Location of Hike: Three Sisters Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Varied from sunny and warm to cold and windy with some rain
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Sarah, Jeff
Hike Distance: 68.6 miles Elevation Gain: 16,000 feet
Originally we were thinking about going to Glacier National Park in Montana, but we realized that we needed permits (kind of like when we did the enchantments) and it was too late this year to get them. We decided to do the Three Sisters loop because next year this entire wilderness will be permits only (like the Enchantments and Glacier) and will be more difficult to get into. I knew before even starting that this was going to be a challenging trip (due to the length and elevation). This was the longest backpacking trip I have ever taken, both in duration and mileage. The initial plan was this:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – About 6.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – About 9 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then back out to Park Meadow – About 12 miles
- Day 4 – Park Meadow to Mesa Creek – About 11.5 miles
- Day 5 – Mesa Creek to Minnie Scott Springs – About 12 miles
- Day 6 – Minnie Scott Springs to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 6 miles
- Total Mileage: About 57 miles
What we actually did was significantly different than the plan, and considerably more mileage than estimated. We added a side trip up to Broken top and some of the distances I calculated were a bit off. This is what we actually did, with actual mileages:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – 7.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – 10 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake – 12 miles
- Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top – About 13.5 miles
- Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar – just short of Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!) – About 17.5 miles
- Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 7.5 miles
- Total Mileage: About 68 miles
Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek
The “Blue Adventure Bus” (Kirk’s van) came and picked Carly and I up about 8:30 on Saturday morning. Kirk had already picked up Jeff. The plan was to head out, have lunch on the way, and then get on the trail shortly after 1:00 or so which is why day 1 was shorter mileage (same for the last day).
We ended up stopping for lunch in Detroit since that was really the last slice of civilization with a decent restaurant before the trailhead (even though it was like an hour and a half away). We had lunch at a restaurant called Cedars – It was good to have one last “real” meal before heading out into the wilderness. We ate an early lunch and then continued to the trailhead at the Lava Camp Trailhead on highway 242 near McKenzie Pass. We passed the Dee Wright Observatory which would be an interesting place to explore some day. It is in the middle of a HUGE lava field. I had never realized how much lava there is in this area. We would be seeing more of it as the week progressed.
The other really interesting/weird thing that happened on the way to the trailhead was there were TONS of butterflies on the road. There was literally a swarm of them in places – there were so many we kept hearing “splat” when one would hit the windshield or the front of the van. It was really kind of strange to see SO many butterflies.
After the butterfly massacre, we shortly got to the trailhead and got all our gear on for the start of our 6 days in the wilderness.
We headed down the Millican Crater Trail (4066) – originally I thought we were going to go down the PCT for the first part of the trail, but we found this would make the trip a true loop – we wouldn’t be repeating any part of the trail with the exception of the trip in and out of Camp Lake. We headed down the trail and very quickly came into the burn area. This has been the site of at least a couple of rather large fires – I think one of the latest ones was the Pole Creek fire in 2012 and burned about 26,000 acres. The last one was just last year and was over 101,000 acres! We saw lots of this (and worse) all day long (and into the following day too):
When we got to to the Trout Creek Tie Trail (4067) we took a turn south and headed to Trout Creek. We had a snack there and got water and then continued on the Green Lakes Trail (17). Shortly before Alder Creek (our destination for the night), we got this view of Millican Crater in the foreground with Black Crater behind it:
And a little farther we also caught our first glimpse of North Sister:
Soon we made it to Alder creek and started looking for a campsite. We found one just up the hill from the creek. We were expecting to see some other people but didn’t see anyone camped there at all. Here was our campsite for night 1:
After setting up camp, we cooked dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed.
Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake
We got up and got going about 8:30 on Day 2, heading to Camp Lake. Shortly after leaving camp, we got a much better look at North Sister:
A little farther down the trail, we got a pretty good look at Mt Washington:
A little farther we got our first real look at South Sister thru the burned trees:
We continued down the trail until we got to the Camp Lake Trail junction and headed west. It was somewhere in this vicinity where I started noticing the mosquitoes more – maybe it was where we came out of the burned area into woods, I’m not sure. I just know that at some point, the bugs started becoming quite annoying, especially when you weren’t moving.
We continued down the Camp Lake trail and we originally thought this creek was Squaw/Whychus creek, but it turned out to be an un-named creek crossing – but it was a great source of cool, clear water:
Shortly after the un-named creek crossing we came to the actual North Fork of Squaw/Whychus creek – here is our group starting to cross it:
A little bit down the trail we got our first really good look at North Sister as well:
Shortly after that view, we started to hit significant snow, which obscured the trail in many spots. We were able to find our way thru (there were little to no footprints to guide us), and soon made it to Camp Lake – which still had quite a bit of snow and was rather un-inviting, windy and cold:
We looked around and set up our tents about the only place we could find to camp – and turned out to be probably the worst place since the wind came from the south across the lake and funneled thru the small opening on the north end of the lake:
We also got a good look at Middle sister above Camp Lake, which would be our objective for the following morning:
We setup camp but as we were setting up camp, one of the poles on Carly’s tent broke. We made a “fix” using some duct tape and were hoping it would hold up in the wind (more on that in a minute). After getting our tents setup we made dinner crouched behind the hills next to our tents – we found enough space to cook out of most of the wind.
We also noticed the huge slabs of snow that were calving off into the lake on the south side of the lake. We would regularly hear one of them crash into the water.
The most significant thing that happened on Day 2 was probably at night. After we cleaned up after dinner we went to bed. It had started to mist a bit and the wind had picked up. We were also planning to get up at 5 to get going up to Middle Sister early – so we would still have enough time to make it to Park Meadow. Shortly after we went to bed, the wind REALLY picked up and was blowing our tent in about a foot when it gusted hard. Some of the gusts were REALLY strong (like 40 MPH+ I think) and we were worried that our cheap tent pole fix would collapse during the night. Fortunately, it held up just fine, but no one got a lot of sleep that night due to the wind. It was the stormiest night I’ve ever spent in a tent.
Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake
We got up early (5am), made breakfast and headed out to summit middle sister. There isn’t a trail up to the summit, but Kirk had climbed this peak at least a couple of times before. We kind of picked our path up the hill, choosing what looked like the easiest route. Here is a shot looking back at Camp Lake after we had climbed a bit:
A little bit further up the mountain we started to get into real snow (and the clouds) – we would mostly be in the clouds the rest of the climb – that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture:
We kept climbing and when we got about half way up this was our view – it didn’t look like we had too far to go, but it got harder as we got higher – it was very deceiving:
As we were ascending, someone noticed that South Sister briefly peeked thru the clouds:
After a long, slow climb, we finally made it to the top of Middle Sister, but we were entirely in the clouds. Amazingly it wasn’t very windy when we were up there. We had no views whatsoever:
We spent a few minutes sheltered behind a big rock up on top and looked around a bit and then headed down. As we headed down, it started to really rain. Prior to that it was just misty due to the clouds. The rain was coming down sideways and was really cold. I was kind of expecting some snow, but we didn’t see any.
As we got farther down the hill, I got to experience a new skill – Glissading – this makes it really fast to come down the hill! (this picture was Kirk, but we all did it 3 or 4 times as we hit different snow fields):
We made it back down to camp a little after noon I think. We ate lunch and then packed up and headed out. Just before heading out, I decided to go look at the outlet to Camp Lake. I found this cool little snow tunnel made by the outlet – notice how much snow there is still on the hill:
And then there was this rock with some weird inscriptions at the outlet – I have no idea what it means:
I think we started our journey out about 2pm – we had a ways to go. We weren’t sure if we would be able to make it to Park Meadow, but we figured we would see how the day went.
As we were hiking out, I noticed some neat cliffs that I had not noticed on the way in:
The trip out was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the Green Lakes trail and then headed south. We got back into burned areas and kept hiking south. We were all getting tired and were ready to find a place to camp. We came across a pair of small, un-named lakes, and decided this would be a good spot to camp for the night – it was at least partially unburned, which was nice:
When we first arrived it seemed like there weren’t many bugs, but I think it was just that they hadn’t noticed us yet, as they arrived after we had been there for a bit. The bugs on this trip were pretty much unavoidable – the only things that mitigated them was having a breeze, keeping moving or bug spray.
We setup camp, cooked dinner and went to bed. We were planning on getting another early start as we added a summit of Broken top to our itinerary for the following day.
Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top
We got up early again to get an early start. The plan was to hike to the junction with the climbers trail to the top of Broken Top, drop our packs and then head up. Once we summitted Broken Top, we would come back down and then head south to camp for the night. We were thinking maybe Moraine Lake would be a good spot because the next water was quite a ways from Moraine Lake and we didn’t think we would be able to do an additional 4 miles to get to the next water source.
We got going a little after 7am and continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We finally got to Park Meadow (glad we didn’t try and make it here the night before). The maps were conflicting about trails. Apparently there has been some re-routes and some trails are no longer active, so it made for some confusion about where to go. Park Meadow was a nice place, though (even though the bugs were pretty bad):
We didn’t stay there long – we continued south on the Green Lakes trail. A little further down the trail, we got a good view of Broken Top – our objective for later in the day:
We continued south and soon saw the big Green Lake (there are at least 3 of them):
We stopped here for some water and a rest – we saw a few more people here than we had the rest of the trip. Green Lakes is one of the more popular places it seems.
We got a different view of South Sister from Green Lakes – a perspective you don’t see from the south:
We got to where we thought the climbers trail was (near campsite 10) and dropped our packs in the woods up the hill a bit and then headed up the trail about 10:30. This was the beginning of the trail – it was VERY steep – but it only got worse as we got up higher:
After what seemed like forever (at least for me) climbing up some VERY steep grades (some were literally straight uphill), we got to the saddle, where the trail transitioned to climbing the ridge on the northwest side of the mountain all the way to the top:
On the way up the ridge, we started seeing wave after wave of thousands of butterflies. Here is a video where you can get an idea – the butterflies are hard to see, but you can see some of them. (they are the black spots in the video) It was pretty amazing:
A little further up the hill there was a view to the northeast of this amazing hillside. I wish this picture had turned out better – the colors were VERY vibrant – I still don’t know what it is:
After a LOT of breaks, and huffing and puffing (at least by me) we finally made it to a small ledge near the top of Broken Top. There really wasn’t a safe way to go any farther without ropes – it was steep and narrow ledges with cliffs with small cracks you’d have to climb to get higher. Some cool views from the ledge – The big lava flow south of Green Lakes:
And a reasonably un-obscured view of the three sisters:
Here is a 360 photo from the top of Broken Top.
While the rest of us rested on the ledge and enjoyed the view, Kirk poked around and found a rather dangerous way to the top of the mountain:
Although he required some spotting assistance on the way back down – he couldn’t see his feet to climb back down the crack he went up on. I’m very glad he made it back down safely.
We stayed on the ledge for a half hour or so (waiting for Kirk to come down) and then headed back down the way we came. On the way down, I took a photo of this interesting rock we had noticed on the way up. Kirk thought it looked like a Chineese cat – I think it kind of looks like Garfield the cat:
As usual, the trip down was quite a bit faster than the trip up. We got back down about 3:30 (about a 5 hour trip up and down the mountain) and rested at the bottom for a few minutes before loading up our packs and heading south. We continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We started following one of the lava flows along Fall Creek (I think one is called the Newberry Lava Flow):
We continued south to the junction with another trail which then took us west over to Moraine Lake. This trail gained a few hundred feet of elevation and after the ascent of Broken Top, and all the other hiking, I was pretty tired. It took me longer than everyone else to get to the lake.
We finally got there and looked for a campsite (a post) to use. We ended up finding two since the sites were small. This was our site we shared with Jeff:
It was somewhat windy at Moraine Lake, but nothing like it had been at Camp Lake. Kirk decided to go for a quick swim, although he could only stand it for like 3 minutes it was so cold. He had to try and warm up once back at camp and there were no campfires allowed.
We made dinner and went to bed early again, as the next day was going to be a long one. We needed to make up some time that we had lost due to the extra side trip up Broken Top. We had 25 miles to get back to the van and we figured we would need to do 17 or 18 miles in order to make the last day reasonable enough to get home by dinner time. We had another very full day planned.
Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar
We started day 5 very early like many of our other days. This day would be all about racking up mileage – no big highlights on this day, but a few interesting things did happen.
We got going about 8:00 and headed west on the confusing array of trails around Moraine Lake. On the way, we noticed this cool Lenticular cloud over South Sister:
It was a bit chilly to hike, but that just makes you sweat less. We continued west, trying to figure out all the confusing trail junctions (we were successful and didn’t have to turn around or anything) About a mile or so from the junction with the PCT, there was this bug that just buried himself half way in the trail – have no idea what kind of bug or why – it was just weird:
We continued on the trail and it starts looping north. Soon, it joins the PCT. As the trails were getting closer, we saw 3 hikers on the PCT. We met them almost exactly where the two trails joined. They stopped and we chatted for a bit. There were two guys and a woman. One man was from New Zealand, the other from Alabama, and we never did quite get where the woman was from. They were thru hiking the PCT and taking their time. They had been out for I think 115 days and he said they were expecting to be out another 115 days. He made it quite clear they were there for the experience. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting with the PCTers for a bit, we continued on while they rested some more at the junction. We would see them one more time and then we passed them up. A little further up the trail, we hiked along side the Rock Mesa (Lava flow) to our right – it was another HUGE lava flow:
A little further north we came to a neat Meadow near Mesa Springs. This was our original campsite on the 4th night. It is too bad the flowers don’t pop in this photo, they were really gorgeous and colorful:
We stopped at this meadow and filled up with water and rested a bit. The PCT hikers we met earlier passed us as this point. After a little while, we headed out, continuing our journey north. A little further down the trail, we passed them again – that was the last time we saw them.
Nothing terribly exciting happened for a while – we were just trying to rack up some mileage (I kind of felt like a “real” PCT hiker who has to keep moving in order to complete the trail).
We stopped for lunch at Hinton Creek – at first, we were the only ones there, but soon, 3 new PCT hikers showed up. Two women and an older man. One woman was from Germany, one was from Austraiia and the man was from Tampa. Interesting mix. We chatted a bit. They were expecting to be complete with the trail in about a month. Much faster than the other 3 we met. We had lunch, got some more water and then headed out.
A few miles up the trail we got a great view of The Husband (I don’t think we could see The Wife from the trail):
We continued north and soon found ourselves entering the Obsidian Limited use area (Kirk had a permit for us). We didn’t see anyone else there, however and no one checked our permit. About a mile or so into the area, we came to Obsidian Falls, which was really interesting. The waterfall was all set on layers of black obsidian:
Here is a video of the falls in action:
We didn’t stay there too long as the bugs were especially bad. We quickly headed up over the falls into a flat area that had some really neat cliffs:
We continued north and in about a mile, we saw one of the special memorial Plaques up on a hillside:
I believe this is the one for Harley H. Prouty – there are 3 of them and all appear to be related to the Mazamas somehow. We couldn’t read this one – it was too far away and we didn’t want to stop to try and read it.
We continued heading north thinking we would stop somewhere before Opie Dildock pass – we thought we would camp in the first place after the Obsidian Limited use area we could find. The first place that was really anywhere we could camp was called Sawyer Bar, which is just Below Opie Dildock Pass – this was our campsite:
Soon after we got the tents setup, the clouds moved in and it started lightly misting. We made dinner and went to bed early again. We wanted to get another early start to make sure we got out on time. This would be our last night in the wilderness.
Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead
We woke up early again on day 6 to get an early start. The last morning was a lot tougher than the prior ones. Overnight it went from a light mist to real rain. It rained rather hard at times but by morning, it was mostly just misting (mostly). But our tents were all soaking wet and had to be packed up wet. The good news was that we wouldn’t need them again, so other than some additional weight it wasn’t too bad. Well, that and eating in the rain.
We made breakfast as best we could and got packed up. We then headed up the trail in the rain and wind thru the lava up to Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!? I wonder who it was named after?):
It is a very steep trail that zigs and zags thru the lava flow up to the pass where the trail flattens out for a bit and then starts heading down the other side. It isn’t too far before you get to Minnie Scott Springs (our original target for night 5):
It was wet – really wet but it looked like there were nice campsites there. But I’m glad we camped where we did. After hiking almost 18 miles the day before, doing this pass would have been very difficult. It was a lot easier to do it in the morning after a good nights sleep. We made it thru the pass and then started our slow downhill (mostly) to the van. We had a very steep uphill section near the Yapoah Crater, but we couldn’t see much. I thought the trail routing was really weird. We went up just to come right back down. Anyway, there was lots and lots of this stuff that we went thru – but this was where the weather finally started clearing up a bit:
And shortly after exiting all the lava, we came to South Matthieu Lake (we also passed North Matthiew Lake but we only saw it from high above):
Kirk decided to take the “low road” going down to North Matthiew Lake while we took the PCT (the “high road”). We had thought we might have to gain back a bunch of elevation if we went down to the lake, but apparently not. That route was slightly shorter and Kirk was there waiting for us when we got to the junction. Apparently the downhill was just mostly all at the start.
Shortly after that junction, we got to the last short connector trail to the Lava Creek trailhead and back to the van. We got to the van about 10:30am, so we made good time. It took us just under 3 hours to do about 7.5 miles. After cleaning up a bit and packing up all of our stuff, we headed to Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters for a well deserved post trip meal before our drive home.
A truly epic adventure!
Location of Hike: Memaloose Lake Trail
Trail Number: 515
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:05 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 3.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We decided to see if we could get up to Memaloose Lake, which is a little bit lower in elevation. Fortunately, we ran into almost no snow, and the few short spots we encountered were easily passable. We got to the trailhead and started getting ready, when another car pulled up. I was a bit surprised to see another car this far up this early in the season, but I knew we would have company. We shortly headed up the trail, which was littered with branches and detritus from the winter – it didn’t look like anyone had cleared anything yet this year, so we threw a bunch of branches off the trail as we headed up. We stopped at one of the switchbacks where the creek is near the trail and the folks from the car we saw passed up – they were a couple of trail runners, so were moving pretty quickly. We soon made it up to Memaloose Lake that still had lots of snow:
We stopped at the campsite next to the lake and had lunch. We decided to try and head up the trail up to South Fork Mountain to see how far we could get. There was patchy snow on the unmaintained trail:
When this trail finally hits the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, an old abandoned trail joined it – the South Fork Mountain trail headed west and the trail to Wanderers Peak went east. We decided to explore a bit of this abandoned trail – initially we were just going to go a little ways and then return and go up to the top of South Fork Mountain, but as we proceeded down the ridge, we finally realized we didn’t really want to go back the way we came, so we decided to continue down the ridge looking for blazes and tread and eventually come out on the 45 road and then walk back to the trailhead.
As we proceeded down the ridge, the side hill got steeper and steeper – we got concerned we were going to get cliffed out, but we continued to make progress, although it was pretty slow. Here is an example of some of the SERIOUS side hill action going out the ridge on the old Wanderers Peak trail:
At the end of one of the somewhat flat ridge lines, there was a bit of a knob. We climbed over to it and didn’t get as good of a view as we were hoping. This was a cool rock formation looking back at Memaloose Lake (hidden behind trees) from that little knob:
A little farther down the ridge, we came to this cool ridge top meadow:
And a little farther we came across a knob (it actually shows as a small knob on the map). We climbed to the top of it and found great views. Mt Hood and Mt Adams to the north:
Hard to see peak of Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte to the south:
We climbed back down and continued traversing the steep side hill, which got slightly better as we got closer to the road. We ended up following a second ridge down to the road, which was a little easier. We finally made it back to the road and walked back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, there was almost no trail left that we could find. A few blazes here and there and a few short sections of tread were found, but large sections were without any blazes and many of the sections where there would have been tread are so steep we figured that the tread has probably slipped down the hill.
We got back to the truck about 3:30, so we decided to head farther up 45 to see what conditions looked like. When we got to the 4550 junction, it was obvious that someone had spend some serious time brushing out the road:
We decided to head down it to see how far we could get, wondering if we could make it to the waterfall at Music creek. We made it there, but just past the first campsite, the road was impassible due to snow on the road again. We walked down to the creek, and got a great view of Music Creek falls running loud and fast:
Here is a short Video – it was rather LOUD:
After watching the waterfall for a little while, we headed back up. I walked up the road a bit to see if the brushing continued – it appeared to have stopped at Music creek, but it was hard to tell. Once the road re-opens, it will be interesting to see what it looks like. We walked back to the truck and headed out. On the way home, we took a short detour so that I could show Kirk the remains of the Silvicultural research area – I’d investigated this area several years ago – it is an interesting area where they studied ways to make trees grow better/taller/faster, but it has been closed for at least 10 years I think. There isn’t much left except for some remnants of the buildings and all the fences and trees they planted.
We stopped at Fearless in Estacada for a burger and a beer. What a great way to cap off a great day of exploring!
Location of Hike: Fish Creek
Weather during Hike: Foggy and Rainy
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:55 AM End Time: 2:15 PM
Hike Distance: 6.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We were going to meet on the trail about 11, so I headed up and go there a bit before 11. No one was there, so I figured I would just head up and they might catch me – or at least they would meet me at the first bridge (that was about as far as you could go due to the high water). We headed up the Calico road and then down to Fish Creek after the Rimrock creek crossing. Until that point, it was dry, but shortly after heading down to Fish Creek it started drizzling. As we headed south, the rain got stronger – never too strong, but it became a real rain rather than drizzle.
Shortly after heading down the Fish Creek, we found this bone on the trail:
Thor was REALLY interested in it, but I got him to leave it along and we continued down the trail. A bit further, someone had built a cairn right in the middle of the trail:
Thor didn’t like it – when he saw it he barked at it and went WAY around it. Funny thing was, on the way back, he didn’t even bark at it once, he just sniffed it when we passed it.
It wasn’t a very eventful hike. The route is relatively easy – easy grade, not much elevation. We soon made it to the first bridge, where we were going to turn around. It was lunch time, so we stopped there and had lunch. We ate in the little campsite near the bridge, since it was somewhat protected (we didn’t get quite as wet). After eating lunch, we headed back to the bridge and I took some pictures and videos of the raging river:
Here are a couple of videos from the bridge – looking south and north:
We watched the raging river for a while, and I was hoping that the scouts would have caught up to us, but after about 45 minutes there, we were getting really wet (and starting to get a little chilly), so we headed back. I figured either plans had changed or we would meet them on the way back. About 3/4 mile from the bridge, we met them. Apparently they got a later start than planned. We talked for a bit and then Thor and I headed north while they continued south.
It wasn’t too long and we were back at the car. By the time we got back to the car, the rain had let up again, but we were pretty wet. The heater in the car felt good on the way home. Thor was tired – he wanted to lie down, but he couldn’t fit lying down in the seat. If I had my truck, he would have laid down in the back, but I sold it last week in anticipation of my new truck, which I will be picking up tomorrow.
It was a nice day out. Very different due to the fog and rain. It is always interesting to see rivers running high and fast. Fish Creek was certainly loud today and I’m glad I got to experience it.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:0 AM End Time: 1:00 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed up the trail from the pipeline road about 10:00 – there were only a few small patches of snow on the road – I think they were remnants from plowing. There was no snow on the trail at all when we started. At the first rockslide, I got these views looking south. I’ve been wondering/trying to figure out what the peaks to the left were. Kirk (and I) thought they might be Oak Grove Butte, but looking at the map, I think Oak Grove Butte is to the left (east) farther – out of view. I think these peaks are Granite peaks:
Looking to the west, there is Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead (I love this function on my PeakFinder app – where you can take photos and it labels the peaks):
After enjoying the sunshine and the view for a bit, we continued up the hill. This trail is pretty relentless in its uphill. Never terribly steep, but just constant uphill. The trail was completely clear of snow until about 2700′, where we saw our first real snow, shortly before the clearcut:
We cleaned up some downed branches and continued up. Interestingly enough, the beginning of the clearcut was mostly clear of snow, but soon became more consistent and deeper. By the time we got to the first of the 130 spur road crossings, it was close to a foot deep. After that crossing, we got to one of my favorite spots on the trail – the spot between the two crossings:
Just a really neat grove of beautiful trees. One interesting thing – I noticed that none of the maps show the little “butte” to the west of the trail. It isn’t huge, but it does seem like it should be large enough to show up on the contour lines.
We continued up to the second crossing, where there was probably 18″ of snow on the road. This is one of MANY deer prints we saw on the way up:
Thor played on the road for a bit and for some reason, he was REALLY interested in this one deer print:
He kept shoving his nose in it and then digging and rubbing on it. It was really interesting to watch.
After a while, we headed back down to the little grove and found a spot in the sun on a log. We stopped and had some lunch. Then we headed back downhill.
As we were passing thru the clearcut on the way down, We came across something that was VERY fresh and I’m very sure it was not there on the way up:
I’m guessing it was from a bobcat or a lnyx – it seemed too small for a cougar. Those kitties are out there….
We continued down the hill, making really good time – soon we were out of the snow again. It was a pretty uneventful and short trip down (except for the scat sighting). We got back to the truck about 1:00 and then headed home.
A great day in the woods – the only thing that could have made it better would have been to have shared it with friends.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: overcast with sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:35 AM End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 4.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
This is what the Trailhead looked like – more snow that I was expecting:
We headed up the hill, and the trail was covered with snow right from the beginning. There were a couple spots where it was bare, but not many. It didn’t take too long before the snow got pretty deep. I really should have brought my snowshoes. It was tough going. We made it to the hillside meadow:
Thor played around in the snow a bit – it was probably a foot deep up the hill. We then continued up the hill. The snow kept getting deeper. I was about to turn around, but I really wanted to get to the area below the 4635-120 spur road – it is one of my favorites on this trail. Although it was hard, I kept going – taking frequent breaks. There was lots of snow up higher:
At one point, the sun came out and broke thru the trees. It was really beautiful (the picture doesn’t do it justice):
We then slowly continued up the trail and finally made it to the spot between the two spur roads. We stopped and had lunch there and rested a bit and then headed up to the 4635-120 crossing, which had over 2′ of fluffy snow on it. Thor at one point just sat down on the road:
He was running thru the snow a lot but I didn’t get a good video of him in the snow this time. But I know he had a lot of fun! He made lots of tracks in the snow.
We then headed back down. The trip down was a LOT faster than the trip up! It was easier to step down thru the steps that had already been made, plus you were going downhill. We made GREAT time back to the truck and then headed home. Both Thor and I were pretty tired after the trip- but it was REALLY nice to get out in the woods and see the forest in its blanket of snow.
Location of Hike: Alder Flat Trail
Trail Number: 574
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 1:15 PM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles Elevation Gain: 500 feet
We headed out late, after lunch (since I knew it was going to be a short trip). We got to the trailhead a little after 1:00 and headed down. It only took us about 30 minutes to get to the river. This is the view looking downstream from the campsites:
Once at the river, we looked for a sunny spot since it was a little cool. We walked upstream until we found a sunny spot. I sat down and just enjoyed the view and had some water. Thor was restless, so we continued walking upstream as far as we could easily walk. On the way, Thor had to play in the river:
A little farther upstream there was some pretty fast whitewater rapids:
We continued upstream until we couldn’t easily go farther – it was a nice view – one I had never seen before:
We walked back to where I’d left my backpack and then headed back up the trail. On the way back, we made the side trip over to the “lake” (it is kind of swampy) – we walked around the south side of the lake to where the beaver dam is (it is under the big log):
While we were heading over to the side trail, Thor perked up and I wasn’t sure if he sensed some animals or what. A little farther up the trail I thought I heard voices and a little farther I saw two guys up on a rock outcropping just off the trail. Thor sensed/heard them long before I did!
Anyway, it was a pretty uneventful trip back to the truck. Just a nice quiet walk in the beautiful old growth down near the river. Even though it was a short trip, it seemed to be enough to tire Thor out. He slept all the way home.
This trip was just what the doctor ordered – a beautiful day out in the woods. Hopefully my next trip this year will be more adventurous!
Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 505 and 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We tried to do this same trip in 2016, but the snow was much deeper and we had to turn around about 3/4 mile from the top so that we had enough time to get back before it got dark. Since the snow was much deeper it was a lot rougher going too. Having to break trail thru the deep snow was very tiring. For this trip, the plan was to drive up 4614 as far as we could, since the Fanton trail mostly follows it for a few miles. Then we would park and head up the trail to the old Lookout spot.
We decided to stop near the 167 spur – about a mile farther than we were able to get to in 2016 – I was hoping that would be enough to get us to the top:
We parked, and then headed up the road looking for where the trail crosses the spur road. At this point in the day, it was all untouched snow – this is the Fanton trail continuing south from the 167 spur:
We took off to the north, heading up towards the Old Baldy trail. The snow was probably 4-6″ deep here, but we really didn’t need snowshoes while we were in the woods. At this point, we really only needed them in open areas where the snow was deeper.
Not too far down the trail, Kirk saw this cool shadow of a cross, I thought I’d take a picture:
Very quickly we arrived at the landing just off the 4614 road – the last point where you can hit the Fanton trail from 4614. After seeing what we saw, we probably could have driven up this far with little effort – but we were confident we had enough time to make it to the top. The landing was beautiful in the morning light – with all the fresh snow:
Kirk took this picture of Ollie being a goof in the snow:
After enjoying the view from that landing for a bit we headed back to the trail and continued up. It didn’t take too long to get up to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The sign that used to mark the junction is gone – not sure if it is laying on the ground or what – you can see where it used to be though:
Anyway, we continued up towards the lookout, with the snow continuing to get deeper. It wasn’t long before we got to the road up to the lookout and finally popped out on top. It is hard to know where the lookout was – the snow had to be a couple feet deep at least. We stopped here and pulled out our stoves and made some hot beverages and ate some lunch. We tried to get a good view of Mt Jefferson, but it seemed to be hiding in the clouds. We did get a great shot of Mt Hood:
While Kirk and I were eating, Thor and Ollie were playing around:
After we ate lunch, we explored the peak a bit. Kirk found these cool designs in the snow:
And you could see part of Squaw Meadows to the east (it wraps around the back of the ridge to the south – this was just the north end of it):
After exploring the peak a bit we went down to where the old garage used to be but we couldn’t quite figure out where the foundation was – I think there was too much snow. We started our descent back down. I think the dogs were glad we were headed down – they were both having some issues with their feet and ice getting between their pads on their feet. As we got down farther and the snow wasn’t as deep, the problem seemed to go away. I could tell Thor was getting tired – between the foot thing and just being tired, he stopped a bunch of times on the way down.
We made good time on the way down – nothing much of note happened until we got almost back to the 167 spur – maybe 100 yards or so from the spur road, there were tracks on the trail – we weren’t sure if it was a jeep or what – but it was a 4 wheeled vehicle for sure. As we got back to the spur road, you could see they just drove up the spur road and then headed up the trail. I think there was a large enough log that they turned around.
Once we got back to the truck, we saw lots of new tracks – there was snowmobile tracks – not exactly sure where they went – and new tracks farther up 4614. As we were getting ready to leave, a side by side came up 4614 and went down the spur – I think that is the vehicle we saw tracks for – I hope they weren’t going to try and head farther up the trail…
We headed out and got stuck behind a caravan of 3 trucks – not sure if they were together or not, but the lead truck just stopped and talked to someone for like 5 minutes – we couldn’t really go around them due to the snow on the road, so we had to wait. This part of the forest seems to get very busy in the wintertime…. There were LOTS of people up here now with families.
An absolutely beautiful bluebird day in the snow – a perfect way to start 2019.
Post Hike note: While doing this hike I had a bit of a runny nose. I thought I was just getting a cold, but after I got back home, it really hit me. I got hit with a pretty severe flu bug. That is why this posting is so late – I was so tired I didn’t even look at my computer for like 3 days. Had I known what was coming, I definitely would not have gone on this hike, however I’m very glad I went. These are the kinds of hikes that are special. You don’t get too many beautiful winter days like this with undisturbed snow.
Location of Hike: Dickey Creek Trail
Trail Number: 553
Weather during Hike: Overcast with a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:20 AM End Time: 2:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.6 miles
We got to the trailhead a little after 10 and headed out. Shortly after we started down the old road, I heard a vehicle at the trailhead – we were far enough away that I couldn’t see it, but I definitely heard it. On the way in on the old decom road there was an inch or so of crunchy snow:
We quickly made it to the old trailhead and continued down the old road. Shortly before the first un-named creek crossing (where there is still the remnants of the old bridge), I noticed these odd artifacts – I’ve never noticed them before and I’m not sure what they are:
We crossed the creek on the log (Thor even followed me on the log!) and soon got to the steep downhill part of the trail. One one of the really steep sections that didn’t get stairs (like a few others), someone put a rope to help go up and down:
I didn’t use it going down, but I did use it going back up and it was very helpful. We soon got to the flat, swampy area which was mostly frozen over:
We continued down the trail, enjoying the beautiful old trees and the verdant green understory – many places the entire forest floor is just a carpet of green moss. We sawed a couple of downed trees to either remove them or make them easier to get over/under, and soon got to the Dickey creek crossing:
We stopped here for a while and had lunch. Thor was playing around in the creek (he loves running water) while I ate. After I finished lunch, we headed back up the hill. Shortly after we left the creek crossing, we met another hiker and his dog. We talked a bit and then continued up the hill. As we were heading back up, the sun poked out thru the trees a couple of times, and it was really pretty:
All in all a low key day, but a great way to spend a few hours on a cold December day.
Location of Hike: Rimrock and Cottonwood Meadows Trails
Trail Number: 704 and 705
Weather during Hike: Sunny, cold and windy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:30 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 6.5 miles
We got a bit of a late start due to my sleeping in a bit. We got to the east end of the Rimrock trail about 11:30 and headed up. The dogs were ready to go (as usual). While we were getting ready, they were running back and forth down the 5830 road like maniacs. They probably hiked 2 or 3 times as far as we did….
Anyway, we headed up the east side – the hill is pretty steep in places, so we quickly got our hearts racing. The trail was relatively clear (this side doesn’t get a lot of traffic). Part way up the hill, we encountered a little bit of snow:
When we got to the top, at the rockslide, we got a pretty good view of the Shellrock creek drainage:
From there, we continued up the hill to the overlook trail junction, and then headed up to the overlook. I think the last time I was here was in the middle of winter when you could barely see the trail junction sign! This was almost 7 months prior:
We headed up the overlook trail and shortly got to the overlook where it was very windy. We headed out to the point, where we got some good views. This is looking south towards Mt. Jefferson and Olallie:
This is looking north towards Mt Hood:
This is looking southwest to Oak Grove Work center:
Here is a short video – It was really windy on the North/East side of the overlook – make sure to turn the volume down:
We kind of sheltered on the west side of the overlook where the wind wasn’t too bad – we ate lunch there and then headed back down. Just to make things interesting, we decided to head back along the bluff. It was quite a bit shorter and it looked pretty open and was a straight shot back to the trail (instead of going down and then back up). It turned out to be relatively easy walking, other than going over a bunch of downed logs. We soon made it back to the trail near the rocklide and then continued down. On the way back down, we saw several of these blazes – two on bottom and one on top – but weren’t sure what they meant:
We quickly got back to the truck (around 2:00) and then headed across the road to the Cottonwood Meadows trail. This is what greeted us near the beginning of the trail:
We went around the frozen spot (it wasn’t thick enough to walk on I don’t think). We continued down the trail and then explored a short alternate for the trail that ended up pretty much heading back up to the road. Not sure if it was an old alignment or what. As we continued down the trail, we soon got to the first meadow – we obviously had to go around – even the dogs didn’t want to go thru it – not sure how deep it was, but it was more than ankle deep for sure:
We continued around that meadow/swamp and soon came to the big swamp/lake – Cottonwood Meadow Lake? (not sure what it is called). We took the route on the west side of the lake, continued south and had to route around another wet area, finally coming to the large meadow north of the 5830-240 spur road. This is essentially the end of the trail until you get down to the 265 spur, where the beautiful south end of the trail exists. We didn’t go that far since we didn’t have enough time. We headed cross country a bit to explore the area – we went down the road a bit and then headed south where it seemed more open. It was for the most part, but was still rough going. We were running out of daylight, so we headed back up the hill – we didn’t really want to hike in the dark – we knew it would get cold really quickly once the sun went down.
We headed back up to the road, then back up thru the meadow. Just before the big lake, we saw some branches piled in the trail with a flag – it kind of looked like a trail, so we followed it around to a campsite on the south end of the lake. There was a boat there (I had seen it a few years ago on the west side of the lake). There was about an inch thick of ice on the south end of the lake (the dogs were walking all over the ice – we didn’t go too far out):
And here is Cottonwood Meadows Lake from this south end campsite – you can see the ice part way out – I don’t think this end of the lake gets any sun this time of year:
After exploring this campsite for a few minutes, we continued back up the hill. We made good time and got back to the truck just before 4:00. We loaded up and headed out. As we drove out, we decided to explore the 210 spur – I took this photo part way down the spur road. This was where we were earlier in the day – the overlook is to the left, Mount Mitchell proper is to the right:
We went down the spur pretty much to the end. We were hoping there might be some sort of view, but things have grown up too much. It was interesting – part way down, the road went thru some uncut area that was really pretty. It had a campsite next to the road. We turned around and headed back. As we were driving, the sun went down – by the time we got back to Estacada, it was pretty much dark. We stopped at Fearless for a burger and a beer. The perfect way to end a good day of exploration!
Location of Hike: Eagle Cap Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Sunny but cold at night
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 44 miles
We were very fortunate with the weather on this trip – it was beautiful fall weather. Sunny and warm (but not too warm) during the day, and below freezing at night. We had an ambitious plan:
- Day 1 – Drive to the Wallowa Lake trailhead and hike to Aneroid Lake – about 8 miles
- Day 2 – Aneroid Lake to Glacier Lake – about 11 miles
- Day 3 – Glacier Lake to Moccasin Lake – drop our packs and do a side trip up to Eagle Cap, then return and pick up our packs and go to Horseshoe lake – about 11 miles
- Day 4 – Horseshoe Lake to Wallowa Lake trailhead and then drive home – about 8 miles
We stayed to the plan, however we found out the mileages we had planned were a little low. Day 1 was almost a mile short, day 2 was about 2.5 miles short, day 3 was about a mile short and day 4 was about a mile short. Even with the underestimated mileage, it was still a great trip. On to the trip report.
Day 1 – Wallowa Lake to Aneroid Lake – 8.5 miles
We both left our houses around 6am – the goal was to meet for lunch in Enterprise and then head out to the trail shortly after noon. It all worked out really well. Even though she woke up late, Carly actually caught up to me a few miles outside of Enterprise. We ate lunch at Terminal Gravity brewing and then headed to the Wallowa lake trailhead. There wasn’t a lot of parking there, so we had to park quite a ways from the trailhead. We got all our gear together and headed up the trail. We took the 1804 – East Fork Wallowa River trail – it heads south and gains elevation almost its whole way. Shortly after we left the trailhead, we got a really nice view of Wallowa Lake:
A little farther down the trail, the map showed a “Royal Purple Mine” and a side trail which sounded interesting, so we headed up the side trail and saw this pipeline:
I found out later this pipeline is the supply to an electric generator down near the Trailhead. I’m assuming it must supply the Wallowa lake area – maybe even Joseph. It is operated by Pacific Power.
There was also a road there that headed uphill, so we followed it, thinking it would take us to the mine. Instead, it took us to a diversion dam with an old cabin:
We followed the road past the cabin, however it kind of died out in a tangle of brush. While we possibly could have made our way thru all of it, neither of us really wanted to navigate the heavy brush, so we turned around and went back to the trail.
We continued down the trail, gaining elevation. In a while, we came to a rockslide where we heard a pika, who then ran across the rocks. I tried to get a photo, but he got lost in the rockslide. After seeing the pika, we continued down the trail, soon crossing the river on a footbridge and at that point the trail slope lessened a bit. We came to several meadows:
We headed thru the meadows and made our final push up to Aneroid Lake, our destination for the night. It was getting somewhat late – the sun had started to go down and it was getting cooler. Carly had worn shorts and she was getting cold. I was huffing and puffing and needed a breather break. We were only about a quarter mile from the lake, so Carly said she would meet me there. She didn’t want to stop and get colder. So I rested and she went ahead. I continued up the trail and soon saw a sign for campsites, but didn’t see the lake so I continued up the trail. At the next campsite sign I looked for Carly but couldn’t find her. I went down the trail farther and saw nothing. I finally went down to ask a few people if they had seen her and they said no. I went back up to the trail and dropped my pack and went back and forth on the trail – I also sat on a bench along the trail for a while, wondering where she could be. After wandering around for a while I went to a different group of backpackers down by the lake and asked if they had seen her and they said no. I went back up and wandered around a bit and then as I was walking back down the trail, I saw a blue puffy down near those campsites. It looked like Carly’s coat, so I headed down there and sure enough, it was her. We had gotten our signals crossed a bit – she had taken that first turn (which I should have done). Anyway, we made it back to where she had dropped her stuff and it was a nice campsite so we setup and did a late dinner. It was getting cold as the sun went down so we turned in early (as we did each night since we didn’t do any campfires – we were tired anyway).
Day 2 – Aneroid Lake to Glacier Lake – 13.5 miles
We started day 2 after the sun started coming up. It looked like it had frozen overnight so we waited to get up until the sun started warming things up a bit. This was the view from just below our campsite – looking up at the un-named peaks above Aneroid Lake:
We started the day by exploring “Camp Halton”, which is apparently privately owned by the Halton company. There are at least a half dozen cabins there, a couple of rowboats on the lake and a whole water system. Here are a few of the cabins:
After looking around (we didn’t see anyone there – all the cabins appeared to be locked up), we headed back to the trail junction and headed up towards Tenderfoot pass. Tenderfoot pass was the fist and lower pass we would go over today. This was the view from Tenderfoot pass (about 8500′):
We went over the pass, lost about 400′ of elevation and then started climbing again. We were now climbing up to Polaris pass. Part way up, we decided to stop and have some lunch. This was our view for lunch – looking down the North Fork of the Imnaha river:
We ate lunch and then continued up towards Polaris Pass (about 8900′). This was the view to the other side:
And a couple of interesting photos I got with my “Peak Finder” app – this is looking west:
And this is looking kind of north/northwest:
This is a neat 360 Photo from Polaris Pass.
We rested a bit at the top and then proceeded to head down approximately 45 switchbacks to the West Fork Wallowa River – about 8900′ down to 6800′. We couldn’t tell where the trail went farther down the hill – we kept wondering because the hill was so steep – but they weaved the trail in and out of the cliffy areas. Here is what the top looked like where the switchbacks were built on pretty loose scree:
We would eventually end up down at the bottom of the canyon:
We finally got down there and followed the West Fork Wallowa river upstream to its headwaters. Here we are following the river:
We got up the trail a bit, rounded a corner and finally saw Frazier Lake:
We continued up the river – the map I had was older and had an older alignment of he trail which criss-crossed the river several times. The new alignment is much better. It follows the east side of the river up to Glacier Lake. As we got close to the lake, we got passed by a group of 4 guys who we would see several times over the next couple days.
This picture is looking from almost Glacier lake – you can see the trail to the left of the photo:
Carly picked out a great campsite at the east end of the lake – it looked like it had been a horse camp previously, but it had a WONDERFUL view of the lake and Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap behind it:
We setup camp, cooked dinner and as soon as the sun started going down, we went to bed as it got very cold very quickly.
Day 3 – Glacier Lake to Horseshoe lake with a side trip up Eagle Cap – 12 miles
The view from our tent on Tuesday morning:
A neat 360 photo from near our campsite on Tuesday morning.
We woke up on Tuesday, made breakfast and broke camp. We got going a little earlier since we thought this was going to be a long day – we were planning to go up to the top of Eagle Cap. We headed up to Glacier pass – it was not too far above Glacier Lake. We went over the pass –
And I got an interesting photo using my “Peak Finder” app – looking north:
And then down to Moccasin lake passing thru some interesting meadows – The Lakes basin “look” was way different than the Glacier lake side, More trees, less starkness. But both have their own kind of beauty. On the way down, I saw these two trees – interesting comparison – Both were very similar looking, but the one on the left was dead, while the one on the right was alive:
Here is what those meadows above Moccasin lake looked like:
Moccasin lake was beautiful – and big:
We dropped our packs near the trail junction and then headed up to Eagle Cap. We Passed Mirror lake (another big lake):
A a little farther up we passed Upper lake which was much smaller.
As we climbed higher we got an interesting view of Upper lake – it has a “delta” going thru it – kind of like Delta lake from last year in the Tetons:
We continued up the hill to Eagle cap. The trail is pretty good although steep in places. We went ALMOST to Horton pass but the summit trail took off a bit before the pass. We then continued up. this is a good shot of the trail heading up. If you look really closely, you can see the trail way up above Carly:
We met a bunch of people coming down in a few groups. As we approached the top the 4 guys we met the night before were right behind us – I almost let them pass, but I pushed myself hard enough to make it up before them (just barely). The views from the top of Eagle Cap are impressive – you can see all the lakes in the lakes basin as well as down parts of three drainages (the photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice):
Here is a 360 Photo from the top of Eagle Cap.
It is really interesting that there are actually trees at the top of Eagle cap. The trees are not large, but they are up there. We spent a while enjoying the view and had a late lunch. It was starting to get kind of cold with the wind and our lack of activity, so we headed back down. On the way, we went over to the south side of Eagle Cap to take a look a those views. While impressive, they aren’t quite as dramatic since the peak isn’t so precipitous on the back side of the mountain.
The trip down was pretty uneventful, although the wind was rather cold. At one point, I thought I could take off my jacket, but a few minutes later I put it back on because the wind was so cold and persistent.
On the way down, I noticed this red rock that I had not noticed before. I thought it was really interesting – most all of the rocks were either white or gray – this was very reddish:
It took us about 2 hours to get back down and back to our packs. We picked them up and headed down to Horseshoe lake passing Douglas:
and Lea lake (which I neglected to get a picture of) on the way. It wasn’t too long and we were at Horseshoe lake:
Where Carly picked out another great campsite – it overlooked the lake and had easy access to the water. We setup camp, cooked dinner, cleaned up and went to bed. We were both really tired from the big day.
Day 4 – Horseshoe Lake to Wallowa Lake trailhead and then drive home – 9 miles
Day 4 was kind of anti-climatic due to all the cool things we had seen the prior 3 days, but it was still an interesting day. We woke up early to get an early start as we had to hike out and then make the 6 hour drive home and both of us wanted to get home before dark. The night was VERY cold – the coldest night we had I think. We had frost on the tent and some other things that were outside. Steam was rising from the lake due to the cold which was kind of a cool sight:
We made breakfast, cleaned up and packed up (it was tough because it was so cold). We headed out about 7:30 – our earliest start. It was pretty cold hiking. We were hoping the sun would shine on us to warm things up, but because the ridge to the east of us was pretty high, it took several hours for the sun to actually get down to us. I think it was almost 11:00 before the sun finally shined on us. On the way down, we passed thru what looked like an old avalanche area. Tons of downed trees:
After that we mostly stayed close to the river until we got close to the trailhead:
When we got close to the trailhead, there was this cool old sign – old school:
We then made it to the trailhead, completing our trip. We got cleaned up a bit, changed clothes for the long drive home, and then headed back to Terminal Gravity brewing in Enterprise for a final lunch. Another great meal, and then we said goodbye and both headed home.
This was probably my favorite father/daughter backpack trip to date. Lots of beautiful country and interesting destinations.
Location of Hike: Minotaur Lake
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Carly and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles
Carly told me that this was a short, but steep hike. She was not kidding. The trail gains about 1400′ of elevation in about 3/4 mile. After that, it gains still more elevation, but it is much less steep. I wasn’t sure I was up for it, and I was not really prepared to hike – but since it was short and relatively close, and she had all her hiking gear with her, we decided to go. (I borrowed a water bottle and one hiking stick from her) We found a couple of cars at the trailhead when we got there, and quickly headed up the trail. The trail is steep from almost the first step you take, and just goes up, and up and up and up. Here is an example of one section of trail (this was looking downhill at a steep section):
It is more climbing than hiking, but the trail is in reasonably good shape. We trudged up the trail, resting a few times along the way, but we really made pretty good time. Before too long, the grade eased and then we found ourselves at a couple of cool meadows:
These were relatively small and soon, we crested a hill and we got our first glimpse of the lake:
When we got there it was pretty calm, but the wind picked up a little bit as the day progressed. We walked on the south side of the lake to a nice spot to have lunch. Carly was kind enough to carry my lunch in her backpack (since I didn’t have mine). The water in the lake was really clear and a beautiful deep blue/turquoise color:
We ate lunch by the lake and then started looking up the hill above us – we saw a rough “goat path” that looked like it went up to the ridge. Carly had said that there was some sort of climbers trail over to Labrynth Mountain (another mile or so). While we didn’t have enough time to go all the way to Labyrynth Mountain, I thought we could try to see if we could get up on the ridge. Here is a shot of the “goat path” (taken on the way down) showing how steep it was:
It wasn’t too hard to get up to the ridge – soon we had views in pretty much every direction. The wildfire smoke that had been stuck in the area for the last several weeks had cleared quite a bit, so we had pretty good views. This was looking kind of northwest – I think the peaks in the distance (the ones with snow on them) might be Black Mountain in the center, and Monte Cristo and Columbia peaks towards the left:
Looking east you could see some smoke rising over one of the distant ridges, as well as a tiny sliver of Lake Wenatchee:
Here is Carly pointing out the smoke – with Labrynth Mountain behind her:
We enjoyed a few minutes on the ridge looking around, but knew we needed to get back, so we headed back down the goat path. On the way back down, I noticed these really interesting flowers. I asked Carly if she knew what they were and she said her friend called them “Dr Seuss flowers”:
After we got back I did a little googling and found out they are white pasqueflowers that have gone to seed. I can certainly see why they could be nicknamed Dr Seuss flowers though!
We made it down off the ridge and then headed to the north side of the lake to the ridge separating Minotaur and Theseus Lakes. Apparently there is a trail down to Theseus lake, but we didn’t have time to explore it, so we just hiked up to the ridge and looked at Theseus Lake from the ridge – another beautiful deep blue lake:
After a few minutes, we headed back down – before we left, Thor had to cool off in Minotaur Lake (for the second time). He gets hot easily and loves to lay down in shallow water to cool himself off:
We then headed back down the trail – the hiking pole came in really handy on the steep downhill, but that steep downhill is tough on the knees. In places I think it was easier to go uphill than it was to go downhill! We made good time on the trip down and shortly got back to Carly’s car.
We headed back into Leavenworth where Carly treated me to a bratwurst and a beer at a good sausage place in Leavenworth. A very nice end to a nice surprise hike!
Location of Hike: Redwoods
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Sarah
Hike Distance: 31.5 miles
Unlike prior trips, we had kind of a loose itinerary. We had a difficult time finding accurate/current information and maps of the area, so we decided to have a rough plan and then adjust as we went along based on info we got at the ranger station(s). This turned out to be a good call. We found out that the whole Redwood park system is kind of a hybrid – being managed by state and federal (national parks and forest service). It made our trip to the ranger station rather interesting since he had to make a couple of phone calls to verify things for our various stops.
The rough plan was this:
- Wednesday – Drive to the Ranger station to get permits and then stage vehicles for the shuttle hike – hike down Dolason Prairie trail to Redwood Creek and camp on the gravel bar (dispersed camping)
- Thursday – Hike up Redwood creek to Tall Trees Grove – do the Tall Trees loop and then hike as far as we could up the creek and camp again on the gravel bar
- Friday – Hike up Redwood creek to the trailhead – then do some road walking over to the Skunk Cabbage Creek section of the Coastal trail and hike up the beach to the Gold Bluffs campground
- Saturday – Hike back to the Elk Prairie visitor center to get one of the cars – pick up second car and then visit Lyons Ranch, and some other highlights before starting the trip back home. Find someplace to do dispersed camping that is on the way home
- Sunday – drive the rest of the way home
Our actual plan was pretty close, however we didn’t head down the Dolason Prairie trail – we went down the Tall Trees trail (saving us about 3-4 miles of downhill hiking). Other than that, things went pretty much according to the rough plan. Our hiking mileage looked like this:
- Wednesday – 2 miles
- Thursday – 10 miles
- Friday – 11.5 miles
- Saturday – 5 miles backpacking plus 3 miles of day hiking
- Total Mileage: – 31.5 miles
Day 1 – Home to Redwood Creek
We headed out from Oregon City early on Wednesday morning (6:00am) – we had a long drive – google said it would take about 7 hours to get to the visitors center and that was with no stops at all – we figured it would take us at least 8 hours, which turned out to be just about right. We had to get the permits, stage the cars for the shuttle hike, and then hike down to the creek and find a good campsite. We weren’t sure how long all that would take and make sure we had enough time to find a campsite before dark. Fortunately, we planned well, and the elimination of a few miles of hiking helped a bit as well. When we got to the ranger station, he advised us to park at the Tall Trees trailhead instead of Dolason Prairie – it was safer. We got all the permits, staged the cars, went to a different ranger station to get bear canisters and then headed down the Tall Trees trail and almost immediately came to the junction with the Emerald Ridge trail – since we removed a few miles at the start, we figured we could add a little more mileage and see more of Redwood Creek. We took the junction and headed south down to Redwood Creek. Very quickly we got our first glimpse of what was to come over the next few days – Big Redwoods!:
It didn’t take us very long and we were at the creek – at that point the goal was to find a campsite along the gravel bar. In this section, we could camp anywhere along the gravel bar (which was very wide this time of year). When we got to the creek, we waded over to the other side to investigate potential sites. We would be wading the creek many more times over the next two days:
We pretty quickly found a really nice campsite a little south of where we arrived at the creek – nice and sandy with a fire ring and a nice sitting bench:
We were tired from a long day of driving and hiking, so we went to bed early.
Day 2 – Redwood Creek to Redwood Creek (farther north)
We got up early on Thursday, packed up and headed north up Redwood creek. We crossed Redwood creek and found this beautiful deep pool:
As we headed north, we got near the Tall Trees Grove (which was a highlight of the day) – it was at the end of this straight section of creek:
We crossed the creek again, and then popped right into the Tall Trees Grove. Here was the first tree we saw in the tall trees grove which was pretty impressive:
There was a bench in the middle of a bunch of large trees where we changed back into our boots (we had been wearing wading shoes since we had been going back and forth across the creek). We then took the short loop around the tall trees grove. This is one example of the scale of what we saw – and I’m sure this was not the largest tree we saw:
The scale of these trees is just incredible. I saw hundreds of trees over the course of our trip, and they never stopped inspiring a sense of awe.
Another very interesting thing was seeing how tough these trees are. They have a real will to survive. Fire is a part of their existence (the interpretive signs said fire was naturally occurring every 250-500 years). We saw many trees like this – severely burned out from the inside, but somehow still alive and apparently thriving:
We learned that when redwoods are stressed, they release “children” – shoots with the same genetic material – in some spots where trees had been logged, you saw an entire ring of trees around the logged stump – sometimes it is called a “fairy ring” or “family circle”. It just shows how persistent and tough these trees are. They said some trees are over 2000 years old!
Since the Redwoods were the highlight of the trip, here are some more photos for scale:
And this photo is pretty cool I thought – looking straight up from a cluster of trees:
And here is a 360 photo from the Tall Trees grove
After doing the Tall Trees loop, we continued north up Redwood creek, crossing the first seasonal bridge over to the west side of the creek:
From there we continued up to an old road (which was hardly recognizable as a road in most places). We headed north on this old road, a bit above the creek. We got to the Bond creek crossing and found the “bridge” was gone. Most of the bridges were in pretty rough shape. Some with missing handrails, most with missing or partially missing boards:
As we headed north on this trail, there were some pretty large trees here too:
The other unexpected thing was that while we were there for the redwoods, we also saw the largest maple tree I’ve ever seen – it was absolutely huge:
A little bit further down the trail we encountered this cut log that said it was 750 years old and we easily saw trees twice that size still alive:
We had to camp before the last seasonal bridge at McArthur Creek, so we spent a while looking for candidate campsites. We knew the next day was going to be rather long, so we wanted to get as far north as possible to reduce our mileage on Friday. We preferred a shady spot in a sandy area rather than camping on the gravel itself (that would be kind of hard). We dropped our packs and looked around – we crossed the creek and headed north – all the way to McArthur creek. We found what we thought was a pretty good spot a little south of the creek:
And looking upstream from our campsite:
We were tired again and went to bed early (after struggling to get out our messages from our SPOT and Garmin units – apparently even though it had a clear shot of the southern sky, we had to go all the way over to the east side of the creek to get the messages to send).
Day 3 – Redwood Creek to Gold Bluffs
We got up Friday morning and continued north along the old road, shortly getting to the second seasonal bridge on Redwood creek:
After crossing the bridge, the trail became much more “manicured” – I’m guessing that is because in the winter that bridge crossing point is the farthest you can go down the trail without wading the creek (which would probably be pretty tough, since it flows pretty high in the winter):
We soon got to the Redwood Creek trailhead with picnic tables and a bathroom. We took advantage of both, spending a little while there snacking. We then headed up the road – this was the short road walking section we weren’t too thrilled about. But as we were heading up the short trailhead road, Sarah noticed a bear on the side of the road! He was quite a ways away (150-200 feet), and rather small – he took off for the trees as soon as he saw us. He was so fast I was not able to get a photo.
We made it up to highway 101, which had a fair amount of traffic on it – this was the section we were most dreading. We started off facing traffic (as you are supposed to do when walking on a road), however there wasn’t much of a berm to walk on and there was a semi-blind corner. Kirk went across the road where there was a guardrail, and there was a nice concrete path along the outside of the guard rail – much safer than where we were walking so we headed back across the road and hiked behind the guardrail until we got to the road to the Skunk Cabbage Creek trailhead. We headed up that road – no traffic at all. We got to the trailhead and there were no cars there either, which surprised us.
We headed down the trail and soon we were into the lush coastal trail forest with more spruce and fewer redwoods:
And saw some huge skunk cabbage (which gives the creek/trail segment its name):
We continued to the “overlook”, which was rather disappointing since it was rather brushed in. We stopped there for lunch and then headed down to the beach. There were several areas in this section where we were walking in a literal tunnel of vegetation – and some spots were rather dark:
And this shows how lush the understory is – a carpet of sword ferns 5-6′ high in places:
We finally got down to the beach and rested a bit. This is where I made a mistake – I should have left my boots on, but I took off my boots and walked barefoot for a while – later I put on my crocs to try and protect my feet (I had a few hot spots and minor blisters that were getting abraded by the sand). Wearing crocs in the sand isn’t a good idea – it gets trapped in the croc and rubs on your skin anyway. This section of trail along with the sand made kind of a mess of my feet – a bad decision I would pay for the rest of the trip.
This is a shot looking up the beach from where we came down. We would be heading up this way – about 3 miles up the beach to the campground:
After a bit, we got to the beginning of the Gold Bluffs, which were not named for their color, but named for the gold they contained. Early in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s these cliffs were mined for gold using a variety of techniques. It sounded like the location of our campground might have been a mining camp too. Here is a photo of the beginning of the Gold Bluffs:
As we were walking up the beach, we found this almost perfectly intact jellyfish that had washed up on the beach – it was quite interesting:
After what seemed like forever (walking in the sand with a backpack is harder than it sounds), we finally arrived at the campground. We saw not a soul on the trail nor on the beach until we were almost to the campground. The campground was pretty full of car campers, but we had a reservation in the “Hiker/Biker” section. This was our campsite for Friday night – a nice place with picnic tables and fire rings:
They also had water along with real flush toilets and showers. I hadn’t brought soap, but I used some of the hand soap from the bathroom to take some sort of a shower – I felt a lot better after I washed some of the trail funk off me.
While we were at the camp, I was enthralled watching some sort of large bird (vulture?) circle around the cliffs. I took a short video of him/her:
And while I didn’t stay up for the “real” sunset, I did take this photo of the sun setting on Friday night:
I went to bed early, while Kirk stayed up for a while and explored the area a bit.
Day 4 – Gold Bluffs to Elk Prairie, then dispersed camping
We all got up early on Saturday and got ready to head out. Overnight, another pair of hikers had arrived in camp. We talked with them for a bit – We found out They were from Washington and Colorado and had been making rounds around the west to different national parks. They had apparently come in the Miner’s Ridge Trail (the one we were taking to head out) the night before and were surprised at all the cars in the campground – they thought it was a backcountry campground only.
We headed down the road – down the “Tsunami evacuation route” to the Miner’s Ridge trailhead. It starts as a gated road – we were thinking the road was so that people could drive up to safety from a Tsunami. The road ended at a bridge over Squashan creek. On the way up the road, we met a state ranger who was testing the water source for the campground. They pipe water from the creek into a couple of large tanks which feed the campground – but someone comes up every day to test the water to make sure it is safe. We had a nice conversation with him and then headed up the trail:
Of all the trails we were on during this trip, I think this was my favorite one – it had quite a variety of ecosystems and had a lot of Redwood trees on it:
We continued down the trail, encountering no one until we were about 2 miles from the Elk Prairie visitor center. We continued down the trail, encountering more and more people the closer we got to the visitor center. Near the visitor center we encountered a large group of elderly people who were from all over the US. They were taking a short loop trip near the visitor center. We quickly made it to the visitor center and then back to our car. At that point, we needed to return the bear canisters we had “rented”, so we needed to go get the other car since we had left the “covers” for the canisters in that car. It was a bit out of our way, but we made the trip and returned the canisters without incident. While there, we asked about the condition of the Bald Hills Road all the way down to Martins Ferry and Weitchpec – the ranger said it was passable but thought it was a scary road – we just needed to go slow. We decided to try it – we have lots of experience driving narrow, windy gravel roads. It turned out fine. I’m not sure what she thought was so bad about the road – we’ve driven roads that are a LOT worse than that one was.
Anyway, on the way down, we decided to take a look at a couple of other items. Due to my feet, I wasn’t up to explore the old Lyons Ranch (which would have been about a 5 mile hike) – I don’t think we had time enough for that either. But we decided we could go see the Dolason Barn – part of the Dolason Prairie trail that we didn’t end up taking. Plus we got to look at the lookout on Schoolhouse Peak.
Here are some photos of the Dolason Barn – the Dolason family raised sheep on this property for several generations:
And this is a photo of some of the hillside Dolason Prairie:
Although the signs said the barn was only .75 miles from the trailhead, it was more like 1.25 miles – not terrible, but we were kind of in a hurry, wanting to find a campsite for the night before it got dark. There was only one car at this trailhead and we encountered the person partway down the hill. When we got back to the car, ours were the only cars left in the lot. Not a very highly used trail for sure. It is tough in that you go downhill on the way in, having to make up all the elevation on the way out. Maybe that is why it doesn’t seem too popular. It was interesting to see the barn and the prairies though.
Once back at the car, we continued down the road to the Schoolhouse lookout. We weren’t sure what to expect, but found a gated, locked road which led up to an active lookout. We walked up the road and when we got to the lookout the guy manning the lookout popped out on the catwalk and asked if we wanted to come up – of course we said yes! He came down and then led us up the stairs up to the lookout. It was apparently built in the 40’s and then partially burned at some point and then rebuilt/renovated. It appeared to be mostly steel, but looked a lot more modern that the lookouts I’ve seen. It had a big propane tank, a big water tank for fire fighting, and a non potable water tank for washing dishes, showers and the toilet (it must have had a complete septic system too). It was pretty neat to see. The cupola looked a lot like what I’ve seen in many photos – one side had the “kitchen” with a sink, refrigerator and stove and then the other side with a bed. And of course the Osborne Fire Finder in the middle:
We spent a few minutes talking with him (I wish we had gotten his name) – it was great. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of a view due to all the smoke from nearby fires. But getting to see the inside of a real lookout was pretty special. Here is what it looked like from the outside:
We Left the lookout and then continued down Bald Hills road, which was very windy and did go on for a while, but it really wasn’t that bad. At some point it turned back to pavement and was pretty good all the way down to Martins Ferry. We were expecting to find some place to eat dinner before we found our campsite for the night – we found one place – the “Burger Barn”, but when we got there, it had either closed for the day, or was not open at all – we couldn’t tell. We didn’t really see ANY other place to eat, so we stopped at the local gas station/convenience store and got some sort of dinner – it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible.
We headed north on highway 96, which took us into the Six Rivers national forest. We found what appeared to be an old abandoned campground, although all the signage was still in place – it was a little odd, but since we just wanted a place to sleep for the night, it worked out fine. We camped at the Aikens Creek Campground – which does appear on the FS Website, but there are no services (no water, no bathrooms) – that was OK with us. I ended up sleeping in the car – hoping the car seat would be a little better on my back than my pad had been – it was slightly better, but not a lot better.
Day 5 – Dispersed camping (Aikens Creek Campground) to Home
We woke up early on Sunday and then headed out. The plan was to find a restaurant for breakfast as close as possible. We were really out on the fringe, for we saw no restaurant at all until we got to Ashland, which was almost 150 miles away. So, we ended up eating a very late breakfast. We stopped at the Waffle Barn in Ashland – had a great breakfast and then got back on the road.
There was a lot of smoke all over the place, but it seemed like Medford was maybe the worst – it looked like smog it was so thick:
We stopped in Roseburg for gas and then headed the rest of the way home. We ran into some pretty bad traffic in Albany and ended up getting off I-5 at Brooks – it sounded like there were multiple accidents on I-5 – we had already been delayed at least a half hour and we all wanted to get home.
This trip wasn’t quite as flashy or spectacular as some trips we’ve done, but the huge Redwoods continue to amaze me – I never tire of looking at them. It was great to sleep among the Redwoods and to see a lot of the variety of the northern California back country.
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:15 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.7 miles
I was hoping it would be quiet since it was during the week, however it was not to be. It wasn’t too busy – I met 7 people on the trail – 5 backpackers and 2 hikers.
We headed out a bit later than normal – I slept in a bit and got a few other things done before we left. We got to the trailhead a little after 11:00 – it is a long drive. There was one car in the parking lot when we got there. We got ready and headed down the trail. The beginning of the trail almost looked like someone had taken a weed wacker to both edges of it. It was kind of weird. Nicely groomed, but weird for a trail. A short ways up the trail, we encountered this log that had been cut out recently. The odd part was that it had been cut with a chainsaw, which is supposed to be illegal in the wilderness:
Then there was this log, that was not 50 feet from it that they didn’t cut. I think technically both logs were in the wilderness, but maybe the wilderness sign on this log scared them from cutting it:
We continued down the trail until we got to Terrace Spring – I’m not sure I ever noticed this before – not a terribly active spring, but it did have some water flowing:
We continued down the trail and soon got near the objective for the day – the water source for the lookout. I had two different descriptions of where it was – one from one of the old “trail notes” that I had found at the ranger station, and one from a posting on trailadvocate.org. I had created a waypoint for the point from the trail notes, and printed out the description from the posting. Both were exactly as described. 0.1 miles from the section line crossing and in a small saddle right before the last push up to the lookout – a small trail to the left that went downhill (steeply) to an old cave:
It wasn’t much to look at, and I didn’t really see any water in there, but based on the notes, I’m not sure it had a spring – it sounded like it “collected” water – they had dug it out. It was all filled in. A little bonus was finding some old phone wire next to the cave – it was going up/downhill (east/west):
I had tried to find insulators on the trail – the old maps show it having a phone line, but either the trail has been re-routed, or the phone line didn’t follow the trail.
We went back up to the trail and met a group of three backpackers heading up to the lookout. Very quickly we were at the lookout and we sat down and had some lunch. I talked a bit with them and they were going to head east but they weren’t sure where they were going to spend the night.
The views were pretty good, although some of the mountains were hiding in the clouds. Here is Jefferson and Olallie Butte – with Jefferson hiding in the clouds:
And of course, no trip report to the lookout would be complete without a picture of the lookout:
It is weathering OK, but every time I come up here it seems to be in a little worse shape. It does look like someone might have painted the east side of the lookout though. It is a shame that the Forest Service is OK with just letting it rot in place rather than preserve such an important piece of history – wilderness area or not.
Thor was getting really hot in the sun, so he laid under the lookout for a while. It was amazing how much of a temperature difference there was in the shade and in the sun. We stayed up there for a while, enjoying the view. We then headed back down – we met two more backpackers just below the lookout – they were headed on a big loop down to Elk Lake Creek.
We continued down the trail, making really good time (since it was mostly all downhill). I had thought about heading up to the top of one of the Dickey Peaks, but Thor was pretty tired and it looked rather brushy, so I decided to leave that for another day.
On the way up we found a few snow patches, and Thor played in them a bit, but on the way back we headed over to the small meadow/swamp near the start of the trail and Thor played on this rather large snowbank that was a couple feet deep still:
It was a rather short day in the woods, but a really nice one.
Location of Hike: Milepost 3 and Rimrock Trails
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: A few sprinkles, overcast and a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 5:00 PM
Hike Distance: 7.6 miles
It rained a bit on the way to the trailhead, but by the time we got there, the rain had stopped. Interestingly enough, back in January, I hiked this trail. It was oddly warm in January, and there was very little snow anywhere. The bad news was that the beginning of the trail was rather difficult to get to due to a tree that came down recently. Today, the good news was that someone had cleaned that all up, and the ramp leading up to the trail from the road was all clear!
We headed up the trail, and had a couple short periods of light rain, but they didn’t last long. The trail gains a fair amount of elevation relatively quickly, so it was tough going – but we didn’t encounter any snow on the lower portion of the trail. At the first rockslide, we found that while we could see a bit, the views weren’t great – lots of clouds:
We continued up the trail, doing minor trail maintenance – soon, we arrived at the junction with the Rimrock trail at about 4200′. This was the first real snow we saw. We stopped and had lunch:
While eating lunch, Thor played around in the snow, and Kirk and I talked about what our next objective was – we figured it was around 2 miles to the overlook, and decided we should have enough time (and hopefully energy) to do it. We headed out, down the trail heading east. The snow quickly began to get deeper. It wasn’t too hard at first without snowshoes, but soon it was easier to put them on – it is still harder to snowshoe than to hike, but it is easier than postholing.
For the most part, we followed the trail, but I think there were short sections where we missed it. The trail is very well blazed and that helped us to know we were on the actual trail.
Snowshoeing is very hard work as you have to lift your legs up a lot higher than you do when hiking. You also have to make your own trail in the snow which takes a lot more effort. After several rest breaks, we finally got to the overlook trail junction, and were surprised to see how deep the snow was:
Compare that to a picture taken when there was no snow:
After a short time of amazement at the snow depth, we then proceeded up the overlook trail, which is about a half mile to the viewpoint. Shortly after the junction, Kirk noticed this blaze that had almost disappeared into the snow – pretty amazing:
The snow continued to get deeper as we headed up to the overlook:
And right before the entrance to the overlook, the snow had really large drifts – Guessing they were 6 feet or more:
We made it up and out to the point, which was clear of snow (amazingly enough). The views from the point were not terrible, but none of the mountains were visible:
There was still a lot of snow on the north facing slopes too:
And there was a LOT of snow at the overlook:
While were out on the point, we could see dark clouds all around us. The weather forecast said there was supposed to be thunder storms about 2pm, which was right about the time we were there. We saw some dark clouds moving towards us, so we decided we should get back in the trees before it started raining. Just as we were getting ready to leave, the rain came in – in the form of snow! It wasn’t heavy, but it was definitely snowing. We decided it was a good time to head back down the hill. Once we were back in the trees we didn’t feel or see any of the rain/snow.
We made very good time going down the overlook trail (they way up seemed like the longest half mile I’ve ever done), and soon were back on the main Rimrock trail. As we were heading down, eagle eyed Kirk spotted one of these old insulators – it was so low due to the snow pack that we could almost touch it:
We continued down and soon came to the junction with the MP3 trail where we had lunch. We took off our snowshoes at this point and then continued down the trail. We made really good time on the way down – it is a lot easier going down than up!
As we were heading down, I noticed this beautiful scene – old trail thru an old moss covered rockslide:
I’ve seen it many times, but for some reason today it really moved me. What a beautiful scene.
We made it back to the truck about 5pm, all very tired from the days adventure. Just about the time we got there, it started raining. We were most fortunate with the day’s weather.
On the way down the 4635 road we spotted three deer that ran across the road!
We decided to stop at Fearless for a burger and a beer – a wonderful way to end a great day of adventuring in the woods!
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: overcast with a few sun breaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles
We got to the trailhead a little after 9 and got the dogs out of the truck and got ready to head out. They were raring to go, but since there is a fair amount of traffic on the pipeline road, we wanted to keep them on leash so they didn’t get run over. Kirk took this photo of Ollie, Thor and I getting ready at the trailhead:
We headed up the trail in reasonably warm temperatures. A sharp contrast to this same trip Thor and I did just 3 weeks ago when it was below freezing and there was a couple of inches of snow on the trail at the start (and got deeper as we headed up).
We soon got to the base of the unique hillside meadow where “The grotto” is – this is a tiny waterfall from a small creek that flows down from the meadow. It seems like I always have to take a picture of this – it is a unique place:
We headed thru the hillside meadow and continued up. This trail gains a fair amount of elevation – the grade is almost always going up. It starts about 1650′ and tops out at about 4100′ in about 3.5 miles. It is a lot of elevation but it never feels too bad, except for a few short spots where the grade gets rather steep.
Enough complaining about the elevation gain – back to the trip. We continued up, crossing the old 4635-020 spur and then shortly the 130 spur. When we were here 3 weeks ago, this road crossing had about two feet of snow on it. Today it was bare except for a tiny bit of snow on the edge of the road. This is about where the snow began on this trip:
We continued across the road, and up the hill. The snow started to slowly accumulate on the trail, but it was still easy to walk on. The snow today was pretty wet. Three weeks ago it was all very fluffy and dry. We soon made it to the rockslide below the 4635 crossing – there was a pretty decent view today:
It was in this rockslide that Thor complained about getting thru the rocks. I had to help him navigate thru some of the larger rocks (it must have had some slide at some point because most of it was easy walking – just a short section where the tread had been disturbed):
Shortly, we got to the 4635 Road crossing, where there was about a foot of snow on the road:
The dogs played in the snow for a bit and then we decided to continue on up. Kirk captured a Video of Ollie and Thor playing in the snow (did I mention I forgot to bring my phone on this trip?):
We were only about 2 hours in at this point and I thought we might be able to get up to the lake/water at the start of the Cache Meadow trail.
We continued up and the snow was not deep at all in the woods, but we soon got to another cut area where the snow really started piling up. We were able to follow the trail for a while, but the snow just kept getting deeper and deeper. We got to what appeared to be an old road of some sort and it looked like that was the shortest way to the 4635-140 spur, so we headed off that way – we later determined that was the point where we got off the trail – but it probably didn’t really matter as the snow was so deep it was tough going either way – especially without snowshoes.
We finally got up to the 4635-140 Road – a little west of the Cache Meadow trailhead:
Kirk decided to bury his hiking poles to see how deep the snow was on the 4635-140 road – we guessed it was well over three feet deep:
We went over into the larger trees and decided to have lunch on a downed log. It was just too much snow without snowshoes to go any farther. I was thinking of going up the road to see if we could find the trailhead, but breaking trail in this deep snow was just too tiring. So we ate lunch and decided to head back down the same way we came – which was a bit easier since we had already made a trail. We were sinking about a foot deep in the snow:
We made really good time on the way down and soon made it out of the snow again. We cleaned up a few areas and this area in particular where a lot of green was littering the trail, obscuring it. Kirk took an “after” photo of it with Ollie posing in the foreground (didn’t get a before photo unfortunately):
We continued down the trail, making excellent time – it is much easier going downhill! We got back to the truck about 2:30, just in time for some sprinkles to start. I think we timed this trip just about right. It was interesting because a few times during the day we actually saw some short sun breaks. Mostly the day was overcast, and except for the areas with the deep snow, it was actually pretty warm – probably in the mid 50’s. When we got higher into the deep snow, it was definitely colder.
A very good day in the woods.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Cool - started kind of sunny but changed to rain
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 1:15 PM
Hike Distance: 4.7 miles
The weather forecast for the weekend was changing wildly, but I decided I was going to go regardless of the weather. It got even weirder when we started having SNOW (at the end of March) very close to home. I was hopeful I would be able to get to the trailhead since 224 is plowed and the pipeline road is also plowed – PGE uses it to service the big pipeline from Timothy Lake to Three Lynx.
I asked if anyone else wanted to come, but all were busy, so Thor and I headed out at the “usual time”. We saw a little bit of snow just after we left home, and as we left Estacada and started climbing over the hill into the Clackamas Canyon, the snow got deeper – but the roads were clear. I knew it was going to be a good day when we crested the hill:
We headed out 224 thru the snow and soon arrived in the little town of Three Lynx and headed up the Pipeline Road to the trailhead. We were the first ones to drive the road since the snow:
As the road heads uphill, the snow continued to get deeper, but it wasn’t too bad. By the time we got to the trailhead, the snow was probably 3-4″ deep on the road:
I got suited up and we headed up the trail – there were only a few spots of bare trail on the way up:
Soon we got to the first rockslides where we got a decent view. This is the view looking south – to un-named hills – Bull of the Woods is to the right a bit but is kind of hidden in the clouds:
We continued up the trail (it gains elevation pretty quickly) – just before rounding a corner, The sun started beaming thru the trees – it was really beautiful and I tried to capture it in a photo, but it doesn’t even begin to capture the beauty of it:
We continued up and soon got to “the grotto”, which was covered in snow:
And soon after that is the unique hillside meadow, which was covered in probably 6-8″ of fresh snow. Thor decided he wanted to play in the deep snow::
And here is a photo of the hillside meadow looking back to Whalehead – it is back in the distance hiding in the clouds:
After leaving the hillside meadow, we continued up the hill. Shortly, after crossing a very old spur road (it is almost unrecognizable as a road anymore), you get to one of my favorite spots on this trail – walking up thru a grove in a saddle – I’m not sure why I like this spot so much – it just has a neat feeling to it:
Shortly after we got into this saddle, you cross the spur road again – although this part of the road is still recognizeable as a road. There is a small camp at the crossing point, so we stopped for a few minutes to eat a bit and drink some water. The snow on the road was about 2 feet deep and Thor did some of his “frapping”. He was having a good time! Here is a short video of him having fun in the snow:
After sitting there not exerting myself, it wasn’t too long before I started getting cold – so we packed up and continued up the hill. Shortly after crossing the road, we got to another one of the rockslides. I took a picture looking up this rockslide – the snow is getting much deeper now:
We continued up the trail, with the snow getting deeper and deeper – even in the trees. I was thinking we could turn around at the last clearcut before the 4635 road crossing, but soon we ran into a very large tree across the trail and since the snow was getting pretty deep for not having snowshoes, we decided to make that our turnaround point.
On the way back down, I happened to notice how all the cut logs help to define the trail in the snow – making knowing where to go a lot easier:
And here is an old trail sign that is still hanging in there – not sure what the tuna can is about though:
We made very good time coming back down – not really stopping at all. As we descended, you could tell that things were melting – the trail was bare in spots and as we got closer to the truck, it started raining on us (both real rain, and melting snow from the trees). By the time we got back to the truck, the pipeline road had several people come up it, and it too was melting with bare pavement in spots. When we got back to 224, all the snow we had seen in the morning was all gone. That is fine with me – it IS the end of March, after all!
A great day, hiking a venerable old trail that was decked out in a beautiful new coat of snow. It doesn’t get much better than that….
Location of Hike: Calico Road and Fish Creek
Weather during Hike: Cool with intermittent sunshine
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 9:50 AM End Time: 1:25 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles
I was surprised at how much snow there was. Just a few weeks ago there was pretty much no snow anywhere, but today, there was snow at the crest of the hill outside of Estacada, and remnants of snow along 224. Once we turned off to go up Fish Creek road, the snow started getting heavier – it wasn’t ON the road, but right up to it.
We started out on the old road with snow almost covering the “tread”:
We continued down the road, making good time and watching the snow get deeper and deeper. We got to a turn where the sunlight was poking thru and illuminating the trees (this photo doesn’t do it justice):
We continued down the road, gaining elevation until we got to the 120 spur junction. At that point, we started heading down and found some fresh deer prints in the snow:
We continued down the road to its end and then did a short cross country jaunt back to the 54 road. From there, we decided to head upstream to the first bridge. We had lunch there and rested for a few minutes. Here is Fish Creek from first bridge:
Thor was kind of restless, so we shortly headed back. On the way back, I looked back at one point and saw this view of what I think is Wanderers Peak, with snow on it:
We made good time going back and got back to the car about 1:30 and then headed home.
Nothing terribly exciting or earth shaking happened on this hike, but it was nice to experience the snow and get out and enjoy the woods for a few hours.
Location of Hike: Down Calico road and Back Fish Creek
Weather during Hike: Misty to Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Zack and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 4.8 miles
Zack joined us on this hike and he wanted to do some clearing up the old Calico road – the plan was to try and clear that and then head down to Fish Creek and clear that road on the way back – we didn’t have enough time to get the whole Calico road cleared, but we got close. We didn’t do much on Fish Creek since we ran out of time. I didn’t take too many photos since it was kind of a short day, but we did cut quite a few logs off the old road. I didn’t count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 40 or 50 logs. We used my saw, but Zack did all the cutting since I wasn’t sure how Thor would respond to the the noise of the chainsaw. Amazingly enough, it didn’t seem to bother him. I did a bunch of lopping and clearing of the cut logs.
We started down the old Calico road, and short came to a huge messy blowdown. We cleared that, and then crossed Rimrock creek. After that crossing, I normally head down to Fish Creek (there is an old quad trail down), but today we continued up the Calico road. We cleared logs as we went, and while clearing one log, Zack saw this Pacific Giant Salamander- I didn’t get a good picture of him – once we saw him, he quickly scampered back under some brush – I was trying to get my boot in the photo for scale, but was too slow. His body was probably 6-8″ long and his tail was at least that long, if not longer:
We continued down Calico road to a point where the 120 spur met it. We had lunch there and the sun came out for a few minutes. After a quick lunch, we continued south on the 120 spur and quickly came to First Creek – this is what it looks like a little higher up the canyon wall (a little smaller than down by fish creek):
We continued down the spur road and a litlte farther Zack told me about this cool little waterfall below the road:
While he continued to cut logs off the road, Thor and I went down to check it out. A little farther down the road, we encountered this very large tree that had come down – one we did not cut:
We continued to the end of the 120 spur and then headed cross country down to the old road 54. We came in just north of Second creek. Once we hit the old road 54, we quickened our pace since we were running a bit late. We didn’t really do any cutting or lopping on the way back except for a couple of small trees. We made it back to the truck a little after 3.
A great day out in the woods in February. Nothing earth shaking happened, but cutting out a bunch of logs felt good and the weather really couldn’t have been better.
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Robert, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 10.1 miles
We ended up starting a little earlier than normal, which was good, because the days are short so we would have limited daylight hours. We made it to the trailhead a little before 9am and quickly headed out. It was pretty cold – the roads were frosty and nothing was dripping – it was all frozen. We headed down the calico road trail/road and at the Rimrock creek crossing, Kirk and Robert noticed this really interesting “hair” fungus – I’ve never seen it before:
We took some photos and then headed down the old quad track back down to the old 54 road. The beginning of the trail is in decent shape – not too many trees down, but there are sections that are getting VERY brushy. We didn’t do any brushing on the way in really, because we were trying to make time. The new cedar and fir trees that are now growing on the old road are really starting to encroach on the trail track. I’m hopeful that as those grow up and shade the old roadbed that it will be easier to maintain, but I guess time will tell how it all plays out.
We continued south on the trail and made really good time – we got to the first bridge about 10:30. We stopped there, drank some water and took a few photos. Here is an un-named creek coming in just north of the first bridge:
We then continued south to the first real challenge of the day – the third creek crossing – I knew this might be a challenge since we’ve had all the snowmelt and runoff, but it was wider and deeper/faster than I’ve ever seen it:
We headed upstream and found a way to cross without getting wet. It was rather challenging navigating on the south side of the creek, and we found this interesting “cave” while going back to the “trail”:
We made it back to the trail and continued south, fighting our way thru the brush and eventually making it to the second bridge about noon. We ate lunch there and pondered on what to do.
I got this really cool shot looking south from Second bridge towards the Fish/Wash creek confluence – the sun and mist was really neat looking, although as usual, the camera doesn’t pick up the beauty of it very well:
After eating and enjoying the view for a bit, we needed to decide how to proceed. We were a ways from the trailhead and when we calculated our return time, we figured we only had 30 minutes or so before we needed to head back (or hike in the dark, which none of us wanted to do). We decided to see how far up Wash Creek we could get – We figured we wouldn’t have time to get to Pick Creek today. We didn’t get very far before we hit the Music Creek crossing of old road 54:
The water there was running even higher and faster than third creek. We decided that this would need to be our turnaround point since it would take quite some time to cross this raging creek safely.
I made a short video of the raging Music Creek:
While we were looking around, I found this neat “chute” just north of where Music Creek empties into Fish Creek:
And a short video of this “chute”:
This was the closest we got to the confluence – Kirk found a good little viewpoint of the confluence. You can see Fish and Wash Creeks in the background with Music Creek in the foreground:
And another short video of this shot:
We then turned around and headed back. Since Kirk had the loppers and I had the saw, we did a little more lopping on the way back, cutting back the worst of the brush – although it needs a LOT more work to make it easily passable.
One thing I had skipped taking a photo of on the way in was this weird area of blowdown – probably a section 50′ wide and a couple hundred feet long – all the trees were all snapped off. We were thinking it was probably some sort of micro climate wind gust that knocked them all down:
At the Third creek crossing we put away the loppers and saw and checked the time. We figured we were cutting it pretty close so we decided to stop doing any more lopping on the way back. We ended up crossing Third creek in a different spot than we did coming in. Robert and I made it just getting our feet slightly wet, but Kirk ended up getting pretty wet. He slipped on a rock and was up to his knees in water. But we all made it safely across the creek. After that crossing, we tried to hasten our pace to get back to the van by dark. We made it just before sunset I think – good timing.
A great way to start 2018!
Location of Hike: Switch Creek Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 6.8 miles
It had been something like 5 years since I’d been on the trail, so I had to try and remember some of the more obscure parts. Fortunately, I had a track from my last visit that helped us to stay (mostly) on the trail. We headed up from the parking area on road 46 where it was somewhat windy – down by the reservoir it was REALLY windy, but all up and down the Clackamas Gorge it was windy. The wind made the air temperature feel even colder – it was below freezing and there was frozen frost on road 46 in quite a few places, so driving was a bit tricky.
After getting ready (quickly due to the cold temps), we headed up the old spur road which is the beginning of the trail. It is still reasonably easy to follow, however the small trees are growing in in spots. We shortly got to the creek crossing and picked up the trail on the other side. That was not very easy, since there were quite a few rather large logs that had fallen, many right in the tread. We made our way thru that mess, and a better trail emerged after that (at least for a while). It wasn’t too long after the creek crossing where we ran across the first grisly/gross/interesting find of the day – a dead blacktail deer – and a pretty large one at that – Zack said it was a “4×5” – a 4 point buck with a smaller point near the head which was the “5”. He said that was a REALLY large deer for the Clackamas area. Something had eaten a large portion of it, but it was still pretty fresh. We couldn’t tell if this was a bad shot by a hunter, or if it was a cougar kill. Warning – gross picture ahead:
After checking out that find for a bit, we continued up the steep hillside – sometimes VERY steep – losing the trail for a bit here and there – but someone has flagged most of it reasonably well – so we were able to re-find the trail easily. When you get near the top of the hill, you intersect a better, more established trail. This trail takes you up to the 4640 road. At the trail junction, eagle eyed Kirk found an insulator (the old map shows this trail heading back up to Oak Grove Work Center with the phone line):
We shortly got to the newly decommissioned 4640-157 spur – the one that took you to a hunter camp at the top of the hill. The section out to the 4640 road is very short and soon we were on the 4640 road, attempting to follow the road and a bit of cross country to head east:
After doing a short cross country route thru an old gravel pit, we soon crossed Switch Creek again:
And then headed up to a rather swampy little lake area where we had lunch. There were a few of these “birdhouses” – but I’m not sure what is supposed to nest in them. The hole is HUGE:
After eating lunch in the sun on the north side of the swamp/lake, we made another cross country route – pretty much directly east to the 163 spur road, where we passed another swampy/lake area and then attempted to find the old trail that headed east. We walked up the ridge, and thought we were in the right area, but ended up going too far north and came back down and finally found the old tread. It was on a VERY steep, unstable hillside, but it had good views to the south in a couple of spots. This was looking southeast towards Burnt Granite with Olallie Butte just to the left of it – Olallie was all white, although it didn’t show up too well in the photo:
We headed up a little higher, following the trail relatively easily, with a few spots that had kind of fallen away. This is what some of the better trail looked like up higher:
At some point, we talked about what our turnaround time should be, and we decided it should be 2:00 (since the days are pretty short). We got to a particularly indistinct area on the trail, and we weren’t quite sure where it went. At that point, it was 1:57, so we made that our turnaround spot. We headed back the way we came – I got another shot looking south/southeast with a cool shot of the fog/clouds hanging over the hills:
We went back the same way we came except for one section where we walked back the road instead of going cross country – it was all downhill and we figured it would be faster. Looking at our route, I don’t think it cut much distance off anyway. We pretty quickly got back down the hill and got to the van a little before 4:00. It was starting to get chilly again, so it was good we got there when we did.
We finished the day with dinner and a beer at Fearless. An awesome winter day in the woods! Oh, and we never put on our snowshoes – we got to almost 4000′ but the snow was never deeper than 3-4″. so it turned out we didn’t need them after all!
Location of Hike: South Fork Mountain Trail
Weather during Hike: Varied - Foggy to Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:50 AM End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 5.12 miles
Originally, we were going to hike the Memaloose trail (from the bottom). Kirk had a better idea – hike it from the top down – we were almost already there, so we hiked up an old segment of the South Fork Mountain trail up to the old lookout site and then down to the lake and back. To top it all off, I realized I had forgotten my phone – fortunately, Kirk had his, so he was the track recorder and photographer for this trip.
On the way in, the sun came out and we got this great view from one of the old clearcuts along the 4540 road – looking east to Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead:
After our snowy escapades, we turned around and headed back to the 017 spur, where we parked and headed up (the snow was deeper than it looks in this photo):
Once up at the landing at the end of the 017 Spur, we started up the real trail:
On the way up, we got a peek of where Mt Hood was hiding in the clouds:
We got up to the old lookout pretty quickly and looked around a bit. We found the old foundations of the lookout and then headed down the “un-maintained” trail to Memaloose Lake – although I think it is strange there is a 515 trail sign on the “un-maintained” portion of the trail:
For an un-maintained trail, it was pretty well maintained. We didn’t have ANY trouble following it except for one very short section in a rooty/rocky section. One interesting thing was that we found a bunch of these orange flags on this portion of the trail – they were all placed VERY low and had “SOL” written on them – looks like they were placed this year:
We made quick time down the trail and shortly got to the beginning of the “un-maintained” section with this old sign that is clearly showing its age – I wonder how much longer it will survive?
We quickly made it to Memaloose lake and looked around the campsites there. The dogs were expending even more energy at the lake:
We ate some lunch and walked around a bit and then headed down the trail to the Memaloose trailhead. Memaloose Creek was flowing fast and furious – the crossing wasn’t bad, but you had to choose your steps carefully to stay dry (although Thor just wanted to play in the water):
A little farther down the trail, I recalled this tree that was down in 2014:
Now it is all cut out and easy to traverse:
A little ways further down the trail, we encountered a couple heading up the trail. We were a bit surprised to see someone else there – it is a LONG drive to the trailhead now. The dogs barked at them, so we leashed them up and let them pass. They asked if it was worth the trip up to the top, and we said yes, but we didn’t see them again the rest of the day. I’m thinking that we passed them when we took the alternate route up the lake.
After leashing up the dogs, we shortly made it down to the trailhead and walked around a bit on the road – Memaloose creek was flowing heavy under the road – ALL the creeks were flowing quickly due to all the snowmelt and rain we’ve had. After exploring the trailhead a bit, we headed back up to the lake:
A little ways up the trail, Kirk noticed these interesting trees – we figured they must have been from when they cut the hillside north of here:
A little farther, Kirk noticed an old sign – I never noticed it before – wonder what it said?:
As we headed up the trail, there was a junction that we noticed on the way down – we decided to see where it went – we think it was the old alignment of the trail:
And sure enough, it put us out a little bit north of the current trail alignment. You can see on the track where it put us out at the lake just north of where we came in.
Since we were a little farther north on the lakeshore, we explored some of the campsites up the east side of the lake and found this poem tacked to a tree near the lake – an “in memory of” poem:
We then headed back up towards South Fork Mountain, and Kirk noticed this odd artifact. We never did decide what this really was – fire pit or old outhouse? Or something else?
We continued up the switchbacks towards South Fork Mountain. Just below the point where you attain the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, we saw this beautiful sunbeam coming thru the trees. The pictures are pretty good, but don’t do it justice:
Once up on the ridge, Kirk found a great rocky outcropping just below the summit that had great views to the south. We got this great view of Mt Jefferson from there:
As we stood there enjoying the views, we realized that it was getting pretty cold. The sun was still up, but the temperature was dropping quickly. We made it down to the truck and quickly got in and fired up the heater which felt good. The truck had frost on it and the puddles on the road were starting to ice over, so it was definitely below freezing when we made it back. We left the chains on the truck until we got thru all of the deep snow and then stopped and took them off.
On the way back, we encountered a half dozen or more vehicles that were all gathering Christmas trees. They all seemed to be having a good time.
Although we didn’t achieve our initial objective, it was still an excellent adventure in the woods exploring some beautiful old forest, and some beautiful old abandoned trail.
Location of Hike: Fanton Trail to Squaw Mountain
Trail Number: 505, 502
Weather during Hike: Overcast with a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 12:45 PM
Hike Distance: 3.5 miles
The plan was to head up the 4614 road as far as possible (the Fanton trail pretty much follows the road – more or less), and then head up the trail to its junction with Old Baldy and then up to Squaw Mountain. When we did this trip on New Years Day in 2016, we ran out of time and energy to get to Squaw Mountain – but we started quite a ways back down 4614. I was hoping to get to the point we did, and possibly a bit farther. I was able to get to the easternmost point of the road, where an old spur road heads to an old landing. When we got to the trailhead, I was surprised to see two other cars parked there:
We got ready and shortly headed out. I saw boot prints and dog prints, so knew one of the cars had headed up the trail and had a dog, so I made sure Thor was leashed.
There was not much snow at the start of the trail:
Shortly, not too far up the trail, we met the lone hiker with his dog. I Asked how far he got up the trail and he said not very far – maybe 1/4 mile or so. It wasn’t loo long before we passed their turnaround point and the trail ahead was clear of any new tracks – we were breaking new trail in the snow! As we were hiking, I saw lots of other tracks in the snow. Some were clearly deer, but there were a bunch of these tracks, which were hard to see detail since they were partially melted, but they were LARGE. I’m thinking this had to be a bear print:
The farther we headed up the trail, the deeper the snow got, but it was still pretty easy to walk – no major postholing. By the time we got to the Old Baldy Trail jct, the snow was getting rather deep:
Looks much different than it did back in January 2016:
At this point, Thor decided he needed to “frap” a bit – it went on for quite some time (wow- you can really hear me breathing hard!) – he must have gone back and for 10 or 15 times at least:
Shortly after this point, I ended up putting on my showshoes since the snow was getting too deep to easily walk in. It kept getting deeper and deeper. It was really deep in the open areas approaching Squaw Mountain:
As we were headed up, Thor was having lots of fun playing in the snow (it was up to his chest! – But he didn’t seem to mind):
We soon made it up to the old road, and found that someone had recently walked up the road to the old lookout:
We finally got up to the top where it was almost sunny (almost), but a bit windy.
The view to Mt Hood from Squaw Mountain (Mt Hood was hiding):
We spent a little bit of time up on top looking around, but it was pretty cold in the wind, so we headed back down to the old garage foundation where it is a bit sheltered. We ate some lunch there and drank some water. Thor was having a great time running around in the snow, but even out of the wind, it was getting a bit cool for both of us, so we headed back down the hill. As we headed down, the sun was kind of coming in and out and at one point, there was this really cool Sunbreak thru the trees – although this photo doesn’t begin to capture it. It was really pretty:
We continued down the trail and at some point I removed my snowshoes since the snow wasn’t very deep and it was easier to walk in boots. Thor typically stayed near me, but at one point, I thought he had gotten the scent of something and ran uphill (a LONG ways uphill). I saw a black rear end running up the hill in the snow. I assumed it was Thor and I started walking uphill, calling him. I was getting VERY upset since he wasn’t coming – I had visions of him disappearing. I kept calling, and walking up the steep hillside, and pretty soon, I see him coming up the hill from below. I think what I saw was the rear end of a bear running away from me! After that, I kept his leash on so he stayed closer to me. It was kind of scary and cool all at the same time.
We quickly made it back to the old spur road, and we ended up walking out to the old landing. You can’t drive out there anymore, as the small bridge over Fanton Creek has failed (that is the creek running under that snow):
We enjoyed the views from the landing for a bit and then headed back to the truck and then home.
It was a very short day (I was really surprised how quickly we were able to do this trip), but it was a beautiful winter trip.
Location of Hike: Hillockburn Trail
Trail Number: 516
Weather during Hike: Overcast and cool
Hiking Buddies: Carly and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM End Time: 12:50 PM
Hike Distance: 2.75 miles
We stopped and let Thor play in the snow for a bit:
We then turned around and so as not to not make the day a total bust, we decided to hike the Hillockburn trail down to the South Fork of the Clackamas River. It is a pretty short hike, but it is really pretty down by the river. Unfortunately, when we got to the trailhead, we found a bunch of damage from shooters at the trailhead:
We counted at least 6 trees killed by shooters now. That was kind of a sad start to the hike, but we headed down the short trail and pretty soon got to the campsite near the river:
Thor played in the river a bit and we decided we would opt for a late lunch at Fearless in Estacada rather than eating the lunch we brought, so we soon headed back uphill. On the way, we did a little trail maintenance, cutting off a few smaller trees off the trail.
On the way back up the trail, we encountered another group of hikers – which was good – we were a little concerned about shooters shooting down the trail, but we obviously didn’t have to worry since they had come down.
It was a very short, but somewhat disappointing day (since we couldn’t get to our original objective) – but it was really nice to share a hike with Carly – I don’t get to do that too often.
Location of Hike: Plaza and Salmon Mountain Trails
Trail Number: 783, 787
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:20 PM End Time: 5:05 PM
Hike Distance: 10.25 miles
We headed up a little earlier than usual, and made our way down the pothole laden 4610 road to the east end of the Old Baldy trail. The Plaza trail actually starts here – you take off from the trailhead and in about 50 feet the Plaza trail heads east for a bit (to the old Plaza Guard station) and Old Baldy heads west.
We parked, got ready and headed out. I remembered to bring Thor’s backpack so he could carry his own water, etc. Here he is all ready to start the day:
We headed out, heading pretty much east until we got to the old Plaza Guard station location. About the only thing noticeable now is the old fireplace:
We looked around a bit and then headed up the trail. At this point the trail turns north, heading up to Sheepshead Rock and beyond. We got to Sheepshead Rock pretty quickly, and found a side trail that headed up to the small, rocky area on top of the rock. We got probably the best views of the day from this point, however I neglected to take a photo of the rock itself. It was a pretty unique looking rock. Here is a picture of Mt Hood from the top of Sheepshead rock:
And here is a 360 Photo from the top of Sheepshead Rock that Kirk took (mine got messed up somehow).
After soaking in the views for a bit, we headed back down and then continued north until we got to the junction with the Salmon Mountain trail (the marker sign has obviously seen better days):
And on the way up we saw a half dozen or so old phone line insulators along the trail that went up to the old lookout:
Shortly after the junction, we headed offtrail to get to the plane crash site which occurred in 1966. Here is part of the debris field of the crash – the debris field was actually much larger than I thought:
We explored the debris field a bit and then realized it might not have been a great idea to let the dogs run around – there was LOTS of gnarled metal on the ground – we were concerned that one of the dogs was going to cut their paws. We walked back out of the main debris field to make sure the dogs didn’t get hurt, and then headed back up the hill to the trail. It was still pretty early, and it didn’t look like it was too far to the lookout, so we continued east up the trail. Partway up, we saw these remains – we couldn’t figure out what it could have been. It was kind of small for an outhouse – we thought maybe the phone line terminated here, but we saw insulators farther up the trail, so what it was remains a mystery – some sort of box probably about 30″-36″ square:
Here is kind of typical tread on the Salmon Mountain trail-the trail guide says the tread disappears, but it seemed to be pretty good the whole way – but maybe I’m just used to hiking abandoned trails and this wasn’t as bad as those are:
And a bit farther up the trail, we found a ribbon from the recent hiker search in the area (just last week-thankfully he was found alive and well):
After some odd junctions on the trail, we finally made it up to the old lookout site on Salmon Mountain:
We found out that the trail location on the map is wrong. The trail actually goes below the summit, over to the east, and then switchbacks to the west to get to the summit. Apparently there is a cliff on the east side that is pretty much impassable. It was rather small up on top, and only had two footings there. Kirk took this photo of me and the dogs at the lookout (I was sitting on one of the footings):
We ate lunch at the lookout site and enjoyed the sunshine and the views for a while. After a while, we decided we should head back and then went back down the way we came. When we got to the switchback at the bottom of the hill (where it switchbacked back west up to the lookout), Kirk wanted to see if there were views on the second peak – the switchback was kind of in a saddle between the two peaks. There was a faint trail that headed up, so we followed it up to the high point, but there was really no views, just a small meadowy place where the faint trail seemed to kind of die. So, we headed back and then headed down the trail. We still had a long ways to go back and by this time it was almost 3:00.
On the way out, I had forgotten how up and down this trail was – or maybe I was just tired. It seemed like there was a LOT more UP on the way back than I remember.
We got back to the trailhead a little after 5:00 and found another vehicle parked there – we were guessing they must have been hiking the Old Baldy trail. We packed up and headed out.
On the way out, driving the 4614 road, a lone hunter was along side the road with a deer. He flagged us down and asked if we could help him load it into the back of his minivan. We did, although Kirk got some blood on him while we were loading it. It was kind of an interesting way to end the day!
We capped off an almost perfect day of hiking with dinner at Fearless.
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:40 PM
Hike Distance: 6.7 miles
I hadn’t been up to the lookout in probably 5 years now, so I decided this was a worthy destination for the day. We headed out at the normal time and I was surprised at how much thinning was going on up the 6340 road. I hiked the Dickey Creek trail back in May and it was all uncut. Today, this is what the junction with the 6340/140 spur road looked like:
It was looking a bit rough, but in a few years time, that forest is going to look much better – it was really thick in there.
We made pretty good time up to the trailhead, stopping along the 6340 road for a nice view of the Pansy Drainage:
We got to the trailhead about 10:00 and I was surprised to see two vehicles there. It looked like they had come in the night before. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone on a Tuesday in October! There was a bit of snow at the trailhead – interestingly enough there seemed to be more snow down lower than there was up higher:
We got ready and headed up the trail. The beginning goes thru a cut area with some new blowdown, but shortly you get into timber and the trail is very pleasant to hike. Part way up, there is a good viewpoint north. The mountains were all out today – the views were spectacular. They are hard to see in the photo, but were easy to see in person. 4 mountains all in a row – Mt St Helens, Mt Ranier, Mt Adams and Mt Hood:
In a couple of hours, we got to the lookout. I had Thor on his leash, but he was dragging it most of the way. We got near to the lookout and he got ahead of me – I started hearing voices and thought “Oh no! he is going to go bug someone!”. Sure enough, I rounded the corner and there were three people with backpacks – one of them, a young woman was sitting on the ground and Thor was licking her, saying hi. I apologized and she said she loved dogs so I guess all was well. We chatted for a little bit and then they headed off down towards Pansy lake to complete their trip. Thor and I sat by the lookout and had some lunch.
After lunch, we headed up onto the catwalk around the lookout (Thor wasn’t so sure about that, but he went up there). The views were incredible – much better than most of the summer when we had lots of smoke. Looking south to Olallie Butte, Mt Jefferson, Three Sisters and Broken Top – they were all out:
And I got this cool photo of Mt Hood from the lookout – looking north:
The lookout is faring OK, but is suffering from neglect. There is a broken window on the lookout – it has been broken for a few years – but at least someone has tried to limit the damage – they put boards behind the open window:
After enjoying the views for a bit, we headed back down the stairs. I got kind of the iconic photo of the the lookout:
I was really surprised at how warm it was – especially at the lookout – it wasn’t very windy at all and the sun felt really good – but not hot. I was in short sleeves and very comfortable.
We headed back down the trail, back the way we came. We enjoyed all the viewpoints on the way back down. I noticed a few things on the way down that I had not noticed on the way up. Like this wilderness sign propped up against a downed tree – I guess when this tree went down it broke the sign:
As we got closer to the trailhead, the snow increased, but it was melting quickly. In a few days, I think most of it will be gone. We made it back to the truck a little after 2:30 and then headed back down the mountain and home.
What a beautiful fall day of hiking! The weather really was almost perfect – not too hot, not too cold, not too windy. And visibility was excellent.
Location of Hike: Pechuck Lookout
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Robert and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5 miles
On the way home, I wanted to try and see the Pechuck Lookout, but my directions to it were not very good, and I later found out that it still requires a pretty long hike to see. I’ll go back and do that hike another time, possibly from the Rooster Rock trail.
I didn’t even remember that! Pretty funny…. But that is a big reason why I do these reports – to help me remember these trips. Sometimes it is interesting to know how may times or the last time I hiked a particular trail. At least I think it interesting. (Wow! It has been 8 years since I did this trail!)
Anyway, back to the trip – We found the trailhead pretty easily – the road was in good shape (could have easily driven a car) and there is a relatively large parking area – there was one car there we we got there, so we knew we were going to have company on the trail at some point. (more on that later). The description says it makes a pretty aggressive ascent initially, and it was pretty accurate. It gets a little better farther up, but the grade on the first part of the trail is pretty steep. It gets to switchbacks farther up which make it a bit better. As we were headed up, Thor found the first snow on an old jeep road at about 3900′ and had to play in it. I don’t know what it is about snow, but he LOVES the snow:
We continued up, finally attaining the ridge and meeting the trail that goes up to the lookout. From there, we followed the ridge down a bit and then back up to an old road where there was an old signboard – of course all the wilderness “permits” were gone – the sign was in pretty bad shape – but it was interesting to see:
This was the road before just the last push up to the lookout. I’m sure this road is gated and/or closed – The crossing was in kind of a saddle. It had 2-3″ of snow on it and Thor ended up frapping in the snow.
After letting Thor expend some energy, we continued across the road, up the trail. I think we could have gone up the road too, but the trail looked like a more direct route. Looks like there are several trails/routes up to the lookout from this point. On the way up, in a short series of switchbacks, we got this incredible view of Table Rock:
Shortly after this view, we encountered a couple who had a small dog (“Ninja”) who was off leash (like Thor was at the time) and ran over and they got into quite a tussle. I got Thor and put him on the leash and they picked up Ninja and we continued up. It was kind of funny – I wasn’t sure if they were fighting or playing, but that little dog was pretty brave – he couldn’t have been more than 10 pounds or so and he didn’t hesitate to run right up to Thor.
After that, we continued up and very shortly arrived at the Pechuck lookout with 2-3″ of snow on the ground which was melting quickly:
We went into the lookout and found a backpack and some gear – we were assuming it was from the couple we just passed. We explored the inside of the lookout and then went up the ladder into the cupola. There aren’t a lot of views left (the trees have grown up considerably), but this is the view from the cupola looking north to Table Rock:
After a few minutes looking around and figuring out how the shutters fit the windows, we headed back down the ladder. After I got home I realized I didn’t take any photos of the inside of the lower part of the lookout. Oops! It has a concrete floor and a table and a “bed” – It was really just a low, flat table, but I’m sure it was intended to be used as a bed. There were a variety of things inside the lookout, including a fire extinguisher and some other tools, along with many notes from the caretakers about reporting any problems or damage to the BLM.
We headed back outside and ate lunch. We got a weak cell signal and Robert said he thought there was a geocache up there so he tried to find the page for it. He did, and ended up finding the geocache about 300′ east of the lookout under a rocky outcropping. After finding the geocache, we packed up and headed back down the hill. Right before the road crossing, we met another backpacker headed up to the lookout to spend the night. We chatted with him for a bit and then headed down. While we were headed back up the ridge, we met “Ninja” again, but this time both dogs were on leash, so the encounter was not quite as “lively” as the last one.
We continued up the ridge to the junction and then headed down the connector trail to the trailhead. Thor was getting tired – he stopped 3 or 4 times on the trail. We found out that evening that I think he overdid it somehow – he was limping on one of his back legs. He did that on another recent trip – but the next morning he was fine.
We made it down to the truck about 3:30 and found 5 vehicles at the trailhead – we were guessing that one of the groups had gone over to Rooster Rock – one guy was just getting out of his car and wanted to go explore – it was pretty late to be starting this hike this time of year, but he was going to see what he could see.
On the way home Robert showed me the remains of the “Looney” cabin (I guess it was the Looney family cabin at some point in time) and the “Molalla Eye” on the drive back down the corridor.
It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall day. I’d like to go up and explore Rooster Rock at some point.
Location of Hike: Rho Ridge Trail to Hawk Mountain
Trail Number: 564 and 564-A
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 1:40 PM
Hike Distance: 4.2 miles
We headed out about 9:30am, and got to the trailhead about 11. When we got there, there were two cars there! I was amazed that there would be two other groups on a Monday! Anyway, we headed up and shortly met one of the groups already coming down. They said there was another group that was behind them. We caught up to them in a few minutes. They had two dogs, and I had Thor off leash and he wanted to play with his new “friends”. He wouldn’t come when I called (he apparently thought the dogs were more interesting than I was), so I had to go get him. They passed, and we headed back up. Unfortunately, there was a switchback and he saw them coming back, and so he ran down the hill to see them. I had to go get him again, and this time I put him on his leash since he was not obeying.
Anyway, we headed up, thru the clearcut area – fall colors were out in full display. The vine maple was literally on fire it was so bright. Here is a picture of Mt Jefferson with the vine maple in the foreground:
I guess this trip was mostly about the fall colors. Although I hate vine maple on the trail, it is certainly beautiful in the fall. I’m always amazed at how fluorescent the colors are. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
We continued up thru the clearcut and soon entered the woods. The trail and the woods were VERY quiet. It was very peaceful walking up to the cabin. We made good time and soon made it to the cabin. I setup my chair and we ate lunch and enjoyed the view of Mt Jefferson. After lunch, I opened up the cabin and explored inside. I just love this view from inside:
Thor didn’t seem to like being inside the cabin. Not sure what it was, but he was anxious to get back outside. So we walked around the area and I took a photo of Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte from out towards the end of the meadow up on top:
Olallie has snow on it – I’m not sure how much longer we will have access to these high elevation trails this fall. Winter seems to be coming quickly this year.
This is probably my favorite picture of the day – The little cabin with Mt Jefferson in the background and all the fall colors in the foreground:
We enjoyed the view for a little while longer but Thor was anxious to start hiking again, so I closed up the cabin and we headed back down. As we were going down, I was wondering if I’d see any phone line insulators – there was a short piece of phone line on the trail near the top. So on the way down I made a concerted effort to scan the trees and see if I found any. I only saw one (and this isn’t a very good photo of it):
We made excellent time on the way down – it isn’t very far. When we got back to the clearcut, I snapped this photo of Olallie Butte with the fall colors in the foreground:
We got back to the truck a little after 1:30. I know that one of my friends had located the continuation of this trail and so I did a little looking across the road to see if I could find where the trail picked up, but nothing looked promising. So we got into the truck and headed back down the hill. When we got to the junction with 6350, I decided to go straight – down 4671 so I could check out the Rho Creek trailhead on the way home. The weirdest thing happened – I stopped at the trailhead, and a tow truck came the other way! I drove up to meet him since he had pulled over at a wide spot. He asked if I saw a car back up the road and I replied no. I Asked where it was supposed to be and he said road 46. I told him this wasn’t road 46 and asked him where it was supposed to be on road 46 and he said “2 or 3 miles from something”. I hadn’t seen any cars on 46 on my way in – I’m not sure how they got a call out. He said it was kind of a wild goose chase and he would keep looking. I hope he found whoever was needing help. I didn’t see anyone on my way out along 46 that looked like they needed a tow truck. Kind of a strange way to end the day!
This was a very short, but relaxing day out in the woods. Just about perfect weather for hiking – I love fall hiking.
Location of Hike: Old Buck Lake Trail
Trail Number: 701
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Hot
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:25 AM End Time: 1:00 PM
Hike Distance: 5 miles
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos on this trip. The forecast was for it to be almost 100 degrees and we started early to try and beat the worst of the heat. We left home about 7:45am and got to the trailhead a little after 9. We had a bit of a surprise – Road 5810, which takes you to Buck Lake was closed due to logging activities. Even though nothing was happening today, the road was still closed completely, right after you got onto 5810. So, we looked for an alternate route. We decided to head up the road we bailed out on last time – the 58-160 spur – and kind of start where we left off last time. We weren’t exactly sure how the day would progress – we thought maybe we would go back to Buck Lake if we had time.
We quickly found what looked to be something like tread. I think it was what we were following last year, however it looked very different since there was no snow on the ground. We continued north thru the clearcut, following (at times) what looked like it could be tread, and other times just taking the easiest route. We got thru the first clearcut and spread out, looking for signs of tread and/or blazes. We found intermittent sections of tread – in some spots it wasn’t too bad – well blazed and somewhat distinct tread. But it never lasted too long. Either the blazes and/or tread dried up, or we hit another clearcut, where any signs of tread completely disappeared. I think we went thru 4 or 5 cut areas. A good shot of one of the good sections:
We continued north, looking for tread and blazes in the uncut areas, and just tried to get thru the cut areas as best we could – usually going along the east edge of the cut – it usually seemed there was a somewhat open area there. In one of the cut areas, we got this cool shot of a hazy Mt Hood (I thought it would be worse due to all the fires):
It was beginning to get rather warm (especially in the cut areas) and the dogs were getting hot so we stopped in the shade and all drank some water. Kirk snapped this great picture of Thor and Olle cooling off in the shade – they really have fun together:
After heading north and not finding a lot of recognizable tread, we knew we were getting close to the Anvil Lake trail. We spotted a flag, and found some tread. And then another flag, and some more tread. We didn’t backtrack to find the trail, but we did find out where the trail appears to have met the Anvil Lake trail – right at the post with the Blackwolf Meadow sign. This is the Anvil Lake trail as it heads thru Blackwolf Meadows:
We stopped in the shade there and decided what to do. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we came, so we decided to head back down the Anvil Lake trail to the 160 spur and walk back to the truck that way. It looked to be about 2 miles or so back to the truck, so that seemed like a good option, as it was starting to get really hot. We wanted to get done by noon or 1 and it was already noon. We made good time back to the truck and then packed up and headed out.
On the way out, we had been talking about Cot Creek (I’m not exactly sure why), but I thought we could drive up to see the old collapsed bridge. It wasn’t too far out of our way, so we headed up. Interestingly enough, the 4635-120 spur road that heads up to the bridge has had a lot of roadwork done on it. New gravel, grading, and a bunch of trees cut off the edges of the road. Looks like the are prepping for doing some more thinning work up that road.
Here is a photo of the old Washed out cot creek bridge as we saw it today:
Contrast this to 2008 – it has grown in quite a lot since then:
A wonderful day in the woods – it was good to get out and escape most of the heat. Even though we didn’t find a lot of that old trail up high, it was still neat to try and find it.
Location of Hike: Oneonta Gorge and Oneonta Creek Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Cass, Jeff, Torren and Kirk
Start Time: 8:15 AM End Time: 11:50 AM
Hike Distance: 4.5 miles
We started down the creek, not having to get wet initially, but quickly came to the “Big logjam”:
Someone had rigged up a rope on one section, and there was already a line to get past this – even at 8:30am. We shortly made it past the logjam and started up the canyon:
It was amazing to see the number and variety of people attempting this “hike” (I put hike in quotes because it is a very short trip – the biggest obstacles are the logjam and the deep water – otherwise it is only about a half mile round trip to the falls). We saw young people, old people, babies, kids of all ages – all successfully navigating these obstacles.
After walking up the river, we got to the first deep spot – it was about thigh deep on this day (other days I guess it can get up to your chest):
We got to one other deep spot (which I didn’t take a photo of) that was slightly deeper, but it was about crotch deep for me. Very soon, the falls at end of gorge appeared:
Kirk and Torren kind of dared each other and ended up swimming at the base of the falls – the water was COLD! I ended up putting my jacket on because the air temperature was pretty cool due to the early morning, coupled with the cold water was making me very chilly. My jacket kept me warm enough to not shiver anymore.
The waterfall was not terribly energetic due to the low water flow (normal for this time of year), but it was a very soothing and beautiful waterfall – especially given the dramatic canyon it sits in. I took a short video of the falls:
We spent a few minutes enjoying the waterfall and then headed back out. It was kind of interesting that there was a young couple who were flying a drone near the waterfall. I assume they were taking video of the waterfall. You can see them here (including the drone) on this shot looking back north thru the canyon:
The trip back out was pretty uneventful, but the gorge was getting more crowded – much more crowded – there were a LOT of people headed in while we were headed out.
We went back to the van and dried off and changed shoes for the hike up to Triple Falls. I was surprised the whole trip in and out of the gorge only took us about an hour – I didn’t feel like we rushed things, but it is not very far. We headed out on the Oneonta trail and soon got to an overlook of Triple Falls (a little over a mile up the trail):
It was a beautiful waterfall. We encountered quite a few people coming down as we were coming up, including a huge group of girls – we weren’t sure what group they were with, but it had to be a group of 30 or more. And there were several other groups as well. I’m not used to seeing so many people on my hikes!
After taking in the view and getting a few pictures, we headed back to the trail and shortly came to a bridge over Oneonta creek above triple falls – I got this photo of the creek just above the falls:
We crossed the bridge and explored the other side a bit and then decided we needed to turn around due to time. We turned around and headed back down – getting back to the van a little before noon. By that point, the road and parking along the old highway had become crazytown – people everywhere. We headed back the old highway and when we got to Multnomah falls, the parking areas were full and there was probably a half to a mile long backup on the eastbound lane. All people waiting to get to Multnomah falls I guess. It was really a madhouse. Originally we were going to stop for ice cream at Multnomah falls, but due to the crowds, we decided to stop in Troutdale at Dairy Queen. It was a good call!
The ice cream was a great way to cap off a short, but very unique hike. I don’t do a lot of hiking in the gorge, but this was worth the crowds – I’m just glad we went early to avoid most of them.
Edit – Later – this was a uniquely sad hike in that about a week after we did this hike the Eagle Creek Fire started and this whole area burned significantly – I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this area before it burned
Location of Hike: Corral Springs Trail
Trail Number: 507
Weather during Hike: Misty at first then sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.75 miles
When we got to the abandoned Lookout Springs campground (where the trailhead starts), there was a family camped there. Thor, being Thor wanted to meet them and ran over to them. He made a new friend with their son, who seemed to really like him. The dad asked me about Huxley Lake – how far, how hard, etc. I told him what I remembered from the last time I went down there and told them about the weird side trail to the lake (which tripped me up on my first attempt). When we returned from our hike, they were still in the camp and I asked if they had gone to the lake they said no. Oh well – at least they didn’t get lost.
OK, back to the hike – The beginning of this trail has some nice trees in it and the trail is pretty flat. It goes thru some beautiful old growth forest – a sample of the upper section:
And then after about a mile, it starts the brutal descent into the Roaring River canyon. Shortly, you get a great view of Indian Ridge which is across the canyon (this is near the big rockslide):
At this point, the trail changes quite a bit – it gets steeper, and the trees are much smaller and there are a lot more rhodies. A little farther, I noticed a bunch of White Iris on the trail, which is really interesting because you don’t see that very often:
As you get closer to the river, the trail gets steeper and more faint. Fortunately, there is good flagging where the trail gets really faint. And as you get closer to the river, the trees get larger as well. The lower part of the trail is somewhat like the upper part, except for an abundance of salal (which is the primary reason the trail gets so faint). We eventually arrived at the Roaring River, which wasn’t too Roaring this time of year:
We ate lunch at the campsite (which obviously hasn’t been used for a while):
Once we were done with lunch, we crossed the Roaring River (I took my boots off and waded and Thor swam) and looked for any sign of tread on the other side – we were trying to find the junction with the old 511 trail. The brush over there was brutal, and there are HUGE logs down EVERYWHERE, so moving around over there was pretty tough. A photo of the rootball of one of the downed trees (hiking pole for scale):
So many downed trees:
We did find one possible short section of something that kind of looked like tread, but it was only about 10 feet long. We found no blazes at all. We spent about 30 minutes over there looking for anything, and found nothing. I’m guessing that the maps are correct and at some point Corral Springs got re-routed farther north (its current location) from its original routing. I’m guessing any tread or blazes (if they exist) would be wherever that alignment was. Since we couldn’t really find more 511 tread across the river, I think that end of the 511 is probably gone.
We crossed back over the river – this time I thought I could rock hop, but it turned out that I missed a rock – I ended up getting wet on the far side. But it wasn’t too bad. We headed back up the steep trail, doing some brushing on the way (it allowed me to rest a bit on the long trip back uphill).
This was a burned out stump I noticed on the way back up which I thought was kind of neat:
And I really liked this little area on the way back up – an interesting combination of dying old trees and new trees taking their place:
We made it back up in pretty good time and then headed home. A very nice day in the woods – great way to spend a birthday!
Location of Hike: St Perpetua Trail - Yachats
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Gail, Abby and Thor
Start Time: 9:30 AM End Time: 4:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.5
- Cape Cove/Captain Cook/Trail of Restless Waters trails
- Giant Spruce Trail
- St Perpetua/Whispering Spruce Trails
The only track I recorded was the last one (the toughest one since we had to hike up about 700′ to get to the top of the cape). I honestly didn’t think we were going to hike that much, but it just kind of happened. There is a LOT to see in this area and it was all really neat – we kind of just kept going and going and going.
Since we had Thor with us (his first trip to the beach) we started out wanting to go see “Thor’s Well”. We went down the Cape Cove/Captain Cook trails and shortly got to the beach. There was a neat overlook of a bunch of tide pools:
We continued down until we found the spouting horn (which wasn’t spouting too much on this day) – we thought we saw Thor’s well, so we went down and walked on the rocks out to it.
Thor’s well is a really interesting natural phenomenon – a hole in the ground that keeps taking on water. It has an underground cave from the ocean, that both fills and empties it as the tides go in and out. It was pretty cool to watch the water coming in and going out and making huge splashes sometimes.
After watching Thor’s well for a bit we headed back up the loop trail and then decided to head up the “Trail of the Restless Waters” up to Devil’s Churn. It is a beautiful trail along the coast where you get beautiful views like this (looking south):
And some of the beautiful old Spruce trees along the way:
And shortly, we got to Devil’s Churn, which although the surf was relatively calm, was still pretty “churny”:
We watched Devils Churn for a few minutes and then headed back – pretty quickly we were back at the visitor center. We decided to take off down the Giant Spruce Trail to go see a 500-600 year old Spruce tree. The trail was longer than we thought – about a mile each way. We eventually got to the big spruce tree, and it did not disappoint:
It is hard to grasp how large it was. The sign said it had a 40′ circumference, so if my math is correct, that means it was about 12 feet across!
Thor was enjoying himself while exploring around the tree:
After basking in the shade of this huge ancient tree, we headed back to the car for some lunch. We ate on a bench on the beautiful deck around the visitor center. After lunch, we decided to try and hike the St Perpetua trail, which went up to the top of Cape Perpetua. There is a road up there as well, but we thought we were up for a challenge, so we headed up. We all did really well, and make it to the ovelook area, which has a beautiful view looking south down the coast:
We had an intersting encounter with a lady on the overlook. She really liked Thor and proceeded to tell us a long story about her career as a veterinary technician and how she loved animals. She was with her father and they soon left, so we headed on around the loop trail at the top of the hill and found the “West Shelter” – it was built by the CCC back in the 30’s and was used as a lookout in WWII.
After completing the upper loop and getting one last look at the view from up top, we headed back down. We were all getting tired, but I guess Thor was getting REALLY tired (and hot), so partway down, in a cool spot of loose dirt, he just laid down to cool off:
It was actually pretty funny – he was a good sport all day and we hiked a lot farther than we had originally intended to. I think we did about 7 miles or so that day. Anyway, after a short rest, we continued down the trail. The trip down seemed to go a lot faster than the trip up, and we were soon back at the car. We were all kind of tired, so we were done hiking for the day – we had hiked most of the trails in this area. We decided to drive south to see the Heceta Head lighthouse and then we headed back to our rental house.
What a wonderful way to spend a day of vacation! Hiking in beautiful forest at the coast!
Location of Hike: Plaza Lake Trail
Weather during Hike: Foggy to Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Robert and Thor
Start Time: 9:30 AM End Time: 1:50 PM
Hike Distance: 2.0 miles
We started out earlier than normal, leaving the house a bit before 8:00. We got to the Plaza Lake trailhead about 9:30 and headed down the hill. The drive in on the 4610 road was bad – it keeps getting worse and worse. We ended up coming in from 4614/4613 which saves 7 or 8 miles of 4610 road driving, but those last 10-12 miles on 4610 are just horrible. LOTS of potholes and the road is continuing to have worse washout damage each year.
The trail down to Plaza Lake is pretty short (about a half mile or so), on a really good tread, and really well graded. Here is a segment of trail up higher where the trees are smaller. The trees get quite a bit larger as you head down the hill:
For a lightly used trail, it was actually in really good shape. Tread was great, and not too brushy most of the way. Partway down the trail, there is a large rockslide that the trail edges up to – kind of some cool rock formations up the slide:
I wish I had taken photos of some of the large trees on the way down. There are some REALLY huge trees down this trail! – Some of the largest I’ve seen in the Clackamas drainage. Very shortly we got down to beautiful Plaza Lake:
The lake is pretty brushy around it, but we found a small opening to get to the lake. We rested there for a bit. Here is picture of Thor being Thor – I had a hard time getting a good picture of him. I think Robert got a really good closeup shot of him, though:
Thor was restless, and ended up finding the continuation of the trail, which continued around the lake. It was really brushy right where he found it which is why we didn’t see it at first. I took him and we followed the trail to what seemed like the end, at the outlet of the lake. We came back and ate a few snacks, drank some water, and then headed back up.
Soon, we were back at the truck and we loaded up and headed farther up the 4610 road-the road gets continually worse as you get closer to the slide. The plan was to get to the big slide area and find Charles. We finally found the slide area and made our way down, finding Charles on the old Clackamas Lake trail. We visited for a bit, and since our time was getting short, decided that we would head west on the old Clackamas Lake trail for a bit and then head back up.
While we were on the trail, we encountered this very colorful garter snake:
Once Thor saw it, he started barking at it. He has gotten garter snakes in the back yard, but they were much smaller than this one!
Time was getting short, so we quickly headed back to the truck and then back down the horrible 4610 road and home. Fortunately, we got home a bit early, so things worked out very nicely.
Although this was a pretty short day, both in terms of distance and in terms of time, it was nice to see a few places I had not seen before.
Location of Hike: Pettit Lake - Sawtooth Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Mixed - Hot to cool with a little mist
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Hike Distance: 23.5 miles
Sarah picked out the location this year, which was somewhat close to where Carly is working for the summer – the Grand Tetons. The plan was somewhat loose, since we weren’t really sure exactly what we would encounter. This was the rough plan for the backpack trip:
- Day 1 – Pettit Lake to Farley, Edith or Imogene Lake (depending on how the day went)
- Day 2 – Hike to Alice Lake (needed a relatively short day since we were traveling to the Grand Tetons after we were done)
- Day 3 – Alice Lake out to Pettit Lake and then drive to the Campground where Carly was working
We left home about 7am on Saturday and headed to the Pettit Lake trailhead in Idaho. We were not sure if we would be able to find a campsite at the campground there, but if not, we figured we could do some dispersed camping nearby. The plan was for Carly to meet us there – she worked until 3pm so she was going to be there late. Since there was no cell service at the campground, it was a bit iffy on whether we had all our communication correct. We got to the campground early evening and found it full, so we looked for a good dispersed spot. We found a pretty good spot near the creek and called it good. This was our campsite the first night – I climbed up a small hill to get a better look at things and see if I could get a cell signal to text Carly – but had no luck.
I waited on the road in to the campground (so she would see me), and fortunately, Carly showed up a little after 9pm. I was somewhat relieved that we had successfully met up and we could now begin our 2017 trip.
We went to bed in our camp, had a VERY cold night, kind of slept in a bit due to the cold night, then woke up to frosty tents! We were surprised since it was so hot the day before. Fortunately, it warmed up pretty quickly, so we cooked breakfast, packed up and then drove to the trailhead. Shortly, we were on our way! This was where we started our adventure:
We headed down the trail, shortly taking the uphill junction to the trail that would eventually take us to Farley Lake (I couldn’t find trail names or numbers). After the junction with the trail coming in from Yellow Belly Lake (what a name!), we crossed a small creek. I was the only one who got their feet wet – I didn’t like the log crossing – but the cool water felt good on my feet. While I was putting my boots back on, a packtrain came along and crossed the creek – I think Kirk counted 12 horses:
After letting the packtrain go past us, and me getting my boots back on, we continued up the trail. Soon, we got our first real glimpse of the mountains and a flower filled meadow:
We continued up the trail – it was pretty hot by this time and the trail is pretty exposed – we were all getting really hot and trying to stay as hydrated as we could.
As we got closer to Edith Lake, the trail crossed the creek 3 times on the way up the hill – this was one crossing point:
After the third crossing we finally arrived at Edith Lake:
When we got there we encountered a rather large group – we found out later it was a group of “Father/Child” campers – they had been doing a “Father/Child” backpack trip annually for the last 5 years or so. It was interesting that we were both doing the same thing, although their children were much younger. We set up camp up on the hill above Edith Lake. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad here. Carly, Sarah and I kind of cleaned up at the lake, while Kirk went for a brief swim (the water was really COLD).
We made dinner and then pretty much just went to bed. We were all pretty tired due to the heat. I got up early the next morning and captured the sunrise from our camp on Monday morning:
And here is Edith Lake from our campsite in the morning light – we would be headed up to the pass in the upper middle of the photo. It is hard to see the ridge.
We made breakfast, cleaned and packed up and headed out (and up). We climbed above Edith Lake and started climbing up to the pass – we passed thru this beautiful meadow:
And as the trees thinned out, we saw many of these old, fire damaged trees – I thought they were really neat looking:
As we continued up, we got into more snow, having to find the trail across large snowbanks. Most of the time it was pretty easy since there was already footprints leading the way. Here we are looking back down the valley we came up the day before – Farley and Yellow Belly Lakes below (Edith Lake is not visible):
When we got up to the pass, we climbed up a side ridge/peak (un-named – 9568)to get a good view of the area. The climb wasn’t bad at all – we dropped our packs at the pass and headed up the ridge. The view was pretty spectacular. From on top of the ridge, you could see all 3 lakes – Yellow Belly, Farley and Edith below:
And Toxaway Lake on the other side – we would be shortly heading down to it:
While exploring the peak, Carly heard some noise and saw two deer up on the peak!!! She spooked them and they ran down – but we were all surprised they were up that high. No one got any photos of them, and she was the only one who saw them unfortunately. After enjoying the views for a bit on the peak, we started down – the wind was picking up and we started to get a little light mist. We were concerned it was going to really start raining. Fortunately, that was about all we got – a few very light drops of rain and light mist.
We continued down the long slow, descent to Toxaway Lake (the trails were really well graded), and we walked thru a variety of beautiful wildflower meadows:
When we got down to the trail junction at Toxaway, we saw a couple of guys having a break near the campsite area. We stopped for a few minutes and then continued down around the Southeast corner of the lake and ran into the bottom of an avalanche that occurred last winter:
On top of the avalanche area we got a good view up the hill to where we could be going later. It was a really neat smooth rock hillside where the snowmelt was coming down. We ended up having lunch here and resting a bit. There was another family with small children (you can see them near the water in the above photo) that was ahead of us who we would see off and on up the trail for a bit.
After lunch, we continued up the hill and ran into more avalanche damage up the hill. This damage completely obliterated the trail for a bit and was difficult to figure out where to go:
We successfully navigated the avalanche damage and shortly got to the first of 3 small un-named lakes before the pass:
We continued up (and up and up) – this is almost to the pass – looking back from where we came:
And we finally get to the pass with its 20′ wall of snow – I should have taken a photo of the other side of it. It was pretty impressive (the trail heads off on the left side, hugging the cliff to begin):
Once we were over the pass, you get a good view of the Twin and Alice Lakes below:
We headed down the trail, encountering a few snow fields and quite a few people (including families with small children) coming up. It didn’t take too long for us to reach the shoreline at Twin Lakes:
We went out on the land spit between the two lakes and explored a bit, enjoying the beautiful location – nestled between the mountains. After exploring around the Twin Lakes a bit, we continued on our journey down to Alice lake. On the way, there was this “right turn” waterfall which was really cool:
And finally, we came to our objective for the day – Alice Lake with El Capitan towering over it:
We started looking for a good campsite, and finally found one, although the mosquitoes were TERRIBLE – you could HEAR them buzzing in the swarms. They were close to the worst I’ve experienced (I think Serene Lake and Cache Meadow many years ago was worse):
After we got camp setup, we explored a bit more – here is a cool island in Alice Lake:
As usual, we made dinner, cleaned up and pretty much went to bed – partly due to being tired, but partly due to the mosquitoes. We planned to try and get an early start so we could get on the road to the Grand Tetons (it is at least a 6 hour drive – over 300 miles). We got up the next morning and quickly made breakfast and broke camp. I think we were on the trail by a little after 8. On our way out, we got this great view of Alice lake with El Capitan looming over it:
And then the rest of the mountains surrounding the southeast side of Alice Lake:
Once we got past Alice Lake and its little lakes below it, we saw our final objective for this trip – headed down the valley and back to Pettit Lake:
On the way down the hill, we ran into more avalanche damaged areas and had to find our way around the area where the trail was obliterated. At one point, we got slightly separated and I ended up crossing a creek, only to have to come back over when I heard Kirk yelling at me from up on the rockslide-luckily I heard him over the roar of the creek!. I had gone down to explore what looked like a possible trail (I think it was an old alignment of the trail that was no longer used). We ended up going up into a rockfield and around all the damage and eventually re-joined the trail.
After that experience, shortly after we re-joined the trail, we stopped at a rockslide that was next to the creek. We saw a Pika there (this isn’t a great photo since he was hard to see, but he was pretty cute):
And continued down the hill towards Pettit Lake. I think we counted like 5 creek crossings on the way down. Most were pretty easy, but the last one was rather difficult. There was a family there trying to get across. Carly ended up crossing on a sketchy log, I ended up putting my crocs on and getting wet – Kirk and Sarah crossed on a pair of logs a bit upstream (which was really the best option). After making that last crossing we were almost to the last mile hike to the trailhead:
We finally got there (it seemed like a REALLY long mile). We did a little cleaning up in the bathroom in preparation for our trip to the Grand Tetons, and then headed out – I think it was about 11:30 when we left the trailhead. On to phase 3 of the trip!
On the drive to the Grand Tetons, we went thru the Craters of the Moon park – I snapped this quick photo from the car – we didn’t stop since we had a long ways to go, but it was pretty interesting. Someday it would be nice to stop and investigate it.
We had lunch in Hailey, Idaho at the “Power House” (great burgers and an interesting place – a combination pub/restaurant/bike shop), and then drove to the Signal Mountain Campground in the Grand Tetons where Carly is working this summer. Fortunately, we had a campsite waiting for us. We setup camp and then started our next phase of this trip.
This backpacking trip was tough, but very interesting, and areas that I’d not seen before. It was great to spend several days with Carly. We had a great time and saw some beautiful scenery. I can’t wait for whatever trip we plan for next year.
Location of Hike: Grand Tetons - Mormon Row and Laurel Lake
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Start Time: 3:50 PM End Time: 5:50 PM
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles
We started at the visitor center and enjoyed the exhibits and displays and watched a short movie on the Grand Tetons. From there, we drove around to Mormon Row, which is an abandoned row of homesteads. There were several homesteads and buildings along this road, but this is a photo of the Thomas Murphy Homestead:
After walking around the Mormon homesteads for a bit, we got back in the car and went to see the Cunningham Cabin. He was another early settler:
We then decided to go up to the top of Signal Mountain – you can drive to the top and get a great view of the whole valley. This is Jackson Lake from the top of Signal Mountain:
By this time it was almost time for Carly to get off work, so we headed back to camp to get ready for our last short hike up to Laurel Lake. As we were headed back to camp, we ran into a “Bear Jam” – a Bear had been chased out of the campground and was along the road. People had stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures. The bear seemed completely uninterested in all the attention it was getting.
We got changed and met Carly and then headed out to the String Lake trailhead. This “trail” split off from the String Lake trail and then headed (literally) straight up the hillside to Laurel Lake. There were a few very short switchbacks (more like a snake trail than switchbacks) and a lot of the trail was very brushy, but it was pretty easy to follow – you can tell a fair number of people hike this unofficial trail. This is a photo looking down the trail – the hillside is probably 45 degrees or more the whole way – you can see the official trail down near the lake:
We made good time and it didn’t take too long to get up to the lake since the ascent was pretty aggressive. We gained about 850 feet in short order. We found the lake and it was a beautiful small lake in a bowl:
We enjoyed the lake for a bit and then headed back to the car and then on to Leek’s Marina for some great pizza. A great way to end our stay in the Grand Tetons.
Location of Hike: Grand Tetons - Delta, Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes
Weather during Hike: Ranged from Sunny to Misty
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Start Time: 10:45 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 11.5 miles
We started out and headed up the Lupine Meadows trail, which then joined the Amphitheater Lake trail. On switchback number 6, there was a pretty rough side trail (goat path, really), that led you up to Delta Lake. It went thru two rock fields and in some places straight up the hill. It was a challenging route. Here is one portion of one of the rock fields:
And a photo looking up from below on the descent – this hill was probably at least 60 degrees – maybe steeper:
Once we got up to Delta Lake (we would see later in the day how it got its name), we hiked around the north side of the lake to a very large rock in the water. We had lunch on this rock and enjoyed this view of the Grand Teton:
After having lunch and enjoying the view for a bit, we headed back down to the junction with the Amphitheater Lake trail. On the way down, we saw these pouches on a tree and a small placard explaining what they were. They are trying to save the Whitebark pine trees from the mountain pine beetle, and the pouches are “pheromone pouches” which must repel the beetles.
We continued down the trail to the junction with the real trail and at this point, Carly went downhill since she had to go to work. We continued up the hill to Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. On the way up, we talked with a man who said we should continue past Amphitheater lake up to the ridge above the lake – he said it was quite a view and worth the climb.
Shortly after Carly left us, we saw a deer right off the trail. He didn’t seem to be too concerned about our presence. He just kept munching away at the brush as we walked up the trail:
A little later, we started to feel a little drizzle. This continued for a while and got heavier. Unfortunately, I did not bring rain gear on this hike since I only had my little teeny day pack. I did bring my OmniHeat jacket, which isn’t waterproof, but it kept me warm while it rained. The rain let up somewhat, but continued for a few hours.
Shortly, we came to Surprise Lake:
We tried to shelter under some trees at Surprise Lake, but still got wet there. After spending a few minutes checking things out, we went back to the trail and headed up to aptly named Amphitheater Lake:
Since it was still raining, we didn’t waste much time and headed up the north side of the lake on a somewhat legible user trail. We headed up to a small pass between the Amphitheater lake basin and the Delta Lake basin. Although we couldn’t see Delta Lake from there, it was quite a view:
There was also quite a “chute” between the ridge and where we were standing – it went all the way down to the Delta basin-about 1000′ below:
After checking this out for a few minutes, Sarah and I were ready to head back down, but Kirk wanted to explore a bit higher. We were tired, but waited for Kirk to explore up higher. I’m so glad he did, because he found a really cool little platform where we could see Delta Lake (the lake we visited in the morning):
You could see how this lake got its name – seeing the delta feeding it and the sediment going into the lake. It was really interesting to see the lake from 1000′ above like that – you couldn’t even see the brown part of the lake from below!
After enjoying the view of Delta lake from above, we headed back down to Amphitheater lake. When we were coming up, Kirk thought he saw some sort of climbers trail on the south side of the lake up high. When we went back down, there were two climbers heading up (they are pretty small but they are in the upper snowbank in the middle of the photo):
That was really interesting to see. We were thinking they might try and summit one of the mountains.
After watching the climbers for a bit, we continued down the trail. Shortly after that point, the rain mostly stopped, so we took off our rain gear and continued down the hill. The trip down was pretty quick (compared to going up). We got back to the trailhead about 3:30 and headed back to camp – a wonderful days adventure in a BEAUTIFUL place.