Tag Archives: 550

8/19/2020-Bull of the Woods Trail – 550

Date of Hike: 8/19/2020
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trai
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM  End Time: 2:00 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles  Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Pictures: Link
Today’s hike was my birthday hike. I have the week off and today was my birthday, so I decided to take a hike (no pun intended). I decided to hike the Bull of the Woods trail up to the lookout since I was doing a mid week hike. I was hoping I wouldn’t encounter any people. It can get rather busy at times.

We headed out and made good time up to the trailhead. We got there just after 10:00 and found no cars there (whew!). We suited up and headed up the trail. The hike up was pretty uneventful, but I did get some nice views of Mt Hood from the trail:

We probably stopped once or twice to drink some water, and I stopped a few times to eat some huckleberries – they were all over the place right next to the trail, but it didn’t seem like anyone was eating them! Thor even ate a few – they were small, but REALLY good.

Just before noon we made it to the lookout. I could tell Thor was tired. He laid down under the lookout and I went up to look around. I had an experience I’ve never had up here before – I was actually able to go inside the lookout! Someone had replaced windows and had one of the storm shutters propped open. This is what it looks like inside the lookout:

Nothing hugely special – pretty much typical of what you’d see in a lookout. There were lots of tools in there – a few years ago I remembered seeing shingles inside the lookout – I couldn’t tell if they had used them on the roof or not, but they were gone. Someone had replaced some of the windows in the lookout however, so it does appear to be getting a little bit of attention.

From the catwalk on the lookout it gives you great views of the surrounding mountains and peaks. Looking northeast, there was a great view of Mt Hood and Big Slide Mountain:

And to the south there was Mt Jefferson and Three Sisters:

I was enjoying the view from up there, but Thor was whining because I was up there, so after taking a few photos I came down. We ate lunch in the shade under the lookout where Thor laid down for a bit. I just enjoyed the view and the solitude for a while and then we decided to head back down. As we started down, I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of the lookout, so I snapped a quick one from the trail below as we were leaving:

As we headed down, I was stopping to eat some of the huckleberries and encountered a couple that was backpacking. They must have come up from Dickey Lake because when I got back there were still no cars in the trailhead lot. We passed each other quickly (in a covid world) and I continued down. As we got partway down, I decided to start looking for insulators – I’d never been able to find any, but today I found two – here is one I found:

We made good time going down, and the last thing I wanted to do was to try and find the old alignment of this trail. I had made a waypoint at some point marking “old trail”. When coming up, I realized it was where a post was. There was no tread apparent right at the junction, but going just offtrail, the old tread was quite evident. Here is a photo looking back up to the existing trail and the post. The tread is all there, just overgrown with huckleberries:

Here is another section not quite so overgrown:

It was pretty easy to follow all the way down to where it ended at an old spur road – I’m guessing the old trailhead must have been here at one point:

We walked back this road to the truck. Here is a view of Pasola Mountain from the 6340-033 spur – the original trail used to go to the left of Pasola and would have met up with this alignmnent I’m pretty sure – but that was a long time ago:

We soon made it back to the truck and headed out.

The last memorable thing about the day was on the way out a fox trotted across the road in front of me. He didn’t seem too concerned about me – he wasn’t running or anything. First time I’ve ever seen a fox in the woods!

It was a great way to spend my birthday.

11/16/2019 – Pansy Lake and BOTW Lookout

Date of Hike: 11/16/2019
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
Pictures: Link
Today’s hike was an exploration to see if we could find the “old” Pansy Lake trail. In my picking thru historical stuff at the Forest Service, I found an old document that showed a pretty major trail re-route of the Pansy Lake trail. It showed the (at that point) existing trail on the west side of the lake and a new trail to be built going up the east side of the creek. Here is a photo of the document I found:

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.

6/22/2018 – Bull of the Woods Trail – 550

Date of Hike: 6/22/2018
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  
Pictures: Link
Today’s hike was a bit of a spur of the moment. I decided on Thursday to take Friday off work and head out on a hike (so I could do stuff around the house over the weekend, but still get in a hike). I had wanted to go explore the old water source for the Bull of the Woods lookout after seeing references in a “What it was like to man a lookout” document.

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.

10/24/2017 – Bull of the Woods Lookout

Date of Hike: 10/24/2017
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM  End Time: 2:40 PM
Hike Distance: 6.7 miles  
Pictures: Link
Todays hike was a “burn a vacation day” hike. I need to use up some vacation before the end of the year, and it was supposed to be a beautiful fall day, so a hike with views was in order.

I hadn’t been up to the lookout in probably 5 years now, so I decided this was a worthy destination for the day. We headed out at the normal time and I was surprised at how much thinning was going on up the 6340 road. I hiked the Dickey Creek trail back in May and it was all uncut. Today, this is what the junction with the 6340/140 spur road looked like:

It was looking a bit rough, but in a few years time, that forest is going to look much better – it was really thick in there.

We made pretty good time up to the trailhead, stopping along the 6340 road for a nice view of the Pansy Drainage:

We got to the trailhead about 10:00 and I was surprised to see two vehicles there. It looked like they had come in the night before. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone on a Tuesday in October! There was a bit of snow at the trailhead – interestingly enough there seemed to be more snow down lower than there was up higher:

We got ready and headed up the trail. The beginning goes thru a cut area with some new blowdown, but shortly you get into timber and the trail is very pleasant to hike. Part way up, there is a good viewpoint north. The mountains were all out today – the views were spectacular. They are hard to see in the photo, but were easy to see in person. 4 mountains all in a row – Mt St Helens, Mt Ranier, Mt Adams and Mt Hood:

In a couple of hours, we got to the lookout. I had Thor on his leash, but he was dragging it most of the way. We got near to the lookout and he got ahead of me – I started hearing voices and thought “Oh no! he is going to go bug someone!”. Sure enough, I rounded the corner and there were three people with backpacks – one of them, a young woman was sitting on the ground and Thor was licking her, saying hi. I apologized and she said she loved dogs so I guess all was well. We chatted for a little bit and then they headed off down towards Pansy lake to complete their trip. Thor and I sat by the lookout and had some lunch.

After lunch, we headed up onto the catwalk around the lookout (Thor wasn’t so sure about that, but he went up there). The views were incredible – much better than most of the summer when we had lots of smoke. Looking south to Olallie Butte, Mt Jefferson, Three Sisters and Broken Top – they were all out:

And I got this cool photo of Mt Hood from the lookout – looking north:

The lookout is faring OK, but is suffering from neglect. There is a broken window on the lookout – it has been broken for a few years – but at least someone has tried to limit the damage – they put boards behind the open window:

After enjoying the views for a bit, we headed back down the stairs. I got kind of the iconic photo of the the lookout:

I was really surprised at how warm it was – especially at the lookout – it wasn’t very windy at all and the sun felt really good – but not hot. I was in short sleeves and very comfortable.

We headed back down the trail, back the way we came. We enjoyed all the viewpoints on the way back down. I noticed a few things on the way down that I had not noticed on the way up. Like this wilderness sign propped up against a downed tree – I guess when this tree went down it broke the sign:

As we got closer to the trailhead, the snow increased, but it was melting quickly. In a few days, I think most of it will be gone. We made it back to the truck a little after 2:30 and then headed back down the mountain and home.

What a beautiful fall day of hiking! The weather really was almost perfect – not too hot, not too cold, not too windy. And visibility was excellent.

7/21/2012 – Bull of the Woods Epic – 551,558,554,550,549,556

Date of Hike: 7/21/2012
Location of Hike: Various Bull of the Woods Trails
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk
Start Time: 9:50 AM  End Time: 6:20 PM
Hike Distance: 12 miles  
Pictures: Link
Description of Hike:
This hike was one of my “epic” hikes. Anything over about 10 miles and/or very ambitious I consider an epic hike. This hike had LOTS of variation, and LOTS of elevation gain (3700′), some interesting landscape after the fires, and GREAT visibility to a bunch of mountains.

The day started rather early, in order to make sure we had enough time to do the entire hike. We knew it would be challenging, especially if we wanted to take our time and be able to look at things and take pictures along the way, rather than just powering through the hike to get it done. We were figuring about 8 hours of hiking, and we were pretty much dead on. We started up the Pansy Lake trail, looking downhill for old trail bench. We had been told that there was the “old” Pansy Lake trail that was further downhill from the current trail. We didn’t see much evidence of a trail downhill, but we were more excited to get going on the days hiking, too, so we may not have been paying close attention.

After a short hike (a mile or so), we got to Pansy Lake, where we met a couple (and their dog) who had camped there for the night. We put on bug spray at that point, because the bugs were starting to bother us. We hiked part way around the lake, and then went back to the trail where we continued up the hill to its junction with the Motherlode trail. There are some magnificent views on this upper stretch of trail – rock slides where you can see the whole Pansy creek drainage.

The visibility on this day was exceedingly good – better than I have seen in quite some time. The other thing about the weather was that it was a nice temperature – we were working hard, so it was nice that it wasn’t too warm. It was probably in the upper 60s or low 70’s during the day.

We reached the saddle where the Pansy Lake trail ends at its junction with the Mother Lode trail. We stopped here for a few minutes to rest, eat and drink some water. We had to plan our water refills carefully since there weren’t a lot of good places to get water, and due to the sun and the elevation, we were using a fair amount of water. After a short break, we continued down the Mother Lode trail. This trail was in pretty good shape, although it did get a little brushy in places. I forgot to mention, when we were driving into the trailhead, we passed a couple of horse trailers that were on their way out. They had stayed at the Pansy Lake trailhead, and had been doing some trail maintenance. There were quite a few logs down that had been sawed out by them – If any of you are reading this – THANK YOU!

We proceeded pretty much uneventfully down the trail, enjoying a number of large trees along the trail. The trail heads uphill along this stretch, but it was pretty well graded. We eventually came to the junction with the 554 trail, where we found a woman enjoying the sunshine on the ridge. She was a little confused as to which trail she should take, so we helped her understand the trails. We then proceeded down the trail towards the Schreiner Peak junction (we had originally intended to hike down to Lake Lenore on the Schreiner Peak trail). We came to the junction, and thought it was the wrong trail and continued along the Welcome Lakes trail until we got to the beginning of the burned area from the fire last year.

At this point, we took another look at the map and realized that the junction we had passed was the right one. After some discussion, we decided that we would continue down the Welcome Lakes trail and make the loop back on the West Lake way trail. Lake Lenore would have to wait for another day.

The burned area was fascinating to see. There was a very definitive line where the fire stopped, and where it burned, it burned HOT. And pretty much completely. We saw trees with sap on the bark that looked red – it almost looked like the trees bled, which they probably almost did – the sap was probably boiling in the trees since it was so hot.

Many trees have already lost their bark. The good news is that the Welcome Lakes trail was still recognizable for the most part. Only a couple of sketchy parts.

The bad news is the the Geronimo trail (which I did with Carly a few years ago on another long loop) looks like it might be lost now. I didn’t go down the trail at all, but it was a little sketchy before, and now with the burn it may be lost. The trail down to upper Welcome Lake (the smaller one) was pretty easy to follow through the burned area – once we got to the campsite at the lake, we stopped to have lunch and get water. I had heard that Welcome Lakes was “charcoal” and they weren’t kidding – there is nothing left as far as trees, but the huckleberries, rhodies and thimbleberry were thriving in the spring above the lake with all the sun. This will be an EXCELLENT place to pick huckleberries in a few years I think.

After having some lunch and filling our water, we headed down to the lower Welcome Lake. The trail junction is very apparent, but the trail quickly disappears. We looked and looked for it, but it was destroyed in the fire I think. There isn’t much down by that larger lake anymore, although there are a few green spots – somehow they escaped the fire.

We ended up just walking back up the hill since there wasn’t a trail – back up to the upper lake. It is really interesting how open things are now, and how much different it is than it used to be. It used to be you couldn’t see the lower lake until you were almost on top of it – now you can see it from the trail above.

After getting back up on the trail, we headed back up the West Lake way trail, continuing through the burned area for a while. West Lake was unaffected by the fire – it was kind of nice to be back in the trees and green after being in the burned area.

We then came to the junction with the Schreiner trail (the one we were supposed to have taken) – we stopped at a little creek to fill up with water – it was ICE COLD and DELICIOUS! Then we proceeded to go up the brutal switchbacks back up to the Welcome Lakes trail – IT IS STEEP.
After arriving at the Welcome Lakes trail, we proceeded west back to the junction with the 550 trail, and headed up to the lookout. The lookout is faring OK, but one of the windows is broken now sicne the shutter came off a year or two ago and the glass is unprotected. The wildflowers were in full bloom up there!

We stayed for a while, enjoying the views and the breeze – by this time it was getting rather late, so we figured we should head down. North down the 550 trail we went, looking for telephone insulators, which Kirk found a bunch of! At the junction with the 549 trail, we headed southwest toward Dickey Lake. When we got to the lake, it was a pretty small, shallow, brushy lake. Interesting, but not too interesting.

After a bit of exploring, we went back to the trail to finish our day. Back to the Pansy Lake trail and then north back to the truck. On the way back, we did see what might have been part of the old trail – at a switchback, the trail appeared to keep going and then switchback a little lower down the hill. That exploration will have to wait until another day – along with the Pansy mines.

We finally arrived back at the truck a little after 6 – tired and sweaty. We stopped for a burger at Fearless brewing in Estacada – boy, those burgers taste good after a long day of hiking!!!! Truly a day to remember.

11/3/2010 – Bull of the Woods trail – 550

Date of Hike: 11/3/2010
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 9:00 AM  End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles  
Pictures: Link
Description of Hike:
With the (probably) last of the nice weather, I took a day off to do what is probably my last high elevation hike of the season. I went up to Bull of the Woods lookout on the #550 trail. I was very surprised at the lack of snow, especially since it must have gotten dumped on a few weeks ago. The only snow I saw was on north facing slopes or shady areas, and even there, it was only a couple of inches deep.

The trail was in great shape, with only a couple of downed logs. There are a few areas they get rather brushy, but since all the undergrowth had died, and all the huckleberry bushes had lost their leaves, it was still easy. I spent some time brushing the worst of the trail, up on the top end, but it still needs a lot more work.

One of my goals for this hike was to see how much damage had been caused by the fires this summer. I was rather disappointed that I couldn’t see much.

From what I could see, it looks like the damage is less than I was fearing. Big Slide Lake looks untouched, but I’m not sure why the Dickey Creek Trail is still closed. I didn’t see anything back that way that looked burned, but it must be beyond what I could see. You could see burn damage in the saddle between Big Slide Mountain and its neighbor peak (don’t know what it is called). The good news is that the burn doesn’t appear to have gone up the other side of the valley. The bad news is that I think the damage on the other side of that hill is extensive.

It was a beautiful day, and the wind going up the Clackamas gorge was as strong as I’ve seen it – the reservoir had BIG whitecaps on it! I didn’t have a whole lot of wind on the trail, just a little once I got up to the top. One thing: The lookout appears to have lost part of one of its shutters. I think it was sitting down on the ground below it. It looked like someone had weighted it down with rocks, I’m guessing to help keep it from blowing away.

A great day, and a wonderful way to end the high country season. After this weekend, I think it will be low elevation trails for a while…

9/11/2005 – Bull of the Woods Trail

Date of Hike: 9/11/2005
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Cloudy
Hiking Buddies: Nicholas
Hike Distance: 6 miles  
Pictures: Link
Description of Hike:
Don’t remember too much about this hike, but it was a fun hike to the Bull of the Woods lookout. I got Nicholas to come with me. The week before I hiked into Big Slide Lake which is down below the lookout.