Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Sunny at times
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
The weather was supposed to be reasonably good and I expected new snow (and wasn’t disappointed). New snow is always really pretty in the woods, especially when it is undisturbed. We were the only ones on the trail all day long and it did not appear anyone had hiked it the day before.
The hike itself wasn’t anything special, other than being on a beautiful trail that goes thru some spectacular forest scenes. We headed up the trail, went past the “grotto”, the unique hillside meadow (where the dogs seemed to have caught some scent as they all wanted to head up hill into the woods). We continued up the trail to my favorite spot – the spot between the two road crossings:
I’m not sure why I like this area so much – it is just a beautiful section, especially in the snow. Big trees, a serene setting between two hills. We went thru this section and decided to continue up the trail, since the snow wasn’t really all that deep. The 4635-130 spur probably only had 3-4″ of snow on it. I was expecting quite a bit more.
Shortly after the road corssing, we got to a pretty significant section of blowdown – the trees weren’t huge, but it was tough to make it thru them, so we decided to clean it up with our loppers and handsaw. This is what it looked like before the work:
And this is what it looked like after we were able to remove all the blowdown:
As we continued up, the trail ends up going thru a rockslide, which didn’t have a ton of snow on it. This was the view from the rockslide:
We continued across the rockslide – this is the only spot where Otis had some trouble. He didn’t like the large rocks in the rockslide and didn’t want to proceed. I had to help him thru one section of the rockslide. After that, we continued up the trail to the spot where it crosses the road:
We decided this would be the perfect turnaround spot, so found a spot below the road that had a bit of a view. We had lunch – we tried to eat quickly because Otis didn’t have his jacket and since he has a short coat, we thought he would get cold quickly. Ollie, Otis and Thor did a LOT of horsing around on the 4635 road, keeping active so he didn’t get cold.
After eating lunch, we headed back down the hill. We did some more lopping and trail maintenance on the way back down, trying to improve the trail for the next trip.
The trip down was pretty uneventful and pretty quick since it was all downhill and we didn’t do NEARLY as much trail maintenance on the way down. We got back to the truck about 3:00 and then headed home.
Location of Hike: MP3 Trail
Weather during Hike: Overcast with some sun breaks
Hiking Buddies: Otis and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 305 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We headed out a little early, as it sounded like the weather might be better earlier in the day. I was expecting to have rain and/or snow later in the day, but fortunately, it appears the rain came in a bit later than expected.
I decided to do MP3 because I love this trail and I was hoping we could get to it. I was curious how far we would get.
On the way in, on the the 4630 road we came across 3 pretty good sized deer who were making their way across the road. Once they saw us, they scurried up the hill. It was kind of a cool way to start the day. We got to the trailhead about 9:40 – here is what it looked like when we arrived:
We quickly headed up the hill. This trail gains quite a bit of elevation pretty quickly. We soon got to the first rockslide – there was a pretty good view of up on top where you could see there was quite a bit more snow:
As we continued up, the snow got deeper in places – mostly open areas. This is a more open area where it was probably a foot deep or so:
It was right around this spot somewhere, in a rockslide that had a new bit of blowdown. The tree kind of shattered, so I was able to use my loppers and handsaw to clear the mess. Unfortunately, when I was moving one of the pieces off the tread, it rotated and a branch came back and hit me in the forehead. It hurt, and left a nice bit gash on my forehead. Earlier on the hike I hit my knee and it hurt but I didn’t realize until later than it also bled – my knee and my head are pretty sore, but they will recover.
After clearing that spot, we continued up – I did some lopping on the way up to remove some of the brush. The snow continued to get deeper, but we were able to make it up to the point where MP3 joins the Rimrock trail, which is where we ate lunch:
The snow up here was probably 18-24″, maybe a little less in places – quite a bit less than other times I’ve been up here. I thought it would have more.
We ate lunch and I could tell Otis didn’t like it too much – he wanted to sit/lay down, but it was too cold for him. So we didn’t spend too much time up there. We packed up and headed back down.
On the way back down, I did some more brushing in some of the rockslides where it was getting really tough to get thru. I tried to pull out some of the new shoots rather than just cut them, hoping it would slow them down more.
The trip back down was pretty quick, even with the additional brushing work. We made it back to the truck about 1:30 – the dogs were tired and slept the whole way home.
On the way out, I stopped at an old cut area where you get a nice view to the south and west. I took a couple of photos:
Oak Grove Butte:
Fish Creek Mountain:
It was a nice, but short day out in the woods.
Location of Hike: Fish Creek - Old Road 54
Weather during Hike: Partly sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor and Otis
Start Time: 1:30 PM End Time: 4:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed out after lunch and got to the trailhead a little after 1:00. I was surprised to see another car and and a truck there. The truck had a guy getting out of it, getting ready to hike it appeared. I was amazed there was so much interest in this “trail” on a Monday. But I guess it was nice weather and it was technically a holiday. The Clackamas River trail parking lot had quite a few people in it as we passed by.
The man in the truck headed out before us, and since there were others on the trail, and I haven’t really hiked by myself with Otis, I decided to keep them on the leashes. We soon headed down the trail, with Thor and Otis in the lead:
That didn’t last too long as Thor seemed like he felt it was his “job” to lead, and would growl at Otis if he got ahead. So Thor lead, and Otis followed (mostly).
It wasn’t too far when we met a group coming back – and I heard another dog bark, so we got off the trail and let them pass – both Otis and Thor barked at them but they passed without incident. We continued south down the old road and soon saw the man who headed out before us. It wasn’t too long before he said he needed to remove some layers and let us go by. The dogs were pulling me hard, so we were making GREAT time. We passed him and a little farther down the trail I let them off leash since there shouldn’t have been anyone ahead of us. They loved that and did the usual running around with me having to remind them not to get too far ahead. They did pretty well off leash, though.
It didn’t take too long (a bit over an hour I think) to get to the first bridge, which I thought would be a good turnaround point for the day. Just short of the bridge there was a tree across the old road, so I sawed off some branches to make it easier to step over. We then got to the first bridge, with Fish Creek rushing underneath. Here is the view looking north:
And then looking south:
We stopped, had some water and ate a little bit – the man soon caught up to us and the dogs started barking at him, but once they saw he presented no danger they stopped. We chatted for a bit – he said his dad was a logger who had cut out a lot of the roadways in the drainage back in the 60’s. He had been coming down there regularly and liked the area. I wish I had gotten his name, but we were chatting about all the history in the area it never came up.
After a bit, he decided to continue further south. We shortly packed up and headed back north, back to the truck. I don’t think we really stopped at all on the way in or the way out. As I said, it was a pretty short hike by design, but we did end up hiking over 6 miles! It was a nice day out in a beautiful forest along an gorgeous creek.
Location of Hike: Helion Creek
Weather during Hike: Partly Cloudy and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 1:30 PM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 700 feet
I knew it would be a short day, so we headed out after lunch and arrived at the gravel area a little after 1:00. We headed out, down the horrible side hill, with tons of downed logs. We had realized that staying high was a better option that going low, as hugging the cliffs was usually a little easier.
As we went, we passed a couple of small creeks. One of them had a cool waterfall:
After about an hour, we made it to the creek and started searching. Kirk used his endoscope and I used mine and Zack was using his pole to poke around. Here is Kirk using his endoscope, attempting to find the drone (with the dogs supervising him):
And here is a great photo of the Helion Creek Waterfall:
Along with a video:
After a while with no success with the endoscope, I decided to put on my waders and wade the creek and use my hands to search the pools. That worked really well, although the water was REALLY cold. After about an hour of searching, we finally gave up. I thought we searched the target area pretty well, but there are a LOT of nooks and crannies it could have gotten stuck in, or it could have been washed way down the creek. Either way, we decided to call the search and head back.
The trip back seemed slightly better than the trip back the prior week (maybe we were getting better at finding a good route, or maybe we were just worn down by the rough trip). It took us about another hour to get out and back to the van. We were all tired and a little disappointed we didn’t find it. Even if we HAD found it, who knows what shape it would have been in. I guess I just wasn’t meant to have a drone. If/when I get another one, I will make sure I have one with obstacle avoidance, and I will make sure I’ve practiced flying it a LOT more before I try and fly it in a tight canyon.
Even though it was a disappointing day, it was nice to get out for a few hours.
Location of Hike: Helion Creek
Weather during Hike: Rainy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 2:15 PM
Hike Distance: 3.75 miles Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
The weather forecast for the day was wet – very wet. I was determined to go anyway – one plus was that it was supposed to be warmer most of the day – so as Kirk said “at least it is a warm rain”. The weather forecast was pretty correct. It rained most of the day a few times pretty heavily – but we also had a few spots of no rain at all which was nice.
We parked at the Armstrong campground:
We got all suited up for the rain and then headed back up the road to the bridge. One the way, Kirk wanted to look at something we’ve seen being built, but we never knew what it was. It is just south of one of the bridge crossings – just before the Lockaby campground. It appears to be an overlook, and maybe will have some interpretive signs. We got a good view of the Clackamas, which was rather angry – running high and fast:
We then headed across the road and then up the hill a bit – we had to go a little over a half mile on this steep hill to get to Helion creek. The first part wasn’t too bad, as there was kind of a Fisherman’s trail, but the hillside continued to get steeper and the going going tougher and tougher due to the steepness of the hill, the brush and a bunch of downed logs we had to negotiate over, under or around – all without falling into the river below us.
It was VERY slow going – It took us almost an hour and a half to get to the creek I think – and then took us a bit to actually get to where we could see it. The wash the creek was in was pretty steep and narrow. This was our first view of Helion Creek falls:
We carefully worked our way down to the creek and got a much better view of the waterfall. This is what it looked like from the bottom:
While we were there, I took this video of the waterfall:
It was at this point the trip took a decidedly bad turn. I got my drone for Christmas and thought this would be the perfect place to get a video of the waterfall from a perfect vantage point. It was crowded in the creek canyon so I knew it would be difficult. I unpacked the drone and fired it up. Kirk had to hold it to take off since there was no place to take off from. I had no sooner taken off than it started moving backwards (I still don’t know exactly what I did wrong – I’m very new at being a drone pilot) – but it moved backwards, hit a small tree branch and dropped straight into the creek. I watched all this in slow motion in my head. The creek was running really fast and there was a hole it fell into – we poked around trying to find it but the water was too fast and deep to really do much there. We looked for it downstream but didn’t find anything. Our best guess is that it fell into that hole and one or more of the arms got stuck in the rocks. Even if we had been able to find it, I’m sure it would have been ruined by the water. So my really cool Christmas present, which had probably only 4 of 5 flights (all but 2 at home in the backyard), was gone. It was about at this point when it started raining REALLY hard. We decided to head down the creek to a spot where it seemed easier to get out of the creek canyon. We headed downstream, looking for any evidence of my drone, but found nothing.
We made it down to a spot that was a lot easier to get up out of, and then started heading back. By this time it was getting close to 1:00, so we found a big log that was somewhat sheltered and had some lunch. We ate pretty quickly and were starting to get a bit cold, so we packed up continued on. We took a different path back. I’m not sure if it was any easier than the path we took in, but it had quite a few tough spots to get thru – a few that I had to help Thor get thru too. He kind of struggled with the more difficult log crossings due to the steepness of the hill.
We finally made it back to the parking area near the bridge -we were back on easy walking again. For the second piece of the day, we headed across the bridge and then over to the Carter Bridge campground where we headed up the hill to the old road grade. I’m not sure when the road was re-aligned but it had to have been a long time ago. The bridges don’t have dates on them, but they are riveted, so I’m guessing they are pre 1960’s at least. It kind of made sense the road went where it did because it eliminated the need for two bridges. The bad thing was that the route was pretty windy and they probably had some significant problems with rocks falling on the road.
Anyway, we headed down the road, and soon saw this aftermath from the 36 pit fire – it was laying right in the road – interesting it was upright:
A little farther the dogs (who were off leash – we didn’t expect to see anyone up here) started barking so we called them back and a couple passed us. They told us there was a shack a bit further up the road. And sure enough, a bit farther up the road we found this old shack – it appeared that it might have been water for the Carter Bridge campground at some point in the past – there appeared to be a spring or something directly behind it – it was obviously non functional:
After looking at the old shack for a bit, we continued down the road – at one point we got a pretty good view of the Clackamas:
We continued down the road – this is kind of what a “normal” section of it looked like:
We decided we would head down the old road to where it used to meet the current road. It wasn’t too long before we met highway 224. We then headed across the bridge and back to the truck. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t raining when we got back to the truck so we were able to change our shoes without getting soaked. The dogs were more than ready to get in the truck. We were all tired! Even though it wasn’t a lot of mileage, it was pretty tough mileage.
An interesting day of exploring with one bummer. A trip to Fearless for a beer and some fries (since we were too early for dinner) made for a great way to end the day.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Overcast
Hiking Buddies: Jet and Thor
Start Time: 10:20 AM End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4.25 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
I headed over to pick up Jet and then we headed out. It is a relatively short drive to the Cripple Creek trailhead, which is a good wintertime hike. I didn’t think I’d need my snowshoes, although it turned out they would have been useful farther up the trail.
We got to the trailhead a little after 10:00 – I had to get myself ready before I let the dogs out of the truck, and I wanted to keep them on their leashes for at least the beginning of the trip – at least until we got out of view of the road. We headed up the trail and I was getting assisted up the hill by two dog power:
We got to the first rockslide and I wanted to experiment a bit with my new drone – my Christmas present. I haven’t flown it much yet, so I’m only trying to fly it relatively close and within eyesight. This was the view looking south(ish):
And here is the same general direction from the drone (much better photo!):
After I flew the drone for a few minutes, I packed it up and we continued up the hill. There was essentially no snow for the first bit of the trip, but as we ascended, we started to see more and more snow. This is a picture of the dogs just after we hit some snow:
Right next to the trail is a really nice spring – great place for water. It also has a very nice “bowl” that makes it great for dogs to drink out of. Jet decided to get a drink:
And close by that, I noticed this tree root. I wonder if some animal has been sleeping here?
We continued up and the snow got deeper and deeper, especially in the cut area. We soon got to the first crossing of the 130 spur where the dogs played for a bit. I was thinking that the upper crossing would be a great place for lunch. But one of my favorites places on this trail is the section between those two crossings:
I’m guessing the snow was about a foot deep in here, which made moving rather difficult since I didn’t bring my snowshoes. I figured the upper road crossing would be a good spot to turn around.
We shortly made it up to the second crossing where we stopped and had lunch and the dogs played for while. Here are some videos I took:
Video of Jet and Thor chasing snowballs:
Video of Jet catching snowballs in his mouth:
Thor doing his “beaver” imitation in the snow and him and Jet playing:
After eating lunch and letting the dogs play for a while, we headed back down.. The trip back down was pretty quick and uneventful, minus one interesting thing. We were just east of the hillside meadow when both Jet and Thor wanted to head downhill off trail. I thought they heard some animal or something – Thor came back but Jet continued – he walked over to a tree and found this (which he promptly brought back):
Both of them had smelled this bone from 15-20′ from the trail! The both have pretty good sniffers!
After that, we headed back to the rockslides where I took the drone up again and took some photos (on the first flight I just took some video). After the quick flight, we headed down to the truck, loaded up and headed home. The dogs were both pretty tired and slept the whole way home.
A great day to spend MLK day!
Location of Hike: Lower Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to partly sunny with rain, snow and sleet
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie, Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.5miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Due to the warmer than normal weather we’ve been having, we were able to easily make it to the lower trailhead at almost 3000′. It wasn’t really raining when we got there, so we quickly suited up for extreme weather and headed up the trail. The trail basically follows the ridge up to an old clearcut below Cottonwood Meadows. The lower portion of this trail is in some magnificent old growth with tread in really good shape:
We did encounter quite a few downed logs and a few messes on the beginning of the trail, but we cleaned up what we could and went over/around what we couldn’t. It wasn’t too long before we popped up onto the 5830-265 road where we saw just a little bit of snow:
We walked up the road and then went cross country thru the clearcut (the trail thru the clearcut was wiped out). After a few attempts at making sure we were going the right direction, we got up tp the 240 spur crossing where there was more snow. Beyond this crossing the real trail continues north:
Right after that crossing, we got to the first, lower Meadow, which looked mostly frozen over:
And then continued north thru a couple of small little meadows towards Cottonwood Lake:
And shortly arrived at a mostly frozen Cottonwood Lake (although none of us wanted to try it out to see how frozen it really was!):
We ate lunch there and looked around a bit and then headed out. When we got to the 240 spur, we decided to walk back the road rather than going cross country, since it was rather difficult – there was a lot of melting snow water runoff which added to the difficulty of getting thru the clearcut. The plan was to head west until the road turned and then head uphill to the upper road – this would cut quite a bit of time off the trip – almost a mile of road walking it looks like.
We made it up to the road turn and then up the hill – from there we went uphill and soon found the upper road that had been bermed at an old gate location. It was in this section I took some photos of Thor having fun in the snow:
He had lots of fun with Ollie – running around and doing his beaver thing in the snow and even doing some frapping at one point.
We finally came back to the 265 spur and things had cleared up a bit from what they were in the morning – we still got gusts of wind occasionally but there was even a few small spots of blue sky at times – You can sort of see Mt Mitchell in the background (in the clouds behind the trees):
We headed down the road and onto the old trail and quickly made it back to the truck, doing a little bit of trail maintenance along the way – cutting out some smaller trees.
Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive down to the end of the road and check out the collapsed bridge over Cot Creek:
It is really growing in – it was interesting to see how much work went into building that bridge too – there was a LOT of cribbing on each approach.
After checking out the bridge we headed back to town – we wanted to stop at Fearless but they were closed for New Years Day. We headed over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon (I had been there once with Don) for a beer and some appetizers.
It was a very interesting day on a beautiful old trail in a very interesting area. The winter weather warning didn’t really seem to come to pass – other than a few gusts of wind and a little bit of rain, sleet and snow at times, it really wasn’t that bad up there. I was expecting to get a LOT wetter than we did. I wasn’t even sure we would be able to make it up all the way due to the wind. It turned out to be a pretty good middle of winter day in the woods. A good start to the new year.
Location of Hike: Wenatchee - Burch Mountain
Weather during Hike: Partly sunny to foggy and cold
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 10:50 AM End Time: 1:45 PM
Hike Distance: 7.9 miles Elevation Gain: 2100 feet
We drove up the road, which is the extension of the Burch Mountain Road (there are houses on it). At some point, it transitioned to gravel and eventually crossed into the national forest. Carly kept driving and we did OK on the way up. At some point we transitioned into ponderosa pine forest instead of just desert sagebrush, etc. We finally stopped at a spot where the snow was starting to get deeper:
We headed up the road from that point – there had been no traffic up that way on that day so far. We just walked up the road. It was easy walking except for a few icy spots (I fell in one spot and jammed my thumb pretty bad – it hurt for a couple days). When we got up a little ways, the road split. We had to decide which way to go:
The left road would go up to Eagle Rock and we could look at a communication tower – the right road headed up to Burch Mountain. We opted to see how far we could get up to Burch Mountain – Carly had not been up there before. So to the right it was.
As we worked our way up the road, we got to an open area where we could see the communication tower that we could have opted to go explore:
We continued up the road and the snow just kept getting deeper and deeper although it wasn’t too difficult to walk in – we followed the tire ruts mostly – the dogs were having a blast in the deeper snow:
As we were making our way up, I knew we would be later than expected so I texted Gail to let her know – we had good cell service the whole way. Eventually, we got to the end of the road, but we weren’t quite up to the top yet. We had to take a narrow path past the end of the road up to the summit of Burch Mountain – I think it ended up being about a quarter of a mile to the summit from the end of the road. Here was our final push to the top:
When we were lower, it appeared as thought we were going to be socked in with fog, but as we headed up, things cleared up quite a bit. Here is the view to the west from the top of Burch Mountain:
And this was a shot looking back from where we came – you can see the communication tower in the distance – we more or less followed the ridge out:
We didn’t stay on top too long – the dogs were getting cold and we needed to get back. So we headed back down and back to the car. When we were close to the car we encountered a group of people in side by side’s heading up the hill, but those were the only people we saw all day. We made good time on the way down and then started driving back down the road – slowly – there were a lot of icy spots. In one spot Carly’s car started sliding sideways and I took over driving – we didn’t have any other treacherous spots, but it was a pretty slow drive back down the road.
It was an unexpectedly nice hike with a lot more snow than I was expecting to encounter and also quite a bit farther than I thought we would be going. But it all worked out well.
Location of Hike: Wenatchee- Saddle Hill
Weather during Hike: Cold
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Gail, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 11:00 AM
Hike Distance: 3.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
We continued up and soon made it to the hill that overlooked Saddle rock:
While we were up there, Thor and Otis decided to run around and play:
While up there we decided to take a slightly different route back down and hike by Rooster Comb (shown as Old Butte on the map). We snaked our way down, using a faint user trail to get over to more of a proper trail. I didn’t climb up on the rock, but it was pretty much the same view we had the whole trip. This is what Rooster Comb looked like from the backside:
The whole hillside is covered in many trails – some official, some user trails. They head off in many directions.
It was a short hike, but it was interesting and a neat way to spend a couple of hours.
Location of Hike: Fish Creek Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 541
Weather during Hike: Overcast and Cold with a couple of sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:20 AM End Time: 2:50 PM
Hike Distance: 6 miles Elevation Gain: 2100 feet
and some shots down the South Fork of the Clackamas drainage (as much as you could see – it was pretty foggy):
Since Plan A and Plan B both were foiled, I had to figure out where to go. I could have hiked Hillockburn, but I wasn’t in the mood for that short of a hike and I wanted to see a little bit of snow. I thought I would try to see if I could get to the Fish Creek Mountain trailhead (which was about 3100′). If that wasn’t available, I figured I could hike Cripple Creek – I know I could get to that trailhead for sure.
I was able to easily drive to the Fish Creek Mountain trailhead – it had almost no snow. I’m guessing the first row of mountains must have sucked a lot of the snow out of the storms and Fish Creek didn’t get as much. Or something like that. There was just a tiny bit in the trees, but nothing on the roads. I’m also glad I got my Garmin so I could send a message to Gail to let her know where I was. I told her I might have to change plans, and it is nice to be able to do that but still let her know where I will be in case something happens.
We got suited up and headed up the trail. This trail starts on an old cat road and soon joins a very old abandoned trail segment that takes you up to the ridge and the old road which then takes you to the original trailhead. While walking the old road, I saw something I’ve never seen before on this trail – an old sign:
I know it means Township 6,Range 6, Section 18, but I’m not sure what the 05 is for or what it means – it has a US Forest Service plaque on it so it must be “official” – but it is very old.
We continued up the road and soon found the old trailhead and headed up. I was surprised there was not more snow up on the ridge. It was pretty much just a dusting of snow. It was mostly foggy the whole way but the clouds did part a few times like this quick view we got:
Another unique thing on this trip I noticed was this hard to see phenomenon – ice on the BOTTOM of the branches – I thought it was snow at first, but it was ice and it was under the branches – really interesting:
We continued up the trail and really had basically no snow until about 4000′ and even there it was pretty light:
This is what most of the viewpoints looked like – foggy:
But we got to see LOTS of the white stuff! As we were hiking up, I really liked this rock outcropping covered in fresh snow:
We continued up the hill (I forgot how much uphill this trip is – it is a LOT), with the snow slowly getting deeper. As we got closer to the lookout, the snow got quite a bit deeper – but not REALLY deep – this was maybe 5-6″:
We got to the old lookout location and had some lunch. Thor did some frapping in the snow and chased some snowballs. The sun briefly tried to peek out while we were eating lunch:
And here is Thor playing in the snow:
It kind of felt like it was getting colder and the sun went away and then it started snowing!
I contemplated going down to high lake, but since the days are short, I opted to just continue down the trail and head back out. We probably could have gone down to the lake and back, but it would have been getting dark by the time we got back to the truck, so I think it was a good call to skip the side excursion today. It would have been interesting to see in the snow. I was also curious how much snow would have been down by the lake. I’m thinking it probably hasn’t had time to accumulate so there might not be much yet.
Anyway, we headed back down, making pretty good time since it was all downhill. On the way back down, I let my phone acclimate and it said it was 25 degrees! I was thinking it was more like 30-31 degrees – just below freezing. I was off by a bit!
On one of the side viewpoints on the way back down, I think I saw East Mountain:
We soon got back to the old road and made quick work of getting back down to the truck. We made it back to the truck just before 3, so we were able to make it home before it got dark.
An absolutely beautiful snowy day in the woods. Very peaceful and serene. A nice way to close out my hiking for 2019.
Location of Hike: Elk Lake Creek/Welcome Lakes Trail
Trail Number: 519, 554
Weather during Hike: Overcast with a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:45 AM End Time: 3:40 PM
Hike Distance: 7.8 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
We headed out about 9:00 and made it to the trailhead about 10:30 or so. I was surprised to see another vehicle there. We suited up – it was rather chilly (34 degrees or so) and headed up the trail. The trail starts out in an old clearcut and shortly opens out into the burned area from the 2008/2010 (I’m not sure which was where) fire. Here is a map showing the three different fires that have affected the Bull of the Woods Wilderness recently:
And this is what the beginning of the trail looks like thru the fire damaged area – lots of burned out trees but a few survivors, especially down by the creek:
A short ways in, you come to a really cool area – the creek takes more than a 90 degree bend and there is a nice waterfall – it was flowing very fast and loud today:
And here is a short video of the waterfall – you can hear how loud it was:
As we were hiking thru this area, I noticed quite a few young trees popping up all over the place – they are somewhat hard to see in this photo (all my photos were kind of washed out on this trip – maybe because it was so overcast and foggy) – here are some of the new sprouts:
We continued up the trail, doing a little bit of trail maintenance as we went – trying to make passage over some of the logs easier. Soon, we got to the Pine Cone Creek Crossing, which is where the Bull of the Woods Wilderness boundary is:
We continued up the trail and soon got got an unmarked side trail which we believe is the old trail over to Janus Butte. I had gone down this trail a few years ago and explored a bit – we decided to go down and to have lunch by the creek. This is what it looked like:
When looking at it, we wondered if this was a ford spot – it doesn’t look quite natural and somewhere they would have had to ford the creek to continue up the other side. That exploration would have to wait for another day, however. The water was too fast and deep to cross today.
We ate lunch next to the creek, did a little more exploring of the campsite there and then headed back up to the trail. We continued a bit farther to the Knob Rock Creek Crossing-this was a little challenging due to the volume of water coming thru here:
Right above the crossing there is a very nice waterfall:
And here is a short video of the waterfall – it was running pretty fast and loud:
We expected there to be some distance between the Knob Rock Creek and Welcome Creek crossings, but they are almost next to each other. The maps are not quite correct. I don’t know if winter storms have changed their courses or what, but they are VERY close to each other now. This is the much easier Welcome creek crossing:
After crossing these two creeks we very quickly came to the Welcome Lakes junction. We decided to go down to the Elk Lake Creek crossing just to see what it looked like. It is not very far from the Welcome Lakes junction. We headed down there and quickly got to the first crossing point:
I’ve crossed here at least twice – but always in the summer when the water is much lower. Even then, it is at least 6″ deep. I’d guess the water was 18″+ deep and it was pretty cold. We opted not to attempt crossing it. So, we turned around back to the Welcome Lakes junction and headed up that to see how far we could get.
The first half mile or so of the trail is in un-burned territory but is getting rather brushy in places. It goes uphill at a pretty good rate, so it was somewhat challenging. After the first half mile of wooded terrain, we started to break out into the burned area. From here is got even more challenging due to all the downed logs and washed out tread sections. Part way up, Kirk noticed Janus Butte to our southeast:
The one thing that the fire did is to open up a lot more views on this trail. Although there are a LOT of snags, you can see out across the valley – pre-fire this section of trail would have been in heavy forest cover.
There are a few VERY messy sections in this area like this (yes, there is tread under all those trees):
We headed up a little farther and got a pretty good look at Schreiner and Knob Peaks too:
And looking east, we could see a bit of Rho Ridge:
We continued up, seeing just a hint of snow here and there and doing a little bit of trail maintenance where we could, although most of it was not work for a handsaw. We made it up to about 3500′ and decided we should turn around – I was hoping we might be able to get to Welcome Lakes but the days are short and I didn’t want to hike in the dark. This trail is quite a workout between the elevation gain and all the downed logs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we encountered 100 downed logs in the mile of the trail we hiked.
The trip down was pretty uneventful – we did a little more work up high on Welcome Lakes, but soon decided we needed to just push to get out before dark. We made it back to the truck a little before 4:00 – it was already starting to get dark. When we got back to the truck, the vehicle that was there when we arrived was gone. We never saw anyone else all day long so I’m not sure where we crossed. Maybe they were farther up the trail, or maybe they came back while we were down at the creek or up Welcome Lakes or something. It was nice having the trail to ourselves all day long, however.
A stop at Fearless on the way home was a great way to finish a nice day of exploring an interesting area.
Location of Hike: Pansy Lake Area
Trail Number: 551, 558, 554, 550, 549
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM End Time: 4:50 PM
Hike Distance: 8.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
I had seen references to the trail before, and a few years ago Zack and I did some explorations on the west side of the lake where we found the old mine and some blazes and such. I wanted to see if we could find the whole old trail. We were mostly successful.
Since the days are short this time of year I wasn’t sure how far we would get. We started at the usual time and ended up getting to the trailhead about 10:30. Not another soul in sight however we did pass a couple of trucks coming down the hill – I’m guessing they were hunters.
We suited up and headed out. Since neither of us were sure where the old trail started Kirk started from one campsite and I started farther west and then headed south looking for blazes or old tread. I was thinking this re-route was done in the 70’s or 80’s, but I think it could have been earlier. Even 1980 is almost 40 years ago now.
After walking around the woods in circles, Kirk found the old trail not too far from the current trail. We followed it a bit and decided to back track to see if we could follow it back to the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it all the way back to the road- it got lost at some point. We turned back around and followed the old trail. We did however find some pretty nice pieces of the old trail with some good blazes:
When we got to the Audrey Creek crossing (this creek is unnamed on the topo maps, but the project map document showed it as “Audrey Creek”), the trail crossed under a small but very nice waterfall:
Here is a video of waterfall in action:
We continued south and a bit farther we found an old campsite:
The trail then headed west and down into a flat area. We found the old trail along the north side of this flat area, but there was a wet area where we struggled thru some thick brush and kind of lost the trail. Kirk thought it might have gone up to the ridge farther to the west (which I think it did, because we found the tread farther south – up the hill). After re-finding the tread, we headed up the rather steep section to another flat area – we then climbed a small knoll and ate lunch. We thought this knoll might have a good view, but it had too many trees. Kirk got this photo looking north:
After eating a quick lunch and realizing it was getting late (it was like 1:30 at this point), we decided to just find the mine, take a look and then head up to the lookout and hopefully make it down before it got dark. On the Northwest side of Pansy Lake there is this interesting seasonal pond:
We continued south, following the trail past a bunch of campsites and finally finding the old mine:
We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the mine – we quickly headed back towards the lake:
And then headed over to the east side of the lake and then south (and up) on the current trail. (we had almost 1500′ to gain before we got to the lookout) On the way up the trail, we found one of the spots where the old trail crossed the existing trail (as shown on the project map). That was kind of cool. We shortly got up to the junction with the Motherlode Trail and headed east, climbing pretty much all the way. There was a viewpoint where we got a great view of Mt Jefferson:
We tried not to stop, but we had to make a few breather breaks on the way up. We finally got to the Welcome Lakes Junction and then headed back west – our final push up to the lookout. It wasn’t too long before we make it to the Bull of the Woods Lookout:
The lookout is doing pretty well, all things considered. It doesn’t appear to be really getting any maintenance but it still stands. Every time I see it, it is a little bit more weathered than the last time I saw it.
Here is a nice view from the lookout – looking over to Big Slide Mountain and Schreiner Peak behind it and Olallie Butte to the south:
We spent a few minutes at the lookout enjoying the view, but it was getting late – it was about 3:30 and we figured it would be getting dark by 5:00. We were hoping we could make it down in an hour – the plan was to take the Bull of the Woods trail (550) down to the Dickey Lake trail (549) and then back the final leg of the Pansy Lake trail to the truck.
We kept up a good pace, but were slowed somewhat on the Dickey Lake trail due to a bunch of downed logs. We were trying to go as fast as we could. Once we got to the Pansy Lake trail it started getting rather dark in the trees, but we didn’t need to pull out the headlamps. We finally made it back to the truck just before 5:00 and it was almost dark. Not another soul to be seen all day long.
I took the drive back down the mountain slowly – I was expecting to see some animals and didn’t want to hit any of them. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any animals on the way down. We made it back to Estacada a little after 6 and had a burger and a beer at Fearless.
It was a fantastic day of exploring on an absolutely beautiful fall day. I’m so glad I was able to get out and enjoy it.
Location of Hike: Rimrock Trail
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:50 AM End Time: 1:50 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
We got a bit of a late start – I had to help with a few things around the house before I left. We made it up to the trailhead just before 11:00 and quickly headed out. I wanted it to be a relatively short day since the days are getting pretty short. We headed down the trail and made pretty quick time of it, getting to the overlook just after noon. We went out on the point, where it was kind of breezy – and it was a cold breeze. I put my coat on and we had some lunch and enjoyed the views. Here is a picture of Thor at the overlook-I’m not sure what he was looking at:
Mt Hood was nice and clear today:
Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte were also pretty clear:
We spent a little bit of time up there looking for the old helipad – I swore I had seen one there before but haven’t been able to find it. I think I solved the mystery – I looked around and found some yellow bits and some old plywood where I thought the helipad was. After I got home I went back and looked at some old photos I had taken and it appears as though the yellow plastic in this photo:
has disappeared – either someone took it or it blew away. You can see some old plywood in that photo, but it looks like it continues to disintegrate which is why it is hard to see the remnants of it anymore. Mystery solved.
After looking for the helipad we headed back down. On the way back to the main trail Thor started running – there was someone else coming up the trail! It really surprised me. He said he was doing a 13 mile hike from Shellrock Lake and was on mile 8. I’m guessing he must have come Shellrock Lake trail to Grouse Point, then Grouse Point south to Cache Meadow, then walked the road to the Rimrock trailhead. He said he was going to head down to 5830 and take a left after he finished at the viewpoint, so I guessed he would probably road walk back to the Shellrock Lake trailhead back to his camp (or car). That is quite a hike for November!
After briefly chatting with the solo hiker, we continued down the trail. We did a couple minor items of trail maintenance, cutting one small log off, moving another and cleaning up a bunch of branches from another downed log (it made it a lot easier to get around without the branches). We made quick time down the hill and got back to the truck just before 2:00. We headed back down the narrow and bumpy upper stretches of 4635. On the way down, I stopped at a viewpoint and snapped this photo of Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead:
I recently realized that is the header image on the Trailadvocates page! That photo was taken at a different time of year however. All the leaves were gone today. It is still a really nice view.
I always enjoy the woods on this hike as well as the historical nature of the trail. I can always feel the history when I hike it. This was a pretty mellow hike, but it was nice to just spend some time in the moment up at the overlook and enjoy another beautiful fall day. I don’t know how many more we will have.
Location of Hike: Whetstone Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 546 3369
Weather during Hike: Sunny changing to overcast
Hiking Buddies: Nicholas, Jet and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 12:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
We left the house a little after 8:00 so that we could get back early afternoon. We made it to the trailhead just after 9:30 and got ready and headed out. I had forgotten that you head downhill a little ways at the start of this trail. You head thru an old clearcut, down hill to the “real” trail (in the old growth). From there, you travel some mostly level spots with some uphill until you get to the junction with “some” trail (I’m not really sure what trail is what in this area – the numbering is very confusing). From there you head west for about 3/4 of a mile to the spot where the 3369 Trail (coming up from Opal Creek) joins – from there it is a pretty short ascent to the top.
The hike was pretty short – about 2 miles each way. Jet and Thor had never hiked before but they had a great time and we had no problems with them. About all we had to do was to make sure they stayed relatively close to us – same problem I have with Thor – but when we called, they always came running so it all worked out great. Here they are on the trail:
When we got to a small rockslide, there is a small, shallow pond. It was completely frozen, and Jet decided to walk out on the ice:
Amazingly enough he didn’t fall thru until the very edge, where it was a little thinner. The pond can’t be more than 18″ deep or so.
We continued up the trail and soon joined the last push to the top. It gets kind of steep, but we soon made it up. The sky was almost completely cloud free on the way up. We ended up having lunch at the old lookout site and were rewarded with really nice views. To the east there was Pansy and Silver King Mountains:
And to the south there was Mt Jefferson, which was mostly visible – just the peak was hiding in the clouds:
We ate lunch and enjoyed the view for a while. Since we needed to get back, we started back down about 11:30 I think. By the time we headed back down, the clouds had started to roll in. It looked like it might rain at some point.
The trip back down was pretty uneventful. I enjoyed hiking thru the glorious old growth and Jet and Thor were having a great time together. We made it back to the truck about 12:30 and headed home. On the way home, the dogs were tired and Jet kind of took up the whole back seat, but after a while, they figured out how to both sleep in the back seat of my truck:
It was a great day out in the woods – a fantastic fall day. Having my son and the two dogs just made it that much better.
Location of Hike: Thunder Mountain and Skookum Lake Trails
Trail Number: 542 and 543
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cool
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.25 miles Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
We headed out at the “usual time” (just Thor and I) and made our way down all the narrow Forest Service roads. I drove quite a bit slower than usual because I was worried I might run into log trucks on the roads. There is thinning going on and I saw one loaded truck coming out as I was driving in. Fortunately, I didn’t meet any trucks. Not sure where the active thinning is going on, but that one truck was the only one I saw all day long.
On the way in, on the 4620 road, I got a pretty good view of Olallie Butte and the tip of Mt Jefferson – you can see the beautiful fall colors as well:
Shortly before the trailhead (probably the last mile or so), the road is getting increasingly brushy – I was pleased to see someone had cut a bunch of the brush out so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be. We got to the trailhead just before 11 and headed out. The beginning of this trail goes thru a cut area and has a few very brushy sections of Thimbleberry. Those were easier to navigate today as there has obviously been a hard freeze and many of the leaves are dying now. After getting thru those first couple of inital rough spots, we got back into the forest and soon encountered the first real snow:
Shortly after seeing the snow, I noticed this print which looks like a small bear (cub maybe?):
A little further up the trail there is a switchback that gives a nice view of Olallie Butte and Mt Jefferson:
We made it up to the top where the two trails meet and the Skookum Lake trail heads down. We decided to head down to Skookum Lake first and then do Thunder Mountain second.
On the way down to the lake, there is this cool rock grotto – I remember shortly after the fire (2005 maybe?) there was a ribbon there saying this was a “safe area” – some place the firefighters could go if the fire got out of hand:
We worked our way down to the lake – it was nice – the trail has been recently cut out and there are almost no downed logs on the trail. The last time I hiked this trail, there were several bad patches of downed logs that made hiking it difficult. Those have all been cleared.
Skookum Lake was sporting fall colors:
It was rather chilly down at the lake – the whole north side of the mountain was kind of chilly but since I was moving it wasn’t too bad.
We made our way around the lake to the nice campsite at north end of lake:
It felt good sitting in the sun at the picnic table. We ate some lunch, looked around a bit and then headed back up.
I had forgotten about some of these sections – maybe because they weren’t loaded with snow or dripping wet. But I got pretty wet and snowy going thru a few spots like this:
Good thing I have quick drying pants on! Otherwise I would have gotten pretty cold.
On the way down the hill I had noticed 3 of these huge ant hills – I didn’t take photos until the return trip. But they were pretty impressive:
The only other trail I remember seeing these on was the Fish Creek Mountain trail – but now there is another one! Those ants sure are busy! I hadn’t noticed them being active on the way down, but they were certainly active on the way back up. I’m assuming it had warmed up enough for them to get out of the hill by the time I went back up.
We made good time on the way back up – I only had to stop 2 or 3 times to catch my breath (I felt pretty good about that). We made it to the junction and then took the short spur up to the old lookout location. It was sunny and pretty warm up there, and very little wind. I had heard it was supposed to be rather windy, but I didn’t feel it up on top. There were great views in almost all directions – here is a great view of Mt Hood from the top of Thunder Mountain:
I wanted to stay longer, but Thor was restless, so we headed back down. On the way down, I did a bit of searching for potential old trail connections that would have headed up to East Mountain – unfortunately, I was not able to find any semblance of old trail connections.
We made it back down to the truck about 3 and headed home. Thor was tired (as was I) – but we both enjoyed a beautiful fall day out in the woods.
Location of Hike: Pacific Crest Trail
Trail Number: 2000
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 5:30 PM
Hike Distance: 12 miles Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
Thor and I made the long drive to the trailhead, the Breitenbush trailhead on the PCT – it is almost a 2 hour drive and the last 5 or 6 miles are down the pretty rough 4220 road. We got to the trailhead a little before 11. There was a man and his wife getting ready but only a few cars were there (maybe 4 or 5). We quickly got ready and headed out.
A short ways down the trail, we go this really good look at Ruddy Hill, Pyramid Butte, Mt Hood and Olallie (in the trees):
Then looking northwest we got a view of all the peaks in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (Battle Ax is the easiest to see – to the left – Schreiner Peak is the tallest peak to the right center of the photo):
We continued south on the trail, meeting a few people, including some PCT thru hikers. We went thru the first burned area and missed the junction with the trail to Pyramid Butte (we saw it on the way back). We made pretty good time and soon were almost up to Park Ridge where we got a good view of Mt Hood and Olallie Butte – you don’t see this side of Olallie too much as it shows the steep drop off on the east side of the butte:
Just below Park Ridge there was a small snow field next to the trail and Thor spent a while doing his “beaver” thing in the snow. We were in the sun a lot of the day and he had been getting hot, so I’m sure the cool snow felt good to him. I should have taken a photo.
We finally made it to Park Ridge – the high point of the hike. We stopped there for lunch, where there were quite a few people stopped. We found a spot in the shade where we ate lunch and I took a photo of Thor being Thor:
After eating lunch I walked around the ridge looking for the old sign that marked the entrance into the Willamette National Forest. We saw it back in 2012:
I had heard that it had disappeared and it certainly has. I think I found the logs that made up the frame of the sign, but no traces of the sign itself could be found. I’m wondering if the Forest Service came and got it or something as a historical artifact. Anyway, it is sad it is gone – it was a cool piece of history since it still said Skyline Trail. I’m glad I got to see it before it disappeared.
After looking for the sign for a bit, we headed down the trail into Jefferson Park. There was this great view of Mt Jefferson while we were descending into Jefferson Park:
And a little farther down the trail we started getting into Jefferson Park for real – it is very beautiful-green and lush, even in August:
It wasn’t long before we made it to the shore of Russell Lake:
There were a LOT of people milling around the area, and we saw a few tents there. We stopped in a shady spot and I wanted to just enjoy the scenery for a bit but Thor got restless. I took one last photo of Russell Lake beneath Mt Jefferson
and then we headed out. There are a LOT of user trails in Jefferson Park so we had to find our way out. As we were heading up and out, I took another photo of Mt Jefferson rising above Jefferson Park – I never get tired of that view:
We then headed back up the trail – it is rather steep farther down and gets a little more graded as you get up the hill.
We were almost back up to the top of Park Ridge when we finally met Kirk and Sarah. It was about 3:45 and we still had a ways to hike back. Ollie and Thor had fun playing for a few minutes and we all talked for a bit and then Thor and I headed up and Kirk, Sarah and Ollie headed down. They had camped before Park Ridge at one of the small tarns. Since they didn’t have too far to get back they still had a lot of time to explore before dark.
We got back up to Park Ridge and this time there were only a few people up there. We crossed over the ridge and headed down the other side. I caught this picture just below the ridge where you can see Eastern Oregon pretty well (although it was a lot easier to see in person):
Thor played in the same snow field he did on the way up – he was getting pretty hot – being in the sun most of the day. It is tough having black fur!!!
We made good time and on the way down, I took a photo of this cool rock formation that I had seen on the way up (but neglected to photograph):
There wasn’t a whole lot that stuck out on the way down. Since it was getting late, we were just trying to make time so that we wouldn’t be getting home too late. We met a few people on the way back, but it was a lot quieter on the way back than the way in. I could tell Thor was getting really tired. I was tired too, but we still had a mile or two to go, so I had to encourage him a bit to keep going. We stopped a few times so he could rest – I checked his pads in case he wore them off like he did a couple months ago on a very rocky hike. He was fine, just tired, so we took it slow and took a few rest stops.
We finally made it back to the truck about 5:30pm – that last mile seemed to stretch on forever! We loaded up and started the long bumpy road home.
I always love Jefferson Park. It was a good day in the woods.
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 Chinese 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 (it is almost impossible to see in this photo):
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 spent 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!