed toward Berry Mountain and yet more climbing.
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Fortunately it was the PCT so the climb was relatively gradual as it switchbacked up 170′ in 0.4 miles.
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IMG_4553Mt. Adams in some clouds.

IMG_4556Mt. St. Helens behind a line of clouds.

IMG_4559Gifford Peak (post) behind us.

IMG_4561Chipmunk

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At a switchback a bit below the summit we were treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
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IMG_4568Mt. Jefferson was also visible to the right of Mt. Hood. Unfortunately so was the smoke being produced by the Bull Complex Fire which destroyed the historic Bull of the Woods Lookout (post) on Labor Day 😦 .

"IMG_4572Autumn is on the way, bring on the rain please.

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The PCT stuck to the long summit which would have also provided good views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens on a clearer day.
IMG_4591Mt. Adams

IMG_4595Looking toward Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4594The peaks in the Trapper Creek Wilderness (post) to the west.

We finally began to descend from Berry Mountain and after 3 miles on the PCT arrived at a signed junction for the Indian Racetrack Shortcut Trail.
IMG_4604Cliffs on Berry Mountain

IMG_4607Mt. Hood as we headed downhill.

IMG_4609Red Mountain and its lookout tower.

IMG_4617This beargrass is way off schedule.

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On our previous hike we’d arrived at this junction from the other direction so when we turned right we one a somewhat familiar trail. After a brief stint in the forest the trail entered larger and larger meadows.
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After a half mile we arrived at the Indian Racetrack Trail arriving on our right.
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This would be the route back to our car but first we wanted to revisit the lookout on Red Mountain so we continued straight for approximately 50 yards and turned left at a pointer for the Indian Racetrack Trail.
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We followed the trail 0.8 miles to a road and then followed the road another quarter mile to the lookout gaining a total of 700′ along the way.
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IMG_4634Mt. Adams from a viewpoint along the way.

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We passed two sets of hikers on their way down, the second of which mentioned having accidentally driven to the lookout. Apparently someone had vandalized the gate which allowed vehicles to drive up the road. Hopefully the Forest Service can get that remedied quickly as Google still shows the Indian Racetrack Trailhead on Red Mountain.
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IMG_4656Not sure if someone forced the door open too or not.

IMG_4652View of Mt. Adams beyond Indian Heaven.

IMG_4657Photo taken from the doorway, it looked like nothing had been vandalized.

IMG_4658Mt. St. Helens still hiding behind that line of clouds.

We took a long enough break at the summit to get to a brief glimpse of Mt. St. Helens summit.
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IMG_4675Mt. Adams with a few clouds passing by.

IMG_4671Mt. Hood with smoke from the Bull Complex behind.

We headed back down the Indian Racetrack Trail to Indian Racetrack and then continued on it past Race Track Lake. We passed quite a few hikers on our way down and saw more at Indian Racetrack.
IMG_4681Indian Heaven Wilderness sign on Red Mountain with Mt. Adams in the background.

IMG_4686Race Track Lake on the left.

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It was 2.3 miles total from the junction back to the Falls Creek Horse Camp. We continued to see more and more hikers and were once again glad we’d gotten an early start allowing us to have the lookout to ourselves.
IMG_4694Hardhack

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IMG_4700Footbridge over Falls Creek.

IMG_4702Falls Creek

IMG_4710Butterfly near Falls Creek.

IMG_4712Sign at the final trail junction near FR 65.

Reeder called this a 12 mile loop but our GPS came in at 11.2 miles which was a nice surprise. Total elevation gained was approximately 2850′. For this loop route finding, map, and navigation skills are highly recommended, otherwise the out and back option still provides a nice hike. Happy Trails!

Orange represents the old Basin Lakes Trail which is not shown on most maps.

Flickr: Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek