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Hiking Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2019 – A Look Back

2019 turned out very differently than we’d originally planned. Not long after our first planned long trip to Joseph, OR one our cats, Buddy, had some health issues. After some time at the veterinarians he was doing better but he needed to be prescribed 3 daily medications (two twice a day). We decided that being there for our friend of 17 years was more important than our remaining plans so we cancelled nearly all of our overnight trips and spent the rest of the year doing day hikes from Salem. Buddy is still with us and seems to be doing well although he sleeps more than ever and has taken to wearing sweaters for warmth.
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With us only doing the one long distance trip we didn’t make it to as many new areas as we have been in recent years. On that trip we stopped at the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge near Hermiston (post), OR and hiked in the Hells Canyon (post) and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness areas (post).
McCormack SloughMCormack Slough in the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge.

Looking into Hells Canyon from the Summit Ridge TrailLooking towards Hells Canyon from Freezout Saddle.

Wenaha River CanyonWenaha River Canyon

Thanks to my parents willingness to take care of the cats we also managed to take an overnight trip up to Seattle in September to watch a Seattle Seahawks game stopping on the way up at Mt. Rainier National Park (post).

Cancelling the majority of our overnight trips had a couple of effects. First it reduced the number of days of hiking from an original 60 to 54. These would have been shorter hikes back to the car after backpacking or on the drive home from wherever we’d been. It also compressed the area in which we were able to hike keeping it under a 3 hour drive from Salem.
2019 HIkes

One thing that wasn’t affected was our tendency not to repeat hikes. Of our 54 days hiking only two days were repeats. For the first time we were able to hike with my brother and his family from Missouri taking them to Jawbone Flats and the Little North Fork Santiam River (post).
Little North Santiam River

The second repeat was to the old lookout site atop Maxwell Butte (post) to get the view that eluded us on our first hike there (post).
Mt. Jefferson, Santiam Lake, and Three Fingered Jack from Maxwell Butte

A visit to Four-In-One Cone, also to get a view that had previously eluded us, (post) was nearly a repeat but we started from a different trailhead making the first (and final) .4 miles new to us.
View from Four-in-one Cone

Thirteen other days did include some trail that we’d previously hiked and three more outings had turn around points that we’d previously been to but from an entirely different route. That left 35 days with entirely new trails to us. To put those figures in miles we hiked a total of 627.7 miles (according to my GPS). Only 70.6 of those miles, or just over 11%, were on portions of trails that we had hiked on in previous years.

I say “trails” but in reality not all the miles we hiked were on actual trails. Some of it was spent on paved roads, decommissioned roads, and some was entirely off trail/road.
Scoggins Creek Recreation AreaRoad walk at Henry Haag Lake

Baty ButteDecommissioned road to Baty Butte.

North Sister and the headwaters of Soap CreekCross country to Thayer Glacial Lake.

2019 was a really good year weather wise. Aside from some rain/snow showers on our Freezout Saddle hike in June and a brief stint of rain at Cascade Head and in the Mollala River Recreation Area precipitation was almost non-existent during our outings.
Marks Cabin Trail a bit below usSnow falling on our Freezout Saddle hike.

Salmon River through the fogRain shower approaching at Cascade Head.

Huckleberry TrailTaking cover under a tree in the Mollala River Recreation Area as a rain shower passes overhead.

Even on those three hikes with measurable precipitation there were breaks allowing for some sort of views.
Rainbow Framing the Wallowa MountainsRainbow framing the Wallowa Mountains from the Feezout Saddle Trail.

View from the Cascade Head TrailView from Cascade Head after the shower.

Veiw from Amanda's TrailView from the morning across the Mollala River Canyon.

Between the cooperative weather and a lack of significant wildfires in the area made 2019 a great year for viewpoints. In fact there was only one hike, our second to the summit of Huckleberry Mountain (post) where we felt skunked on views. That hike began in the Wildwood Recreation area and the interpretive trails along the Salmon River made up for the lack of views up top.
3d Model of Mt. Hood along the Cascade Streamwatch TrailNeat 3D display at Wildwood Recreation Area.

Viewpoint on Huckleberry MountainView atop Huckleberry Mountain.

Even on that day blue sky made an appearance before the end of our hike.
Mt. Hood behind some clouds

We also never got much of a view (but we did see blue sky) on our visit to Silver Star Mountain (post) but the point of that hike was to see the flower display.
Wildflowers along the Silver Star Trail

As always our hikes included a variety of landscapes, natural features, and some man-made ones. A sample of which follows. (We will cover wildflowers and wildlife in separate posts later.)
Gales CreekGales Creek – Coast Range

Dry Creek FallsDry Creek Falls – Columbia River Gorge, OR

Camassia Natural AreaCamassia Natural Area – West Linn

The Two Chiefs and Table MountainTwo Chiefs and Table Mountain – Columbia River Gorge, WA

Nature Trial at Oak IslandOak Island – Columbia River

B.C. Creek FallsB.C. Creek Falls – Wallowa Mountains

Wallowa Mountains including Hurricaine Point and Ruby PeakWallowa Mountains

Harins ButteHarsin Butte – Zumwalt Prairie

Sardine MountainSardine Mountain – Willamette National Forest

Gorton FallsGorton Creek Falls – Columbia River Gorge, OR

Mt. Hood from Lost LakeMt. Hood from Lost Lake

Mt. Hood from the Vista Ridge TrailMt. Hood from Vista Ridge

Sand Mountain LookoutSand Mountain Lookout – Willamette National Forest

Cape Kiwanda and Haystack RockCape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock from Sitka Sedge Beach

High LakeHigh Lake – Mt. Hood National Forest

Tidbits MountainTidbits Mountain – Willamette National Forest

Bunchgrass MeadowBunchgrass Meadow – Willamette National Forest

Top tier of the Breitenbush CascadesBreitenbush Cascades – Willamette National Forest

Mt. St. HelensMt. St. Helens from Cinnamon Ridge – Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

View from Bear PointMt. Jefferson from Bear Point – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Sawmill FallsSawmill Falls – Little North Fork Santiam River

Three Fingered Jack with Three Sisters and Mt. Washington beyond Red ButteThree Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington

Scramble route up Baty ButteScramble route to Baty Butte – Mt. Hood National Forest

Boulder LakeBoulder Lake – Mt. Hood National Forest

Drift CreekDrift Creek – Drift Creek Wilderness

Thayer Glacial LakeNorth Sister and Thayer Glacial Lake – Three Sisters Wilderness

View from Four-in-one ConeNorth Sister, Middle Sister, and The Husband from Four-In-One Cone – Three Sisters Wilderness

Mt. Hood from Tumala MountainMt. Hood from Tumala Mountain – Mt. Hood National Forest

Bull of the Woods LookoutBull of the Woods Lookout – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Mt. Hood and Barret Spur from Elk CoveMt. Hood from Elk Cove – Mt. Hood Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson and Hunts CoveMt. Jefferson and Hunts Cove – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson with Monon, Olallie and Timber LakesView from Olallie Butte – Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Lillian FallsLillian Falls – Waldo Lake Wilderness

Olallie Mountain lookoutOlallie Mountain Lookout – Three Sisters Wilderness

King TutKing Tut – Crabtree Valley

View from Ruddy HillMt. Jefferson from Ruddy Hill – Mt. Hood National Forest

Henry Haag LakeHenry Haag Lake – Scoggins Valley

View from the north summit of The TwinsWaldo Lake and the Cascade Mountains from The Twins – Deschutes National Forest

Bobby LakeBobby Lake – Deschutes National Forest

Patrol Cabin at Indian Henry's Hunting GroundIndian Henry’s Hunting Ground – Mt. Rainier National Park

Fog over the valley from Trail 17 (Theodore Trail)Fog over the valley from Mt. Pisgah – Eugene, OR

Twin Peaks and Gifford LakeTwin Peaks and Gifford Lake – Olallie Lake Scenic Area

Mt. Adams from Lookout MountainMt. Adams from Lookout Mountain – Badger Creek Wilderness Area

Huckleberry TrailMollala River Recreation Area

View from the PCT and Indian Mountain Trail junctionView toward Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail near Indian Mountain – Mt. Hood National Forest

Clackamas River at Alder FlatClackamas River – Mt. Hood National Forest

Maple TrailForest Park – Portland, OR

Tilikum CrossingTilikum Crossing – Portland, OR

There were many more great places and sights that we visited but they can’t all be included here. It was another amazing year of discovering God’s creation and we are looking forward to seeing what next year brings. For the first time I have two sets of planned hikes going into next year, one is in the hopes that Buddy continues to do well on his medications leading us to stick to day hikes through the year and the other includes long distance trips in the unfortunate event that we have to say goodbye to our furry friend.

Either way we know that we will be blown away yet again by whatever we see on those hikes. Happy Trails and Happy New Year to all!

Flickr: Album List

Categories
Blue Mountains - North Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lower Wenaha River

After dealing with snow the day before at Freezeout Saddle (post) we called an audible and decided not to try hiking at Hat Point. That trailhead is a little higher in elevation along Hells Canyon than we had been during the Freezeout Saddle Hike. We turned instead to the Wenaha River Trail starting from Troy, OR. This trail provided us with the opportunity to make our first visit into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. We planned on visiting this wilderness later on this year but knowing our plans are always subject to change we jumped on the chance for a warmer, drier hike that visited another of Oregon’s wilderness areas.

The drive to Troy from Wallowa Lake was an eventful one. The wildlife was out in force. We kept our eyes on the numerous deer that we spotted along Highway 3 between Enterprise and the turnoff to Flora. At one point several elk ran across the highway ahead of us from one field to another. There were two deer in the second field that upon seeing the elk running away from the road toward them decided they should run too, only they ran toward the road (and us). The lead deer realized its mistake and turned around chasing after the elk leaving the second deer looking confused before also turning around. A short while later we were slowed by a turkey in the road. Its escape plan appeared to be to try and outrun our car. If you’ve seen a turkey try and sprint its a pretty funny sight. Eventually it remembered its wings and flew to the side of the road.

Thirty five miles from Enterprise we turned left at a sign for Flora, a ghost town that peaked in the early 1900’s. Beyond Flora the road was paved for the first 4 miles but then turned to mostly dirt with some gravel. For about 7 miles this road wound steeply down to the Grande Ronde River and Troy. Numerous hairpin turns with steep dropoffs made for a bit of a tense drive down but we arrived at the Troy Trailhead in one piece.
Troy Trailhead

Not only were we at a much lower elevation (under 2000′) but the forecast was for just a 30% chance of showers on this day so we were optimistic that we’d have a little better weather experience. The sky seemed to back that up as we looked back over Troy and the Grande Ronde River.
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This lower portion of the 31.3 mile long Wenaha River Trail passes through the 2015 Grizzly Fire scar.
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Some of the trees survived the fire.
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We had seen a trip report from the end of April over on Oregonhikers.org which indicated that the trail was in pretty good shape, but might be a bit brushy in spots. The author had also spotted big horn sheep during the hike so we were going to be keeping on the lookout for those.

In April it looked like there had been a nice display of balsamroot along the trail but most of that was now done but we were pleased to still find some flowers in bloom.
IMG_7762Vetch

IMG_7768Spreading dogbane

IMG_7776Wild rose with a beetle

IMG_7778Yarrow

IMG_7787Houndstongue

IMG_7784Paintbrush

IMG_7792Catchfly

IMG_7795sticky purple geranium

The trail itself began above the Wenaha River but soon dropped down to river level passing through a flat. This pattern would repeat itself over the course of the hike. The sections along the flats ranged from open grass to overgrown brush. We appeared to be the first to be going through the brush since the leaves were heavy with water which quickly soaked the lower halves of our bodies.
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As we made our way along the trail we discovered additional flower types.
IMG_7812Oregon sunshine

IMG_7818Monkey flower

WatercressWatercress?

IMG_7822Fiddleneck

IMG_7827Rough eyelashweed

IMG_7829Blanket flower with two sleeping bees

After a mile we arrived at a gate which we at first mistook for the boundary with the Umatilla National Forest.
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While we were on the lookout for big horn sheep it was colorful birds that we kept seeing (and hearing).
IMG_7848Yellow breasted chat

IMG_7865Lazuli bunting

The contrast in the hillsides on the opposite sides of the river was interesting. The north side consisted of smooth rounded terrain while the south side was much more rugged.
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While we were admiring the ruggedness of the opposite hillside we spotted some promising brown dots (they are in the picture above). With a little help from the zoom on the camera and our monocular we were able to confirm they were some of the big horn sheep we’d been looking for.
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Just a bit further down the trail we spotted another group. These were engaged in some rowdy play around a burnt ponderosa trunk.
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We watched them for quite a while before continuing on. The north side of the river became a bit more rugged and the rockier terrain provided more diverse flowers.
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IMG_7919Penstemon

IMG_7921Clarkia

IMG_7932Phlox

IMG_7945More spreading dogbane

IMG_7949Buckwheat

IMG_7952Scabland penstemon

IMG_7953Cinquefoil?

While the trail was up on the hillside we had nice views of the Wenaha below.
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A little over two and a half miles in we passed a second fence which was the actual forest boundary.
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Just beyond the boundary was a viewpoint across from Dry Gulch.
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From the viewpoint the trail made a couple switchbacks down to another brushy flat.
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Although it wasn’t thick there was a few pockets of poison ivy along the trail so we kept a watchful eye when the vegetation was close to the trail. It was along these flat sections where we spotted most of the birds.
IMG_7970Woodpecker with a snack.

IMG_7978Northern flicker

IMG_8003Black headed grosebeak

We also spotted a few big horn sheep on our side of the river.
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After climbing up a bit again we found a nice combination of false sunflower and balsamroot blooming along a ridge end along with a few other flowers.
IMG_7985Blue dicks with a beetle

IMG_8010Lupine

IMG_8012Salsify

IMG_8021False sunflowers

IMG_8024Balsamroot

IMG_8013Clarkia with beetles

IMG_8028View from the ridge end.

We repeated the dip and climb a couple more times before arriving at a neat rock overhang a bit before the 6 mile mark (at least according to our GPS). Along the way spotted more birds, a deer, and what appeared to be a rattlesnake that had met its demise along the trail.
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IMG_8040Another bunting

IMG_8045Wallflower

IMG_8052Another chat

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20190525_095959Geranium

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Beyond the overhang we could see Crooked Creek Canyon ahead to the right where it joined the Wenaha to the left.
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From the overhang it was a little over a mile to Crooked Creek. The stretch began with another nice selection of flowers.
IMG_8077Skullcap

IMG_8081Stream globemallow

IMG_8083Thimbleberry

IMG_8084Threadleaf phacelia

The the wildlife kicked back in and not in the most welcome way for Heather. I had stopped to try and get a picture of a garter snake that had just moved off the trail.
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I heard Heather say snake a couple of time and I was thinking “Yeah I know I’m trying to get a picture of it” only she was talking about a second garter snake that was slithering into the grass on the other side of the trail. Then she notice the third one coiled a couple of inches from her left foot. She is not a huge fan of snakes but has gotten quite a bit more comfortable around them, but three in one spot was getting close to too much. The third snake slithered away when I approached and we continued on.

More welcome wildlife came in the form of a family of geese, a pair of Lewis’s woodpeckers, and butterflies.
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At the 6.3 mile mark we passed a rock cairn with a “6” on top. We weren’t sure but thought that it might have been marking the boundary of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
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Whether or not that was the official boundary somewhere near the cairn we did enter the wilderness crossing one more off of our list to visit.
IMG_8134Officially inside the wilderness

We followed the trail to the site of the former footbridge over Crooked Creek which was lost in the Grizzly Fire.
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We spent some time pondering what the crossing would be like for backpackers wanting to continue on the Wenaha Trail. The water level looked like fording would be possible but we couldn’t see how one would get up to the trail on the far side. The best we could figure is that you would need to ford closer to the mouth of Crooked Creek and not at the old bridge site but we didn’t investigate further.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The day was warming up nicely as blue sky began to emerge overhead. We ran into several groups of backpackers heading in and they all asked about Crooked Creek. We told them that we thought fording would be possible but they’d need to find a spot to get back up to the trail. One of them mentioned what we had suspected, that there was a way up a little further downstream.
IMG_8165Blue sky

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On the way back we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed the first time by.
IMG_8177Wren

IMG_8190Spider and blue dicks

IMG_8194Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8220Wild onion

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Near the spot where we had seen the first group of big horn sheep across the river Heather spotted a small group on our side along the river bank.
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By the time we made it back to the trailhead the sky was mostly blue and temperatures were in the upper 70’s. It was a far cry from the snow shower the day before.
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20190525_134957The bees woke up at some point.

For some reason I had started craving pizza near the end of our hike so when we got cell signal I did a quick search of restaurants in Joseph and decided a calzone from Embers Brewhouse which really hit the spot and provided breakfast for the next day as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Wenaha River