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:
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:
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):
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: 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: Pettit Lake - Sawtooth Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Mixed - Hot to cool with a little mist
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Hike Distance: 23.5 miles
Sarah picked out the location this year, which was somewhat close to where Carly is working for the summer – the Grand Tetons. The plan was somewhat loose, since we weren’t really sure exactly what we would encounter. This was the rough plan for the backpack trip:
- Day 1 – Pettit Lake to Farley, Edith or Imogene Lake (depending on how the day went)
- Day 2 – Hike to Alice Lake (needed a relatively short day since we were traveling to the Grand Tetons after we were done)
- Day 3 – Alice Lake out to Pettit Lake and then drive to the Campground where Carly was working
We left home about 7am on Saturday and headed to the Pettit Lake trailhead in Idaho. We were not sure if we would be able to find a campsite at the campground there, but if not, we figured we could do some dispersed camping nearby. The plan was for Carly to meet us there – she worked until 3pm so she was going to be there late. Since there was no cell service at the campground, it was a bit iffy on whether we had all our communication correct. We got to the campground early evening and found it full, so we looked for a good dispersed spot. We found a pretty good spot near the creek and called it good. This was our campsite the first night – I climbed up a small hill to get a better look at things and see if I could get a cell signal to text Carly – but had no luck.
I waited on the road in to the campground (so she would see me), and fortunately, Carly showed up a little after 9pm. I was somewhat relieved that we had successfully met up and we could now begin our 2017 trip.
We went to bed in our camp, had a VERY cold night, kind of slept in a bit due to the cold night, then woke up to frosty tents! We were surprised since it was so hot the day before. Fortunately, it warmed up pretty quickly, so we cooked breakfast, packed up and then drove to the trailhead. Shortly, we were on our way! This was where we started our adventure:
We headed down the trail, shortly taking the uphill junction to the trail that would eventually take us to Farley Lake (I couldn’t find trail names or numbers). After the junction with the trail coming in from Yellow Belly Lake (what a name!), we crossed a small creek. I was the only one who got their feet wet – I didn’t like the log crossing – but the cool water felt good on my feet. While I was putting my boots back on, a packtrain came along and crossed the creek – I think Kirk counted 12 horses:
After letting the packtrain go past us, and me getting my boots back on, we continued up the trail. Soon, we got our first real glimpse of the mountains and a flower filled meadow:
We continued up the trail – it was pretty hot by this time and the trail is pretty exposed – we were all getting really hot and trying to stay as hydrated as we could.
As we got closer to Edith Lake, the trail crossed the creek 3 times on the way up the hill – this was one crossing point:
After the third crossing we finally arrived at Edith Lake:
When we got there we encountered a rather large group – we found out later it was a group of “Father/Child” campers – they had been doing a “Father/Child” backpack trip annually for the last 5 years or so. It was interesting that we were both doing the same thing, although their children were much younger. We set up camp up on the hill above Edith Lake. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad here. Carly, Sarah and I kind of cleaned up at the lake, while Kirk went for a brief swim (the water was really COLD).
We made dinner and then pretty much just went to bed. We were all pretty tired due to the heat. I got up early the next morning and captured the sunrise from our camp on Monday morning:
And here is Edith Lake from our campsite in the morning light – we would be headed up to the pass in the upper middle of the photo. It is hard to see the ridge.
We made breakfast, cleaned and packed up and headed out (and up). We climbed above Edith Lake and started climbing up to the pass – we passed thru this beautiful meadow:
And as the trees thinned out, we saw many of these old, fire damaged trees – I thought they were really neat looking:
As we continued up, we got into more snow, having to find the trail across large snowbanks. Most of the time it was pretty easy since there was already footprints leading the way. Here we are looking back down the valley we came up the day before – Farley and Yellow Belly Lakes below (Edith Lake is not visible):
When we got up to the pass, we climbed up a side ridge/peak (un-named – 9568)to get a good view of the area. The climb wasn’t bad at all – we dropped our packs at the pass and headed up the ridge. The view was pretty spectacular. From on top of the ridge, you could see all 3 lakes – Yellow Belly, Farley and Edith below:
And Toxaway Lake on the other side – we would be shortly heading down to it:
While exploring the peak, Carly heard some noise and saw two deer up on the peak!!! She spooked them and they ran down – but we were all surprised they were up that high. No one got any photos of them, and she was the only one who saw them unfortunately. After enjoying the views for a bit on the peak, we started down – the wind was picking up and we started to get a little light mist. We were concerned it was going to really start raining. Fortunately, that was about all we got – a few very light drops of rain and light mist.
We continued down the long slow, descent to Toxaway Lake (the trails were really well graded), and we walked thru a variety of beautiful wildflower meadows:
When we got down to the trail junction at Toxaway, we saw a couple of guys having a break near the campsite area. We stopped for a few minutes and then continued down around the Southeast corner of the lake and ran into the bottom of an avalanche that occurred last winter:
On top of the avalanche area we got a good view up the hill to where we could be going later. It was a really neat smooth rock hillside where the snowmelt was coming down. We ended up having lunch here and resting a bit. There was another family with small children (you can see them near the water in the above photo) that was ahead of us who we would see off and on up the trail for a bit.
After lunch, we continued up the hill and ran into more avalanche damage up the hill. This damage completely obliterated the trail for a bit and was difficult to figure out where to go:
We successfully navigated the avalanche damage and shortly got to the first of 3 small un-named lakes before the pass:
We continued up (and up and up) – this is almost to the pass – looking back from where we came:
And we finally get to the pass with its 20′ wall of snow – I should have taken a photo of the other side of it. It was pretty impressive (the trail heads off on the left side, hugging the cliff to begin):
Once we were over the pass, you get a good view of the Twin and Alice Lakes below:
We headed down the trail, encountering a few snow fields and quite a few people (including families with small children) coming up. It didn’t take too long for us to reach the shoreline at Twin Lakes:
We went out on the land spit between the two lakes and explored a bit, enjoying the beautiful location – nestled between the mountains. After exploring around the Twin Lakes a bit, we continued on our journey down to Alice lake. On the way, there was this “right turn” waterfall which was really cool:
And finally, we came to our objective for the day – Alice Lake with El Capitan towering over it:
We started looking for a good campsite, and finally found one, although the mosquitoes were TERRIBLE – you could HEAR them buzzing in the swarms. They were close to the worst I’ve experienced (I think Serene Lake and Cache Meadow many years ago was worse):
After we got camp setup, we explored a bit more – here is a cool island in Alice Lake:
As usual, we made dinner, cleaned up and pretty much went to bed – partly due to being tired, but partly due to the mosquitoes. We planned to try and get an early start so we could get on the road to the Grand Tetons (it is at least a 6 hour drive – over 300 miles). We got up the next morning and quickly made breakfast and broke camp. I think we were on the trail by a little after 8. On our way out, we got this great view of Alice lake with El Capitan looming over it:
And then the rest of the mountains surrounding the southeast side of Alice Lake:
Once we got past Alice Lake and its little lakes below it, we saw our final objective for this trip – headed down the valley and back to Pettit Lake:
On the way down the hill, we ran into more avalanche damaged areas and had to find our way around the area where the trail was obliterated. At one point, we got slightly separated and I ended up crossing a creek, only to have to come back over when I heard Kirk yelling at me from up on the rockslide-luckily I heard him over the roar of the creek!. I had gone down to explore what looked like a possible trail (I think it was an old alignment of the trail that was no longer used). We ended up going up into a rockfield and around all the damage and eventually re-joined the trail.
After that experience, shortly after we re-joined the trail, we stopped at a rockslide that was next to the creek. We saw a Pika there (this isn’t a great photo since he was hard to see, but he was pretty cute):
And continued down the hill towards Pettit Lake. I think we counted like 5 creek crossings on the way down. Most were pretty easy, but the last one was rather difficult. There was a family there trying to get across. Carly ended up crossing on a sketchy log, I ended up putting my crocs on and getting wet – Kirk and Sarah crossed on a pair of logs a bit upstream (which was really the best option). After making that last crossing we were almost to the last mile hike to the trailhead:
We finally got there (it seemed like a REALLY long mile). We did a little cleaning up in the bathroom in preparation for our trip to the Grand Tetons, and then headed out – I think it was about 11:30 when we left the trailhead. On to phase 3 of the trip!
On the drive to the Grand Tetons, we went thru the Craters of the Moon park – I snapped this quick photo from the car – we didn’t stop since we had a long ways to go, but it was pretty interesting. Someday it would be nice to stop and investigate it.
We had lunch in Hailey, Idaho at the “Power House” (great burgers and an interesting place – a combination pub/restaurant/bike shop), and then drove to the Signal Mountain Campground in the Grand Tetons where Carly is working this summer. Fortunately, we had a campsite waiting for us. We setup camp and then started our next phase of this trip.
This backpacking trip was tough, but very interesting, and areas that I’d not seen before. It was great to spend several days with Carly. We had a great time and saw some beautiful scenery. I can’t wait for whatever trip we plan for next year.
Location of Hike: Thornton Lakes Trail
Weather during Hike: Partly cloudy to overcast
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Start Time: 11:00 AM
End Time: 11:00 AM
Hike Distance: 11 miles
- Day 1 – Drive up to Chelan and pick up Carly off the ferry – drive to somewhere around Winthrop and spend the night.
- Day 2 – Drive to the Thornton Lakes trailhead and head up the hill – taking a side trip up to Trapper Peak – camp the night at Thornton Lake.
- Day 3 – Hike back down to the truck and drive back to somewhere near Chelan to camp the night.
- Day 4 – Drop Carly off at the ferry and then drive home.
The actual trip changed a bit, as we talked we decided that Carly could just come home with me and then we could look for a car for her. She could go back up to Stehekin/Wenatchee later. The weather was a big unknown, as some of the weather reports were talking about snow and/or rain and freezing temperatures. Whatever happened, I knew it was going to be quite an adventure.
I headed up on a Saturday morning to Chelan – the drive was pretty uneventful (although long). Made it to the ferry early, as I left early and made good time. Fortunately, the ferry was on time and I picked up Carly and we headed out. Since it is getting dark earlier, and the trailhead was 3 miles from the ferry landing, I decided Winthrop was a good spot and since we were only going to “camp” one night, and the weather was kind of iffy, I decided to get a hotel for that night. It turned out to be a good decision, as we would have been setting up camp in the dark. We made it to Winthrop and had dinner and filled up the truck and pretty much went to bed.
We got up Sunday morning and had the continental breakfast at the hotel and then packed up and headed out. In the field next to the hotel, they were preparing to launch a hot air balloon, which was kind of interesting:
We had about an hour and a half drive to the trailhead, so we headed out – we stopped for coffee at a little bakery in Winthrop and found out it was so busy because there was a marathon that day. Good thing I got a reservation for the hotel!
We headed up highway 20, marveling at all the huge mountains and dramatic views along the way. We passed the trailhead we hiked last summer, near Ross Lake. A bit further down the road was an overlook – looking out over Diablo Lake – we stopped to take a look:
Quite a dramatic place. After enjoying those views for a few minutes we headed back out and shortly made it to the town of Newhalem where there was a North Cascades visitor center. We stopped there for a bit to see what was there. Lots of exhibits and info about animals and trees and such. Neat place.
We headed back out and soon got to the trailhead – after driving up a 5 mile long narrow rough road (the whole reason I brought the truck rather than the car and I’m glad I did). There were 3 other cars at the trailhead, which kind of surprised me since we were at the beginning of October and the weather hadn’t been all that great. We weren’t sure if we were going to have decent weather or not – the weather report had gotten better – from rain/snow to showers and possibly some sun – but still forecast to be near freezing at night. We got ready and headed down the trail – the first couple miles of the trail is actually the continuation of the road – it was closed to vehicles due to some washouts but was still pretty much a road. Since the trail was relatively flat and easy walking, we made great time on this portion of the trip. Soon, we got to the Thornton Creek Crossing:
A little farther, the actual trail portion took off uphill. Portions of this were steep and rocky, but overall it wasn’t too bad. As we neared the top of the hill, the trail leveled out a bit and there was a neat meadow area:
We continued up to the pass where there was a side/unofficial trail up to the top of Trapper Peak. Carly had read that it got a bit steep in places but was a non technical climb, so we dropped our packs in the woods and headed up the side trail. It basically follows the ridgeline up the top of Trappers peak, although it does get a bit steep in places:
About halfway up was this interesting, very small (about 8 feet in diameter) tarn:
In about 45 minutes we reached the top – we looked bakc down at where we had come – this was not all the way up the hill, but you can see the ridge route down to the pass:
This gave us some impressive views in all directions. We got a great view of Upper Thornton Lake, which would be very difficult to hike to – it is in a huge bowl:
And here is a view of both of the two upper Thornton lakes:
The views were in all directions and were incredible – we were very blessed with good weather – the clouds had mostly cleared and the wind was very calm. An absolutely beautiful fall day.
Here is a few of some of the fall colors down in the valley from the top of Trapper Peak:
And what it looked like on top of Trapper Peak – there were like 3 little “peaks” with flat areas in between:
Here is a 360 degree panorama video from the top of Trapper Peak:
After enjoying the views for about an hour, we headed back down – we wanted to make sure we would get to our campsite in plenty of time before dark and it was already almost 4:00. So we headed down and shortly got back to our packs and headed over the saddle and down the rough, steep, narrow trail down to the lake. It was kind of a slow trip down since it was pretty tough. Once we got down, we then had to make our way across a difficult boulder field and then across the logjam at the outlet of the lake (it was a LOT harder than it looks – those rocks are HUGE, and pretty steep).
We made it across and then decided which of the two campsites we wanted to use – we opted for the first one, since it seemed a little nicer than the second one, and we would be serenaded by the outlet creek. Our campsite at Thorton Lake:
Here is what the lake looked like from near our campsite – looking up at Trapper Peak where we were earlier in the day:
We set up camp and were both hungry so we made dinner and then cleaned up. By that time it was starting to get dusky and chilly, so we buttoned up the campsite for the night, hung our food and crawled into the tent.
It got cool overnight, but I don’t think it got as cold as was predicted (34 degrees). When we woke in the morning, it was foggy, which I’m thinking might have kept some heat in to keep it a little warmer. We got up, made breakfast and then packed up and headed back up that horrible trail. I had to stop 3 times to take layers off – I was getting too hot!
On the way back up, I stopped to take this photo of the lake, which is kind of a neat point of view:
We made good time on the way back up and arrived at the truck about 11am – shortly after we got there, it started lightly raining – the first rain we had on the trip. We changed our clothes for the long drive back home and packed up the truck and headed out. We had 309 miles and about 6 and half hours of driving (according to Google). We stopped somewhere north of Seattle for lunch and then stopped in north Vancouver for dinner, finally arriving home about 7pm.
It was a very short trip, but it was pretty incredible, and I was very happy to be able to take the trip with Carly. I hope we can plan a trip next year – I really enjoy our father/daughter trips – I assume it will probably be somewhere in the same neighborhood since she really likes the North Cascades.
Location of Hike: East Fork Quinault Trail
Weather during Hike: mostly cool and misty/rainy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Sarah
Hike Distance: 43.5 miles
This was my annual backpacking trip. Unfortunately, Carly was not able to join this year, so Kirk, Sarah and I went to explore the Enchanted Valley in the Olympic National Park. The trip took us up the long East Fork Quinault river valley.
This was the plan:
- Day 1 – Graves creek to O’Neil Creek – ~9 miles
- Day 2 – O’Neil creek to Enchanted Valley – ~ 6.5 miles
- Day 3 – Enchanted Valley to Honeymoon Meadows – ~6.5 miles
- Day 4 – Honeymoon Meadows to Pyrites creek – ~ 10 miles
- Day 5 – Pyrites creek to Graves creek then home – ~ 12 miles
Our itinerary changed a bit during the trip. More on that later.
The first thing I have to say about this trip is that it was absolutely the wettest backpacking I’ve ever done. Technically, it rained every day of the trip. The humidity was so high that it was almost impossible to dry anything out, even though we had a campfire on 2 of our nights. That was not terribly enjoyable, but being in a rain forest, it is to be expected.
Secondly, I found myself continually saying “wow” during this trip. The number of HUGE trees on this trip is incredible. Everywhere you look there were big trees and HUGE trees. Looking at those huge trees never got old.
Thirdly (and definitely not any less importantly), we got to see 2 bears – one up close and personal (20-25′ away), and a big herd of elk as well as a host of other small animals and birds. The wildlife on this trip was really cool.
Now, on to the details.
Day 1 – Graves creek to O’Neil Creek – 9.4 miles
Kirk picked me up about 7am for the long drive to the trailhead (about 4 1/2 hours according to google). We had kind of factored that into the plan so had a relatively short day planned. We had to go to the ranger station at Lake Quinault, register, and we got 3 bear canisters (required in the valley now – you can’t hang your food anymore). The ranger went over all sorts of rules, regulations and told us about the big washout about 7 miles up the trail. He also made kind of an odd comment – that we had “flexibility in our scheduling” – meaning we weren’t REQUIRED to camp in the places on our plan/permit. I just thought it was an odd comment since so many things can change when you are backpacking so your plans need to potentially adjust to the conditions. Maybe he was just assuring us that it was OK to deviate from what we had told them.
Anyway, we got all that done, paid our fees, loaded up our bear canisters and decided to have a “last supper” in civilization. There was a general store with a small cafe in it that sounded perfect. It was quite interesting – we had to wait a while until they cleaned the grill from breakfast – then it took a while to get our orders and finally our food. It was good – it was just kind of slow – they had a sign that say “we can’t promise fast food, but we can promise good food”. I think they lived up to that promise.
After our “last supper”, we headed back to the van and on to the trailhead. Last winter was really rough in this area, and it washed out the road about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead so we had to park on the road and hike up the road to the real trailhead. We knew about this beforehand, so had planned it into the schedule. We got packed up and headed up the road, making good time since it was pretty easy hiking. Shortly, we got to the real trailhead. We stopped there to use the bathroom (the last “real” bathroom we would have for the next 5 days), and then headed up the trail. The trail starts by crossing Graves creek on a nice bridge (which I didn’t get a picture of). It then continues up what appears to be an old road (it is REALLY wide).
Shortly, we saw an old water tank next to the trail which was obviously not being used anymore. We were thinking it might have been used for water at the Graves creek campground – there was something similar/newer in the parking lot of the trailhead.
A little farther up the trail we got to the junction with the Graves creek trail – a more primitive trail. There was also a really nice sign showing mileage to our various destinations we had planned:
A little farther up the trail we found a very old picnic table (probably used when this was still a road):
Continuing on, we got to our first Quinault River crossing – the “Pony bridge”:
We enjoyed the views from the bridge in this slot canyon and the proceed down the trail. It continues thru the rainforest and shortly crosses Fire Creek:
Shortly after Fire Creek we found the sign for the O’Neil Creek campsite – it is quite a bit below the trail right next to the river. We found a good spot and setup camp for our first night:
We explored the “jungle” that was this camp – it was nestled in a grove of mostly salmonberry and it was over our heads. They have carved a path thru it, but it is still pretty thick. We found the “bear wire” that was there for hanging food:
We made dinner, cleaned up and were all tired so we went to bed.
Day 2 – O’Neil creek to Enchanted Valley – 7 miles
After we went to bed on day 1 it started raining – Pretty much all night. Fortunately, it stopped by morning, but everything was wet by then. So we had to pack up wet tents. We headed back up to the trail and continued thru the magnificent old growth rain forest:
We knew the big washout was not far. We should have known we were in for trouble when we saw this flagging at the start of the re-route:
We were guessing the bone was to keep the flagging visible. It was kind of weird to see, though.
The re-route was really a user boot path thru the area. We had to cross a lot of pretty large downed logs:
Before finally crossing the river on a huge log to bypass the washout:
We then crossed another huge log a bit upstream to get back to the trail – the washout section was about 1/4 mile total. Winter was not kind to this section of trail. Fixing it will be a huge effort.
After successfully traversing the big washout, we continued down the trail, passing huge trees that had been previously cut, as well as some fresh ones:
We then successfully crossed no name creek (yes, that is really its name) and kept hiking thru these giant trees:
And more giant blowdown:
We then started into the beginning of the valley – it is a LONG valley:
And we came across another one of these side channel washouts (I’m not really sure what to call them). This one was kind of unique though, in that it had these big huge cedar trees below which were interesting. We weren’t sure if they were multiple trees that had grown together or if it was one tree that grew multiple stems. They were certainly massive though (as pretty much everything in this valley is).
the trail kind of flattened out and we hike a flat section for a while. We came to this “forest art” (as Sarah called it) – a HUGE cedar tree that had uprooted a long time ago – pretty cool:
And a little bit farther down the trail we found an old phone line insulator – this was not he only one we found, but it is the only one I took a photo of:
Continuing down the valley we found the spot where the trail crews had cut up logs for various projects:
And then this really strange “gate”:
That gate was kind of the beginning of the “real” valley – where the chalet was. Once thru that gate, the trail opened up quickly and we got our first glance at the chalet off in the distance. But before we could get to the chalet, we had to cross the river again – this time at a narrow section. They had this cool, kind of scary bridge to cross:
It was about 80-100′ long and 30-40′ above the river. It was kind of odd it only had one handrail given it was so high up. But we all successfully navigated the bridge and shortly arrived at the Chalet:
Since it was raining we decided to get some cover under the porch of the chalet and figure out where we wanted to camp that night – either in the valley or farther up (to make the trip to Honeymoon Meadows shorter). We scouted the sites around the meadow and found a good one under the trees – it had a fire pit and was pretty sheltered from the rain. Since it had been raining/misting most of the day, we decided that would be a great place to camp. We were hoping we could make a fire to maybe dry a few things out too. We also had firmed up our plans to stay here for 2 nights and just do a day hike up to Anderson Pass instead of trying to camp up at Honeymoon Meadows. That turned out to be a very good idea in retrospect. The going continued to get rougher and the weather continued to get worse.
Once we got camp setup (I did not take a photo of that campsite unfortunately), we started exploring the valley around the chalet a bit. Although it was foggy, you could see waterfalls coming down the west side of the canyon like this one (this was the most prominent one):
We also went up and explored the waterfall on the east side – above the chalet. It appears as though this used to be the source of water for the chalet, although the regular “gulley washers” have destroyed whatever dam or setup they had to capture the water. The line also got exposed part way down and is broken in two. The waterfall was very pretty though:
Before dinner I headed down the meadow a bit further and got a little better look at the lower portions of the waterfall:
As well as another above a snowfield:
Around dinner time, a ragged hiker arrived in camp and asked if he could borrow a pan to boil some water. Apparently he had forgotten to purchase a pan and had lots of dehydrated food which is of little value without boiling water. My jetboil really has to be used on my stove, but Kirk offered up his pan. The man was thankful and said he would eat and then was headed out. I’m not exactly sure what transpired, but he ate, walked around a bit and then setup his tent. He ended up spending the night. Apparently he hadn’t been feeling well, and he decided to stay in our camp for the night and get a good rest and head out in the morning.
After my brief explorations, we cooked dinner, started a fire and attempted to dry a few things out. We were semi-successful and ended up going to bed somewhat early.
Day 3 – Day hike to Anderson Pass and Siberia Camp – 10.6 miles
We got up about the same time (7:00), got breakfast ready, cleaned up and then headed out north up the valley thru the giants:
A bit farther up the trail was the high point of the trip for me. We stumbled upon a large herd of elk in a meadow below the trail:
The elk heard us and got up and started heading uphill out of the meadow. While that was happening, I heard rustling in the bushes beside us, and then I saw a black head. Shortly, he rose up to see what was going on – it was a BEAR – not 20 feet or so from us:
It was kind of scary and kind of exciting all at the same time. He didn’t seem interested in us in the least. Once he saw what was going on, he sat back down and continued to eat the huckleberries in front of him. Once the elk had exited the meadow, we moved down the trail, keeping watch behind us for the bear. He just kept on eating.
With that excitement behind us, just 3/4 mile or so from camp, we continued north. Looking up at the west canyon wall, there were more waterfalls – someone told us this place has the nickname of “valley of 10,000 waterfalls”. I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, but there certainly are a LOT of waterfalls here:
We also got just a hint of blue sky – Kirk got excited, but it was not to stay too long:
We continued on, the brief blue sky turning to mist and then turning to light rain. A bit farther along we got a good look at the carnage of the alluvial plain of the river:
This is a VERY active river, changing channels frequently.
When we got to the white creek crossing, we found the bridge had been tipped over – a temporary log had been put in place to cross, which was good because the creek was flowing fast:
And there was a beautiful waterfall both above:
And below the crossing – this waterfall was interesting because it made an almost 90 degree turn right before going over the edge. There was a rock face that turned the water – it is kind of hard to see in this photo, unfortunately:
We continued up the trail, gaining elevation as we went on our way to Anderson Pass. On a clear day, the views from this portion of the trail must be incredible. But today, we got lots of clouds:
We shortly cane to another one of the many side creek crossings, but this one was particularly interesting. When we got to it, it was flowing pretty well, with muddy brown water:
On the way back, it was barely a trickle:
We continued up the trail and got a pretty good view of the beginnings of the Quinault River – it flows from the lake below Anderson Glacier. you can see it about mid photo below:
We soon made it to Anderson Pass – thru the rain and wind:
We were tired and wet, but our friend back in camp had told us about an old shelter that was just over the pass. We thought if it wasn’t too far we would go explore it before turning around. We all decided that Honeymoon meadows and/or the Anderson Glacier was not in our future. They were just too far. We looked out over the valley and saw a meadow and then I glimpsed the shelter just down the hill. It was not too far, so we headed down to find it. On the way, we got this great view of Mount LaCrosse:
And then shortly to this old shelter which we were later informed was called “Camp Siberia”:
We stopped in the shelter for a bit to dry off and eat something and have a little water. The shelter has had some work done to it recently and there was more wood stacked outside, so it appears as though it will be getting more work done soon. It is amazing it is still standing – a cool artifact from a bygone era.
We knew we had over 5 miles to get back to camp and it was already after 2:00, so we headed back up the hill to Anderson Pass. On the way back I saw all these wildflowers that I had not noticed on the way down:
We got back up to Anderson pass and the small tarn/lake there:
We continued down the trail, back the way we came. Along the way, I saw this view of what I think is that beginning of the Quinault river. It is a different view coming down the trail than going up:
We continued down, making good time since it was mostly downhill. Getting closer to camp, we saw a couple of hikers and then saw a sign pointing to the largest recorded Western Hemlock. We followed a short trail down to the river and found it – it was certainly a very large hemlock:
After enjoying brief moment of sun in the river channel, we headed back to camp. On the way back, the same herd of elk we saw in the morning was in the meadow near our camp. We passed by them on the trail, although this time they did not move since they were off the trail a bit. They watched us intently as we passed by. They were pretty close – this is a shot from next to Sarah’s tent:
We made dinner, cleaned up and then made another fire – in the hope we could dry things out a bit. It seemed like we were having some success, but alas things got wet again so easily.
After dinner, I noticed the cool cliffs behind the chalet:
We enjoyed the warmth and dryness of the fire. Probably around 8:30 or 9, Kirk saw a bear out in the meadow lumbering around. It was too dark to get a picture, but I’m thinking it was probably the same one we had seen earlier. He just kind of wandered around sniffing things until he wandered off into the woods below the waterfall. We stayed up and enjoyed the fire until around 10 and then went to bed.
Day 4 – Enchanted Valley to no name camp near Pony bridge – 9.8 miles
Day 4 was a relatively uneventful day. The goal was to get back so we could have a shorter day on the last day so it wouldn’t be so long of a day (with the 4+ hour drive home). We were thinking of trying to get to the campsites at Pony Bridge, but we would see how things went. I woke up with a huge blister on my big toe of my left foot. Having my feet wet all day long was making it hard on them. Kirk had a safety pin, so I sterilized it and then popped it and bandaged it up as best I could. I was hoping it would do OK.
We made breakfast, cleaned up and then packed up camp, getting on the trail around 9. We got back to the “scary bridge” and noticed it had a Columbia Helicopters sticker on it, so we assumed they were the ones who flew it in. It was definitely quite a job to install this beast:
We went over the bridge, and headed back down the valley, getting our last glimpse of the chalet:
We continued thru the weird horse gate and down the trail. Although this was supposed to be mostly downhill, due to the river and the terrain, this trail has a lot of ups and downs in it. A ways down the trail we found a great bear print in the mud (notice how wet my boots are!):
It didn’t look like a huge bear, but it was cool to see.
As we went down the trail, we met hikers. As we got closer to Pony Bridge, we met a couple of guys who weren’t sure there was any room at Pony Bridge (that is where they were camped). My feet were bothering me and slowing me down as well. Kirk had been looking for an “unofficial” campsite next to the river. He noticed a side trail at one point with no obvious campsite, but headed down there to investigate. It was a ways off the trail, but he found what we think was a camp that the trail crews use. We found stuff stashed behind big logs, including 4 big aluminum bear boxes (we were guessing they must have brought them in via horse or mule at some point). It was a great campsite right on the river with a good access point for water. Even better, we had it all to ourselves! We stopped, setup camp and then it started raining – harder than it had been. There was a relatively dry spot under the tree where the campsite was. You can see a kind of dry spot where Kirk is sitting:
Soon, the dry spot was getting dripped on. We were thinking about doing a fire, but since the fire wasn’t protected like the last campsite we had, and it was raining harder, we decided not to. It was too bad too, because Kirk had carried a couple of pieces of pitchy wood a couple of miles in anticipation of a fire.
I made the following short video – you can hear the rain (you can’t really see it):
We made dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed early because of the rain.
Day 5 – Noname camp to Graves creek then home – 6.5 miles
We awoke to a foreign sight on the morning of Day 5 (Sunday morning) – Sunshine! Real sunshine! It was the first real sunshine we had the entire trip. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach the camp to dry our tents before we had to leave. But it lifted our spirits. I think we were all tired of being wet and stinky and were ready for a good lunch, followed by a warm, dry ride in a comfortable seat and then a hot shower and sleeping in our own beds again.
We made breakfast, cleaned up and then packed up camp. We got going a bit earlier than previous days and then headed back to the trail. Right where our side trail met the main trail, we met two guys on their way in. We chatted a bit and found out that one of them was the guy who moved the chalet in 2014! He was a driving force behind getting it saved from destruction. They were headed in to check it out. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting for a few minutes, we said goodbye and headed down the trail. Nothing much exciting happened – I think we were all focused on getting home. But a bit down the trail, we encountered 6 happy guys. One of them touched each of us on the shoulder and said something like “have a great day, man”. They were all very happy and smiling – it was a bit weird, and I wondered if they might have had some “assistance” getting happy, but they were harmless. Just kind of an interesting sight along the trail.
Nothing much else happened along the way – we just pounded out the miles. I stopped and got a photo of the Graves creek Ranger station, which is probably no longer being used due to the road being washed out, but is a cool old building:
We continued down the road, and shortly before the washout, came to this neat roadside waterfall:
We made it back to the van about 11:45. We quickly loaded up and headed out. Our goal was to drop off our bear canisters, get cleaned up a bit (Sarah and I had clean clothes in the van) and then head up to a pizza place up the road for lunch. Then head home.
The pizza tasted really good! And it was nice to sit on a seat that wasn’t hard plastic (my bear canister). We made it home by about 5:30, so it wasn’t a late night like we originally thought it would be.
This trip was another difficult trip – for many reasons, but it has to be one of my top trips due to the elk and bear sightings – plus the natural beauty that is everywhere on this trail.
Location of Hike: Devils Dome Loop - Psayten Wilderness - Washington
Weather during Hike: Sunny that turned into cloudy and cooler
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Carly
Hike Distance: 41 miles - 33 miles by foot, 8 miles by water taxi (boat)
So, the plan for the trip was to go pick up Carly in Chelan (she was working on Stehekin all summer) off the ferry on Thursday, camp somewhere near the trailhead, and then head out early on Friday for our 4 day adventure. Due to the length of the trip, we opted to take the water taxi to cut off about 8 or 9 miles off the loop – from all the reports I saw, we didn’t miss too much – no real views, just kind of hiking around the lake and then over Hidden Hand Pass, which didn’t sound all that scenic. Night 1 was to camp at Devils Park (with a shelter), night 2 at Devils Pass, night 3 at Devils Creek/Junction along Ross Lake and then on day 4 take the water taxi around and then complete the loop and then drive home (a very long drive). This area is almost to Canada – we were less than 10 miles from the Canadian border (the top of Ross Lake is in Canada)!
We were a few minutes late picking Carly up from the ferry (a small miscalculation in how long it would take to get there), but we ended up only being about 10 minutes late – my luck was that the ferry was right on time! Anyway, we picked her up, went into Chelan, had dinner, got gas and then went out to find our campground for the night. Originally, I wanted to camp at Loup Loup campground, but we found out that it was closed due to the fires. We ended up staying at JR campground which was nearby – it was starting to get dark and we just wanted a place to sleep for the night.
One interesting thing that happened – we were setting up camp, and not one, but THREE rangers came into the campground – they had reports of a “huge bonfire”. They asked us if we saw anything and we had not – turns out it was probably a white gas stove that had gotten a bit out of control when it was starting up – someone saw that and reported it. While the rangers were there I asked for a good breakfast place for Friday morning and also about the permits I was told we needed at Ross Lake – there was a ranger station in Winthrop. He told me about a great breakfast place a “combination restaurant and sewing place”. It sounded interesting, so we decided to try it – if we could find it.
The following morning, we packed up camp and tried the rangers suggestion – probably wouldn’t have stopped there had he not said anything, but the breakfast was really good – the sewing stuff was quilting supplies. After breakfast, we headed down to the ranger station for our permit, which I understood to be similar to the wilderness permits – you basically fill out the tag and go. This took quite a bit longer than that. It took over a half hour to get all the correct info and get the permit. Once that was done, we headed down highway 20 to the Canyon Creek trailhead to start our adventure – a little later than we had planned.
We got there about 10:30 and headed out shortly after. Here is Carly hamming it up for the camera in the parking lot:
Shortly after starting, we got to the bridge across Granite Creek:
And a little farther, this old cabin on Canyon creek:
We then headed up the unrelenting switchbacks to gain the 4000 feet of elevation we needed to gain to get to McMillan Park. Most of the day was just grunting up the hill, stopping for rest breaks and stopping to fill up our water bottles. Part way up the hill, out of nowhere, I got stung by a bee on my arm! That was kind of a bummer, but fortunately, that was the only sting of the trip.
Shortly before one of the creek crossings, we ran across the first of our “mountain chickens” (grouse). There were actually 2, however one was down off the trail. When Carly came thru, they were both on the trail. I “chased” this guy down the trail aways before he finally jumped off the trail.
After what seemed like an eternity of hiking up, we finally arrived in McMillan Park and had completed the majority of our elevation gain for the day. There were beautiful fall colors on display in McMillan Park:
We continued thru McMillan Park and ascended our final elevation gain until we reached the shelter at Devils Park:
This is where we camped on night 1. The shelter is in reasonably good shape for something that is close to 80 years old. It is missing some of its roof shingles, but still seems pretty much intact. Although there were annoying bugs (gnats, flies and the occasional bee), interestingly enough they didn’t appear to like to go into the shelter. We couldn’t figure out why, but it was nice to be able to get away from them in the shelter – it also had nice benches for sitting.
The evening of day 1 was uneventful – cook dinner, clean up, hang our food and then we went to bed. A couple of interesting things happened overnight. First, I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night – I unzipped the tent and heard a flurry of thumps – I had startled some large hooved animal that was probably grazing in the meadow. I never got a look at it, but from the noise it made, I’m guessing it must have been an Elk (or maybe 2). It sounded too big to be a deer. We found lots of signs of elk in the meadow.
The second thing was Carly wanted me to wake her up to take night sky photos – we set an alarm for 1:00am and it went off but I couldn’t wake her up. Oddly enough, she woke up herself around 3:00am and took some cool photos of the night sky:
We woke up on day 2, cooked breakfast, packed up and headed down the trail. The trail continues thru the meadows, and then starts another long ascent up the south end of Jackita ridge. Today was the day the big views really started. Crater Mountain and Jack Mountain would be our almost constant companions for the next 2 days:
Needless to say, Carly was well ahead of us almost the entire trip – she had spent all summer in Stehekin doing hikes and backpacking trips, so she was in pretty good shape – plus she was 30 years younger than us! We continued north on the trail, and we got to a ridge where we found Carly’s backpack and a side trail that went up to the top of an un-named peak along Jackita ridge. We saw Carly at the top of the peak:
We waited for her to come down and then continued down these horrible switchbacks – sometimes heading almost straight down the hill:
We finally got down these switchbacks safely, and continued our descent – this was the theme of this trail – almost always going up or down – very few level stretches, and a lot of the up and down was not well graded – it went straight up or straight down. We stopped for lunch near an un-named creek (maybe the South Fork Devils Creek?) and then continued ascending to a ridge, which then plunged down to the North Fork of Devils creek. We followed this creek up the hillside, heading east until we got to our “final” elevation where the trail headed pretty much north. There was a neat waterfall and campsite near the top of the creek:
The trail from here pretty much kept to the same elevation and was very pleasant walking, although we were very tired after 2 days of aggressive elevation gain (in 2 days, we had done about 15 miles of trail and 7300 feet of elevation gain – all with full packs).
A short descent put us at Devils pass:
And once there, we saw more “mountain chickens” (grouse):
And a cool old sign – this sign must be REALLY old – it appears as though the post has rotted away:
We setup camp and headed down to the spring shown on the map – we were a bit worried it would be dry since we were late in the season and it has been such a dry year. I filled up with extra water at the last opportunity just in case we didn’t find any. Kirk was able to coax a bit of water out of the spring, even though it was flowing slowly. I had enough water from the last fillup, so didn’t try to use the spring. One thing we didn’t find was the “pipe” out of the spring that I had seen mentioned. Maybe it was on the upper trail or something, but we never found it.
After we got home, I found out that if we had followed this water trail to the end, we would have found the old, now collapsed Devils Pass Shelter. We only followed the trail to the spring. We thought the Devils Pass shelter would have been at the pass. Oh well….I don’t think we missed much.
We cooked dinner, hung our food and caught the sunset and some Alpenglow from the pass:
Alpenglow – not sure what peak this is – maybe one of the un-named peaks northeast of Devils Pass:
Sunset from Devils Pass:
We went to bed early again (with the sun) – tired from another day of hard hiking.
We woke up on day 3 to clouds – we weren’t sure if we were going to get rain or not, but we would make the best of whatever Mother Nature threw at us. Kirk had gotten up early and climbed the ridge that was northwest of the pass – this was him coming down – he said the views weren’t great due to the clouds:
We cooked breakfast, cleaned up and broke down camp. We tried to get a little bit of an earlier start since we had a longer day ahead of us (~12 miles). By the end of the day we would be down at Ross Lake.
We headed down the trail, and shortly saw this tree that looks like a bear had been scratching on:
As we continued along the trail, we were a bit concerned due to the threatening clouds:
But we continued – we were prepared for whatever happened. The trail in this part was pretty well graded for the most part. This one section was particularly interesting, following a bowl around with a very nice grade – made for easy walking:
The trail continued until we could start to see the beginnings of Devils Dome, the highest point on our trip. At this point, the wind had picked up and was intermittently chilly:
But we were getting some more fantastic views – looking North up the Middle Creek drainage:
And the seemingly never ending “up” of these trails:
Until we finally got to Devils Dome – just shy of 7000′ (6982′) – Carly on top of Devil’s dome (near the campsite):
When reading trip reports, some people found this area to be the high point of their trip – It wasn’t for me – I was just COLD – it was very windy up there. For me, it was interesting, but not a high point of the trip. Maybe if the weather had been less severe up there it would have changed my mind. I know some people camp up there due to the great views. It is VERY exposed, so it would be prone to being very windy. Not my preferred spot for a campsite.
After crossing Devils Dome, we started our long (5000′) descent to Ross Lake and got ready to say goodbye to Crater and Jack Mountain.
At one point while heading down, Kirk noticed an ice cave on Jack Mountain (zoomed in):
And shortly, we came to my favorite viewpoint of the trip – this rocky outcropping:
Unfortunately, none of the photos capture the dramatic view on this outcropping – it drops very precipitously down to Devils creek and then Jack Mountain is right there. Incredible views:
We stayed there for a few minutes, resting and grabbing a snack, enjoying the view. From there, we continued down the trail and decided to take a short side trip to the Bear Skull shelter where we had lunch:
We ate lunch, explored the area a bit, filled up our water in the small creek and then headed back to the trail to continue our descent to Ross Lake. On the way, we got our first peek at Ross Lake:
It was shortly after this point that we started our heavy descent, and had to say goodbye to Crater and Jack Mountain – we would be entering the trees and would not seem them again, except for a few glimpses here and there.
On the way down the narrow, steep, brushy trail, we found an interesting artifact – a tree with a very old mile marker plate on it, and also with old telephone wire on it:
This meant we had around 3 miles to go to Ross Lake – our destination for the night. I’m not sure the 3 miles was to the point where we were camping, but it was still an interesting artifact. We were eager to jump in the lake to wash the “funk” off (that was a term another trip report used, and was pretty accurate).
We finally made it to the hikers camp above Ross Lake – the signage was somewhat confusing, but we finally figured it out. We got there around 3:30, setup camp and then Kirk and I went down to the lake (a half mile hike) to jump in and get cleaned up a bit. It was pretty chilly, but it felt REALLY good to wash all the “funk” off and feel somewhat clean. We had been sweating a LOT – my shirts even had salt stains on them when they dried!!! After Kirk and I cleaned up, Carly went down to clean up.
Ross lake is a beautiful lake – smaller than Lake Chelan, but still very large – about 20 miles long:
This was the view from our camp above the lake:
While we were at the boaters camp (right on the lake where the dock was where we would get picked up the following morning), I looked around the campsites – I ended up finding an iPhone 6! After we got home, I was able to reunite it with its owner – surprisingly enough, he lived in Portland! Small world!
Sunday night was pretty uneventful – cooking dinner, enjoying the views of the lake, cleaning up and hanging our food. After dinner, Kirk decided to take a jaunt down the lakeside trail to see where that trail crossed Devils Creek – it is a cool suspension bridge (this photo was taken on the boat ride the following morning):
Carly and I went to bed with the sun again (although it was probably a little earlier due to the clouds making it get dark sooner). Kirk got back to camp a little after dark. I wanted to go with him, but my feet were really tired and needed a rest for our final day of hiking.
The plan for day 4 was to get up early, eat breakfast and be down at the dock by 8:45 since our ride was supposed to be there at 9:00. We wanted to be a little early just in case they were early. We were going to leave camp at about 8:30 to give us time to get down there – but at about 8:15 we heard a boat coming up the lake – I had already packed up, so I raced down the trail to the campsite – Carly and Kirk finished packing up and joined me a few minutes later. Fortunately, that boat was not our boat, but our boat did end up being early, so it was good I went down when I did. We got on the boat about 8:45 and he took us down to Ruby Arm, which has a trail that meets up with the lakeshore trail and heads along Ruby creek back to the trailhead where we started our adventure.
Some photos of the boat trip:
One of the fires from this summer is still smoldering a bit up the hillside:
Once we got off the boat, we made the ascent back up to the trail. At this point, it looked like a road it was so wide:
After seeing artifacts along the trail, we figured this portion of the trail must have been an old road. We found culverts, old telephone wire and other artifacts, and the corridor just looked like it used to be a road. This portion of the trip was pretty uneventful – not a whole lot to see other than Ruby creek, which was very pretty. We got to the midway point where there is a bridge over Ruby creek that connects to highway 20:
From this point on, the trail kind of disintegrated into a narrow, brushy trail that was difficult to follow in spots. We all successfully negotiated this part of the trail and soon came to our last thing to see on this trip – Beebe’s cabin – this was the Granite Creek guard station for over 30 years according to a plaque nearby, although it has now completely collapsed:
Shortly after this building, you get to the bridge across Canyon Creek, meeting the trail we started out on 4 days ago, and then shortly thereafter you get to the Granite creek bridge and then to the car.
We were all relieved to make it back to the car in one piece – tired and sore, but otherwise unharmed.
We all had a change of clothes for the trip home, so we cleaned up a bit, then headed back to Winthrop for some real lunch and then the long drive home.
Winthrop, Washington (highway 20 goes right thru it) is a very interesting place – the main street (actually the whole town) is built to look like an old west town:
If it weren’t so far away, I’d love to come back here and poke around more.
We ate lunch at a local restaurant and then started the long trip home. We stopped in Yakima for gas and dinner and then continued home. To put one final “adventure” on the trip, just outside of Hood River, the front tire on the passenger side started making a weird noise – we stopped at a rest area to take a look and the inner part of the tire failed and we had to put the donut spare on. Fortunately it happened relatively close to home. I had to drive slower on the way home, but we made it home safely – about 11:30pm – a very long day.
This trip was incredible – awesome views and scenery – but it was probably the toughest backpack trip I’ve ever done.
One last thing – we saw almost no one the whole trip – we saw one person on the first day, no one on the second day, and 4 people (2 up the trail from Ross Lake, and 2 people at Ross lake – horse campers). That was it. Probably due to being late in the season, but it made for a true wilderness experience.
A truly memorable backpacking experience.
Location of Hike: South Sister Summit Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Daniel
Hike Distance: 13.1 miles
We ended up leaving quite a bit later than we planned – something like 2:30pm. That put us at the trailhead around 6:30-6:45. The days are getting shorter now, so we were kind of racing the sun to get to the lake before it got dark.
Our view of Broken Top on the way into Moraine Lake:
We barely made it to Moraine lake before it got dark, but then we had to find the “posts” where the designated campsites are. Fortunately, Kirk had been here before and had some idea where they were. After a bit of searching, he found one, and we setup camp in the dark, followed by cooking dinner in the dark. We then went to bed – the goal was to start off relatively early to beat the crowds. I have to say, it was kind of a strange experience wandering around in the dark woods looking for a post.
We got up (mostly) with the sun, ate breakfast and broke down our camp. We hiked over to meet the climbers trail and stashed our packs in the trees for the day. We then headed up the 5+ miles to the top of South Sister.
Here is a view of Moraine Lake with our objective (South Sister) in the background:
The trail at the start is like small road – nothing like I’m used to hiking – and South Sister is always in view to the north:
We made our way up – the trail isn’t too steep at this point, although the air continues to get thinner and the soil is pretty loose in places. After a couple of hours, and a few rest stops, we made it to this lake below the Lewis glacier:
Kirk filled up with some water, we rested a bit and then started the hardest part of the climb. You can see the route in the picture above – we go to the left on the ridge and work our way up. It seems like it continues to get steeper. And there were a lot of people on the mountain this day:
Most of the way up, we got a good view of this interesting formation – not sure what it is, but I found it very intriguing:
After numerous rest breaks, we finally made it to the crater rim where we had lunch – a view from the crater rim:
This was where all the hard work made it all worth it. The views were spectacular:
The snow in the crater at the top – looking across to the true summit:
The best view from below the true summit – looking north to Middle and North Sister, 3 Finger Jack, Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood in the distance.
We mostly walked around the crater rim, although we bypassed the jagged SW part and ended up walking thru the crater. This is where the Teardrop pool would be most years – I guess the lack of snow this year dried it up.
After exploring around the top of the mountain for a while, we started our way back down, which was almost as hard as going up since the ground is so loose. You have to watch your footing going down. We made pretty good time down the hill, stopping a few times to rest and drink some water. We found our packs we had stashed in the trees and got back to the van about 5:30. We stopped in Bend for dinner and then headed home.
It was a quick trip but a really good one – interesting. Now I can say I have climbed a “glaciated peak” – I guess I can join the Mazamas!
Location of Hike: Thomas Lake Trail
Trail Number: 111
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Start Time: 10:45 AM
End Time: 2:10 PM
Hike Distance: 6 miles
We knew going in it was going to be a little iffy due to the snow that was received the prior week – it was the first snow at 4000-5000′ in a couple of months probably. We decided to chance it anyway. I recorded GPS routes of the trail, so we could follow even if it was covered in snow.
We got to the trailhead about 10:30 – there was almost no snow at the trailhead – just a few small patches. There were 3 other vehicles there, so we knew someone was hiking the trail. We headed out, up the trail to Thomas Lake. This lake was completely melted out, with really no snow:
We poked around the lake for a bit and then headed up the trail. From here, the trail headed uphill rather steeply. Fortunately, it was a short steep section. We shortly popped out onto a flat meadow, which had a fair bit of snow, and was REALLY wet and muddy:
We headed up a bit more, and got to Naha Lake, which was still frozen over:
Although the trail wasn’t too bad at this point:
We went past Naha Lake, and up to this point had a really good track from others. It was at this point the track kind of fell apart – there were footprints everywhere:
And the snow was getting quite a bit deeper (and it was all really soft):
It is hard to tell from the photos, but the sky was getting dark as well. The forecast called for 100% chance of rain on Friday night, and the clouds looked like it was starting to roll in. I wanted to make sure we had setup camp before the rain started. We talked a bit, and decided that it would be too difficult without snowshoes to do the loop we wanted to do. Since we were unable to get to much farther down the trail, we decided it really wasn’t worth camping – we would just camp out, then pack up and head out in the morning. So, we decided to hike back out and come home. No overnight on this trip.
On the way back, we stopped at Eunice Lake to eat lunch.
We also explored a few campsites (in this area you can only camp in designated sites) – they were WAY off the trail, and a good ways from the lake – they like to keep 200′ from water.
After exploring the campsites, we headed back down to the truck and drove home. Not quite the trip we were expecting, but it was still interesting to see this new wilderness area. I think this would be a great place to go later in the summer when it has all dried out.
Location of Hike: Enchantments Backpack Trip
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm - blue skies all week!
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Emily and Sarah
Hike Distance: 20 miles
Once we had our permit secured, we then needed to plan our adventure. We were going to have two novice backpackers, and none of us are in outstanding shape, so we had to plan accordingly. We wanted to plan short enough days that were realistic in order to make sure we were able to complete the loop. The entire loop is about 18-19 miles, with LOTS of elevation gain and loss. Actually, doing it counter-clockwise like we did we ended up losing more elevation than we gained (the hike was a shuttle with the starting trailhead about 2000′ higher than the ending trailhead).
The plan was this:
- Day 1 – Stuart Creek trailhead to Colchuck lake – ~5 miles and > 2000′ of elevation
- Day 2 – Colchuck Lake to Leprechaun lake – ~5 miles and 2200′ of elevation (all of it in less than a mile – Aasgard pass)/li>
- Day 3 – Before packing up, backtrack to Prusik pass and out to Shield, Earle and Mesa Lakes, then pack up and head to Upper Snow Lake – ~6.5 miles and a loss of about 1500′ of elevation/li>
- Day 4 – Upper Snow Lake to Snow Creek Trailhead – ~6.5 miles and a loss of about 4000′ of elevation/li>
We deviated slightly from our planned itinerary – we didn’t go all the way to Leprechaun Lake on Tuesday – we stopped just past Sprite Lake which seemed like a good place to camp. We also didn’t go all the way down to Shield, Earle and Mesa lakes on Wednesday – we stopped at Prusik Pass and enjoyed the view.
OK, on to the report. We left home on Sunday afternoon, had our “last supper” in Leavenworth and camped near the trailhead at eightmile creek campground. We got up on Tuesday morning and left my truck at the lower trailhead and then drove the van up to the upper trailhead to start our adventure. We got to the the trailhead about 9:00 and were on our way before 9:30am, heading up the Stuart Lake trailhead.
We headed up the well groomed trail through relatively small timber until we got to the first crossing of Mountaineer Creek:
We continued on to our second crossing of Mountaineer Creek, which was quite different from the first:
We got to the junction of the Snow Lakes trail, and headed up towards Colchuck Lake. After a bit, we got our first glimpse of what was to come:
After climbing in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, we finally got our first view of Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak:
We also got our first look at what would become rather annoying over the next couple of days – Mountain Goats:
Although that one was the only one we saw at Colchuck Lake, they would be constant companions once we entered the upper lakes basin. The weird part of them is that they crave salt, and want to lick up people’s pee to get the salt from it. It is really kind of gross, but that is what they do. They were not really aggressive, but they certainly were acclimated to humans and were not afraid of us.
We proceeded around Colchuck Lake, looking for a good campsite for the night. About halfway around, we found what we thought was a good place. It had nice access to the lake (a big rock was just under the water which made for great wading), and enough space for our three tents. It also allowed us to ponder our big challenge for the next day – Aasgard pass – 2200′ of elevation gain in .7 miles:
There was supposed to be a trail up that face, but we couldn’t see anything visible. It was going to be an interesting day on Tuesday. While we were pondering our fate on Tuesday, Kirk decided to go for a refreshing swim in Colchuck Lake:
We went to bed early with a plan to get an early start to try and beat the sun on the rocks up the pass. We woke up at 5:30 and were hiking by 7:15. We started around the lake and our first obstacle was the boulder field at the south end of the lake:
We worked our way through the boulder field(s), and finally got to the bottom of the ascent and started our journey up (it was even steeper than it looks):
We continued our climb, which kept getting steeper and steeper, and the “trail” getting more difficult to follow. They put rock cairns along the way, but it was still difficult to figure out where we were supposed to go. We got up right beside Dragontail Peak, and it had a whole new look to it, although it was still very impressive:
We got up a little higher and ran into a marmot, looking for food – he didn’t seem too interested or bothered by us:
We kept climbing, and climbing and climbing until we finally reached the pass – one last look down at Colchuck Lake:
We were now entering the upper lakes basin – the “good stuff”. All the alpine lakes and really interesting areas – along with the Mountain Goats.
Kind of a mix of moonscape, snow fields, lakes and strangely stunted trees. The scale of everything was way off. The rocks and peaks were HUGE and just popped out of the ground while all the vegetation was really tiny. Ground cover was sparse and short – trees – where there were any were gnarled and short.
After successfully summitting Aasgard Pass, we decided it was time to take a break for lunch. We were looking for some shady spot (it was getting really hot in the sun) and ended up stopping at Tranquil Lake, taking shade against some rocks. It wasn’t much shade, but it was the best we could find.
We also got our first real taste of the goats – Mama and her twins:
After we had lunch, used the “facilities” (there was a toilet on the other side of the lake), we headed down to the next lakes in the chain. Once you summit Aasgard pass, you are on essentially a downhill path – each lake feeds the lake(s) below it, so each lake is lower than the previous lake. When I was looking at the maps, I didn’t really realize this fact, since it is rather subtle. We made our way down to the next un-named lake:
We also got our first glimpse of mountain peaks that would remain with us for the next 2 days – Prusik Peak and McClellan Peak:
We continued across this barren plateau – There was still some snow left from the winter that we had to navigate through – we would encounter that on several different occasions over the next couple of days:
We went to an overlook and saw Crystal Lake – a very beautiful lake down in a bowl:
We then continued on down the trail to Inspiration Lake:
And then headed around the North end of Perfection Lake, seeing all the meadows there:
We also got a great view of Little Annapurna from the North end of Perfection Lake:
And a great view of a really cool waterfall on the West side of Perfection Lake:
We went just a little bit past this and found a campsite near a toilet (to try and escape the goats) with plenty of space for our tents – it was just past Sprite Lake. This photo was taken just above our campsite showing where Perfection Lake emptied into Sprite Lake:
We couldn’t escape the goats, however – they were constantly patrolling the campsite. They were so stealthy – you would look around and not see any, and then all of a sudden they would just appear – a few of the group that patrolled our site:
We successfully avoided the goats on Tuesday night, made dinner, and went to bed early again (we were pretty tired). We woke up on Wednesday, intending to do our side trips before our backpack to Snow Lake, however two of our party were too tired to do the side trip. So we did a shortened trip up to Prusik Pass to take in the views:
And to see Shield Lake, which was on the other side of the ridge:
It was also neat to see a preview of our upcoming lakes – Leprechaun and Viviane:
As well as being able to see where we were camped on Tuesday night:
And getting a more up close view of Prusik Peak:
And a great panorama from the pass:
Moving down the trail towards Leprechaun Lake we found this neat waterfall that drained into Leprechaun Lake:
We negotiated the trail around Leprechaun Lake and got this great view of it below McClellan Peak:
Proceeding, we got to Lake Viviane, with Prusik Peak in the background:
And a view of our destination for Wednesday night – Snow Lakes – WAY down in the valley:
The beginning of this descent started a series of climbing down rock faces – this particular one wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked – everything was dry so it wasn’t slick, but you sure didn’t want to slip off this rock:
We then crossed the outlet of Lake Viviane:
And then continued to make our way down the rock face, following the “trail”:
Until we finally got to Snow Lake:
Where we found a great campsite for the night – near a HUGE boulder:
We setup camp and then played in the water for a while. Later that afternoon, a helicopter buzzed both lakes, and sounded like Nada Lake (the lake below us), left, and then came back a few minutes later and hovered right next to the dam between the lakes:
I always thought it was illegal for helicopters to enter wilderness areas – at first I thought it was for the nearby fire – expecting to see a water bucket or something. Still don’t know what they were doing, but it was really weird.
We made dinner, played some cards and then went to bed. This was to be our last night in the wilderness. I had kind of mixed emotions – while I really enjoyed the trip, I was ready for a nice hot shower and a comfy bed (and flush toilets with no goats!).
The next morning we got up, made breakfast and then broke down camp for the last time. We wanted to get another early start, since the lower part of the trail went through a fire area and would be really hot later in the day. So we headed across the dam, down the hill, ready to start our 4000′ descent to the trailhead:
Soon we came to Nada Lake – much lower than Snow Lakes, but very long and narrow:
After a while, we crossed Snow Creek:
We eventually made it to the final set of switchbacks which would take us to the lower trailhead (if you look really hard you can see the parking lot below):
Continuing down the hill through the burned section, we sampled a few thimble berries. We finally came to the final bridge – the one that crossed Icicle Creek (more of a river!):
We all made it back down to the truck without incident. It was a pretty hot day already. Kirk and I drove my truck up to the upper trailhead to get his van. Once back at the lower trailhead, we headed into town to look for a good, hearty lunch. We found a place and had a feast (as Carly called it). Once done with lunch, we started the long journey home. 5 hours later, we were home again safely.
A truly epic trip – while the mileage wasn’t huge, the condition of the trail and the difficulty of it were incredible. It was quite a challenge, even for experienced hikers/backpackers, and everyone rose to the challenge and successfully completed it. I had a great time visiting a truly special area. While it does remind me of the Wallowas, it has its own special charm – and it requires a great deal of work to be able to see it in person. I hope to see it again some day.
Location of Hike: Goat Rocks Wilderness backpack trip
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 26.5 Miles
A bit further up, in a small sidehill meadow, things started getting interesting when we could start to see the views that would be everywhere all weekend.
And our first glimpse at a mountain (I think this was Ranier):
As we climbed higher, we could start to see some of the Jordan Creek drainage below us:
And a bit further, we could see exactly where we had to go – to go through a saddle and pop out into the Goat Creek Drainage:
Once at the top of this trail, we got a GREAT view of the Jordan Creek drainage:
At the top, there was a small meadow with Jordan creek running through it (a great source of water!) and a few nice campsites:
We watered up at the creek, took a little rest, and then headed up the rest of the way to the saddle. From there, it was pretty much downhill to Goat Lake:
It was an amazing sight. Middle of September and STILL having ice floating on it! And still some snow in places. This place must get a LOT of snow in the winter. And finally, the guys who gave this place its name (I’m guessing):
They are hard to see, however there was probably 12-15 of them on the opposite side of the lake when we came down. That was the best view we were going to get all weekend, unfortunately. After enjoying the view for a bit, we headed down the trail in search of our campsite. Having never been here, I wasn’t quite sure what the possibilities were. I had been told there was a nice site a little bit from the lake. I always like to camp near water, and trees are always nice (for a little privacy). We found a really nice spot about a mile from the lake:
It even had a pretty decent view of Mt Adams:
By the time we got to our campsite, it was time for dinner. We setup camp, cooked dinner, cleaned up and by then it was starting to get dark and we were both tired, so we just went to bed. The next morning, we got up pretty much with the sun, made breakfast, cleaned up and then were on our way for our day hikes. The plan was to go up to Hawkeye Point in the morning, come back to camp to eat lunch, and then head over to the PCT to go up and explore the area around Old Snowy. On our way to Hawkeye point, we got to enjoy this nice view from the north end of the Goat Creek drainage (near Goat Lake):
We headed around the lake and then took the cutoff trail up to Hawkeye Point. The trail was rather steep:
Once on top, we looked down upon Goat Lake:
And got a great look at Mt Ranier:
Here are two panoramic photos from up on top of Hawkeye Point:
They don’t even begin to capture the awesomeness of that view! After enjoying the view for a while, we actually started to get a bit chilly. It was a bit breezy up on top. So, after taking in the view a bit more, we headed back down and had a pretty uneventful trip back to camp. On the way back, we met a group who was on the way out, informing us that there was supposed to be rain coming in that night. The weather report I had heard said it should hold off until Sunday afternoon, but he was pretty sure it was going to rain. When we got back to camp, we talked a bit about how we really didn’t want to wake up in the rain. So, we decided to do our afternoon hike (up the PCT) and see how we felt and what things looked like when we got back to camp – we could decide then whether or not to hike out, or stay the night.
After eating a quick lunch, we headed south down the trail and soon came across this really cool, interesting waterfall:
One of my maps shows it as “slide falls”, which is pretty descriptive. It is right next to a big rockslide. We continued south until we met the Snowgrass trail and then headed east to meet the PCT:
At this point, we were essentially above the treeline and everything was heavily exposed, but the views were amazing:
We passed below Old Snowy:
And continued north (and up) to a ridge where we got a great (although different) view of Goat Lake:
We continued north on the PCT, across a snowfield until the junction with the trail up to Old Snowy. We knew we really didn’t have enough time to climb Old Snowy, so we opted to stop there to refuel a bit. We had a great view of Mt Ranier:
and the Packwood Glacier:
After we refueled, we headed back down to camp. On the way up, we had seen horses way in the distance, but didn’t figure we would see them. Well, they were apparently doing a day trip near where we turned around. On the way back down, we saw them:
We continued back down the way we came, stopping once to get more water (we went through a LOT of water!!!) and then got back to camp about 4:40. We talked about what we wanted to do, and a nice warm shower and a comfy bed sounded kind of good. We had done everything we had set out to do – all we would do in the morning would have been to pack up and hike out. We figured we had just enough time to hike out before it got dark. So, we quickly packed up and headed south down the trail. We had already logged about 13 or 14 miles, but we were determined to make it home. The trail is essentially all downhill (minus a couple of short uphill segments) to the trailhead. We were counting on that to allow us to make better time. We did catch one nice break, though. When I was looking at the map, it showed the trail going down to the floor of the drainage, then crossing Goat Creek, and then heading back uphill about 500 feet before dropping back down to the trailhead. I thought that was kind of stupid, but figured that there must be a reason. Well, we went back uphill about 100′, and then the trail was pretty much just level. The map was wrong! Either the trail got re-routed, or the map was just plain wrong. I didn’t care, it was just nice not to have to go up and then back down right at the end of the hike.
I had one really neat thing happen on the way down – at one of the rockslides, I heard the typical “meep” from the pikas that live there. I never really looked at the rockslides, thinking the pikas were hiding (as I had always seen). Well, on this rockslide, the pika was right there! And when I looked at him, he ran over to me! I wasn’t going to feed him, but he was really cute. I didn’t have enough time to get the camera out take a picture – when he realized I didn’t have anything for him, he darted off back down the rocks. MAN those guys can run fast! It was still cool, though.
We ended up getting to the truck about 7:45, just as it was getting dark – although we did use flashlights for the last bit of trail. It gets REALLY dark in the woods! We were tired, but glad to be back to the truck. Then we just had to drive the 15 miles of washboarded forest service road to get back to a real paved highway, and then make our way home. We made two stops on the way home – one for dinner (which we had skipped) and one for gas. We finally ended up at home at about 11:30pm. A VERY long day. But, it was really nice to be able to take a shower and sleep in my own bed.
I really enjoyed this trip – I always enjoy the trips with Carly, and this was no exception. I was a bit worried about the reports of how busy the place is. It was really busy, but I never felt like we weren’t in the wilderness. It wasn’t THAT busy. And, it was kind of fun to talk to some of the other hikers on the trail. We are already talking about next year – the Enchantments. That will be another epic trip – even bigger than the last two!
Location of Hike: Eagle Cap Wilderness - Wallowa Mountains
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold at night (below freezing)
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 30 miles
This was intended to be our annual backpacking trip with my daughter last year, however due to unforeseen issues it had to be cancelled. I was very excited when she asked me if we could do this trip this summer. It certainly was a memorable trip. The trip started with some drama – we drove down the 7 mile gravel road to the trailhead, which wasn’t that bad (there are a LOT worse roads in the Clackamas district). We parked at the trailhead, got out of the truck, and heard a “sssssss” sound and looked down and the front drivers side tire was almost flat. Changed to the spare (which luckily still had air in it), and we went on our way down the trail. In over 10 years of hiking, I’ve never popped a tire on a gravel road. I guess there is a first time for everything. We debated on whether to drive all the way home on the spare (350 miles), but ended up deciding to stop on the way home at Les Schwab in Enterprise. Good thing – the tire was unrepairable due to the size of the slice, and we found out the spare was a little smaller than the tires, so driving a long distance would not have been a good thing. Long story short – ended up buying new tires there – the existing tires were almost down to the wear indicators anyway and ended up getting 6 ply tires (instead of 4 ply), which should help with any punctures down the road. They (Les Schwab) said they get a lot of punctures from gravel roads in that area. When we were walking back the road, saw lots of REALLY sharp rocks. On the way out the trip was a LOT slower to hopefully make sure we didn’t pop another tire since we didn’t have a spare. It was a rather “exciting” start for the trip….
Once we got underway on the trip, we headed down the trail – day 1 was a challenging day – 11+ miles and 3000’+ of elevation gain, getting up to 8600′. We were trying to get most of the mileage done on day 1 and 2 so that day 3 would be a shorter day – we had to drive home after we got off the trail, so we wanted to make it a shorter hiking day. So, day 1 – we started around 9:30am – the first challenge was the first trail junction – a little confusing, but a couple of minutes of reviewing the map and we were on our way – across a concrete bridge over the east fork of the Lostine River. It then followed the west fork of the Lostine River up the valley. Since we had 3000′ of elevation to gain, we were climbing pretty much most of the day – until we hit the high point, where we quickly descended about 1200′ to our destination for the night – Steamboat lake. I’m getting ahead of myself here – the first couple of miles were rather non-eventful, although we did see icicles hanging from a tree in the river on the way up!
Once we got to the next trail junction (there are a lot of trails in Eagle cap!!!), we passed a horse camp and then got to our first “ford” – I was able to rock hop across, but Carly had to put her sandals on, but the water wasn’t much more than ankle deep – earlier in the year it would be calf to knee deep. Either way, the water was still COLD. We then proceeded to do two more fords, but both of them were rock hops at this time of year. We were prepared for deeper crossings, but the water level was down considerably at all the water crossings.
After the first ford, we continued up (the direction for most of the day) to another plateau where we had some nice viewpoints and was at the base of a large rockslide. A little farther up the trail, we came to another crossing of the creek and we decided to have lunch there. It was a great place to fill up with water and rest a bit before we continued our climb.
After the creek crossing, we crossed a rather large meadow and then proceeded up another series of switchbacks, climbing above the meadow. After climbing for a while, and passing a small waterfall (Elkhorn creek I think), we got to yet another meadow with a meandering creek. We stopped in this meadow for a rest and saw a cute little family of chipmunks next to the creek. They had quite an underground lair of tunnels!
After a short rest we continued through the meadow and then started up again. This continued until we came to yet another meadow at the top of that hill. We crossed that meadow (which is probably pretty wet in the spring, although it was dry when we went through), and then continued up a little farther to our highest point of the trip – 8600′. There was still snow in spots at this elevation, but the trail was clear. It gave us a great view of swamp lake and we got a preview of the switchbacks we would soon be travelling down in order to get to swamp lake.
Once we rested a bit after that LONG climb, we started down the long switchbacks down to Swamp Lake. There were some interesting “tufts” in the swampy areas in the south part of the Swamp Lakes basin. The trail had a path built over this swampy area, and then passed along the east side of the lake in the rocky areas. We stopped here to admire the lake for a bit and rest, and the proceeded past the lake and down another series of switchbacks. Just past the lake, we saw a pair of deer grazing. As soon as they saw us they took off, but it was neat to see them. After the deer we went around a small peak and then went down another series of switchbacks down to Steamboat Lake. The Steamboat Lakes basin is similar to Swamp Lake, but the lake is a little larger and there were better campsites. We were at about 7400′ in elevation. There was no one else at the lake, and we walked around to find a good campsite. We settled on one a little ways from the lake, near a couple of large granite outcroppings – one which had been used as a fire ring at some point. Fires were prohibited in this area, so not sure why people were using it for a fire ring. Maybe the prohibition is relatively new. After making dinner and getting things cleaned up, it was starting to get dark – we were tired so we turned in early – about 7:30. We both slept (more or less) until the sun came up the next morning – about 6am. It was COLD. It had frozen overnight – there were ice crystals in places were there was moisture, so I’m sure it got below freezing that night. We both stayed warm in our sleeping bags.
Once the sun came up, we made breakfast, cleaned up and got our our way to our next destination – about 11.5 miles, 2400′ of elevation gain – a campsite in Brownie Basin next to Bowman Creek. Our plan was to have the first two days be harder so we could get done earlier on the third day since we had to make the 6+ hour drive home after hiking out – we wanted to get as early a start as we could. The beginning of day 2 was pretty much all downhill, although we did have a short bit of uphill right past the lake. The rest of the downhill was pretty consistent and well graded, but it was unrelenting. We did have to lose over 2000′ of elevation though. We weaved our way through various different forests, ranging from the scraggly pine, to smaller fir, to some sections that looked very similar to forests in the Willamette valley (very dense, big trees). We switchbacked down the hills, crossing water quite a few times. One “creek” we must have crossed 4 or 5 times on the way down as we switchbacked down. When we finally got down to the bottom, it was a nice forest where the trail pretty much followed a nice creek. We followed the creek for a bit and decided to have lunch and water/rest up for the upcoming uphill sprint. We also met a lone hiker with her dog and asked about trail conditions up the way. We would need to gain about 2400′ before our destination for the day. After lunch, we saw the North Minam Meadows. They are HUGE! Although you can’t really appreciate the size of them until you start climbing out of the valley. The trail followed the east side of the meadow, but kind of hid part of it. Once you get to almost the north of the meadow, a trail junction takes you east, switchbacking up the valley wall, sometimes rather steeply. As you ascend, you can really see how big the meadow is. When you get higher, you get a GREAT view of the North Minam River valley.
As we continued up the trail (UP the trail), we got to another small creek crossing and another meadow. This made for a good watering up and rest spot. At this point, we were most of the way to the top, but we still had almost two miles to go – and boy did those two miles feel really long. When we were almost to the top, we passed the second person we would see on our trip – a guy with a pack train of animals (4 or 5) coming down the hill – he apparently was going to camp at the meadow. There was a big horse camp there that looked popular.
Once we finally got to Wilson Pass (the high point for the day), we admired the views for a bit and then started down the trail into Brownie basin, which would be our camp for night 2.
From Wilson Pass, you could see the red spires of Twin Peaks, as well as most of the basin. After some photo taking, we continued down the trail, uneventfully until we got to Brownie Basin and a nice camp spot next to Bowman Creek. Night two was mostly the same as night 1 – setup camp, cook dinner, clean up and then go to bed. It got REALLY cold on night 2, much colder than the first night, but we did OK. It warmed up pretty quickly in the morning once the sun came up.
Day 3 was a much shorter day, although it started just like the previous day, except it was much colder (strange, since it was a little lower than the previous night, and the temperatures were supposed to be higher as the week progressed). Getting up with the sun, making breakfast, cleaning up and then breaking down camp. We got all packed up by 8:30 and were on the trail back down the mountain. On the way, there were quite a few really nice viewpoints to see the Lostine River Canyon. The trail was well graded, although continued to be very rocky all the way down the mountain. We tried to enjoy our last views of Eagle Cap as we descended back into the Lostine River Canyon.
When we finally reached forest service road 8210, and the Bowman trailhead, our adventure was not quite over – we still had to hike 3.3 miles south to where we parked the truck – and to see if the rest of the tires had held air for 3 days! The hike down the road was uneventful, although in order to make better time, and since we were going to be driving right past that point, we ditched our packs in the trees. We got to the truck, and all the tires were still inflated! Since we had no spare, the trip back down the road was very slow. We got back to the place we ditched our packs and put them back in the truck and then proceeded to Les Schwab in Enterprise for that adventure (ended up buying new tires and spending 2 1/2 hours there). After that experience we still had the long 6+ hour drive home. We were both eager to get home and take a shower, so we only stopped twice – once for lunch/dinner and once for gas. We finally got back home about 8:30pm. Truly an adventure to remember!
Location of Hike: Bagby - Whetstone - Battle Ax Creek Trails
Trail Number: 544, 546, 3369, 3339
Weather during Hike: Warm, but not hot - no rain - In the 70s
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 17.9 miles
Day 1 was a relatively uneventful day, driving down the rough 4697 road to Elk Lake and beyond, up to the Bagby (544) trailhead.
Headed up the trail, gaining elevation for the first couple of miles, but not seeing anything too unusual. The forest is beautiful, with lots of old growth. When we got up close to a ridge, we ran into a lone hiker who had just encountered a bear while eating lunch. He said he saw what looked like a big German Shepard dog, but when he saw the whole thing, realized it was a BEAR. He made lots of noise, and I think the bear was as scared as he was and the bear ran down the hill. My guess is that he was being rather quiet eating lunch and the bear didn’t realize he was there. We got to Silver King Lake mid afternoon and set up camp and just relaxed the rest of the day.
The lake was beautiful with lots of salamanders and LOTS of fish jumping. I really wish I had taken my pole….I saw a rainbow trout swimming in the lake, but when some of them jumped out farther, it looked like there might be some cutthroat as well. It was really neat to watch the fish jump. Some of them were jumping REALLY high! Had dinner, cleaned up and went to bed early.
On the morning of day 2, we got up, ate breakfast and then packed up and headed out about 8:00. We went back down the hill from Silver King Lake and then went a little farther north on the Bagby trail to investigate “Howdy Doody Camp” as mentioned on the trail sheet. Not much to see, just a fire ring and a crude bench, but was somewhat interesting.
It also sparked a discussion with my daughter about who Howdy Doody was….Filled our water bottles from a small creek (rather than the lake, which tasted funny) and then proceeded back south along the Bagby trail, back up to the junction with Whetstone. Hiked across Whetstone, taking in the beautiful views from some of the rocky outcroppings along the way. When I looked south and told my daughter where we were going she asked “all the way down there?”.
It was a ways down to the creek…. We then continued losing elevation down to the junction with the 3369 trail which was the one where we lost a lot of elevation and eventually ended up at Battle Ax creek, which we crossed.
We ended up stopping there for lunch, and trying to dry out my boots – my daughter had one of those new “Off” doo dads to keep the mosquitoes at bay and it ended up falling in the creek when we were crossing. When I went to get it, I slipped and one of my feet fell in and got soaked. Oh well…We ate lunch, enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the creek, then packed up and started the long road back up. We had about 1800 feet of elevation to gain back….Right at the creek there were two really nice campsites.
Would make a great place to camp someday…Headed back up to the junction with the Battle Ax Creek trail (3369? – I don’t know) which is a really old road that was abandoned long ago and has reverted to a trail. We went west a bit to see the Shiny Rock mining company gate.
Going further it would take you all the way to Jawbone Flats, the old mining town which is still occupied with an environmental center now. We didn’t see much except for the gate and a sign – I guess there is a mine somewhere in there, but maybe we didn’t go far enough to see it. We didn’t want to go too far, since we knew how much elevation we had to make up. So we turned around and went back up the road, heading south. The road did a pretty consistent uphill all the way, gaining elevation at a reasonably gently grade most of the way. As we got closer to Beachie Saddle, the road got steeper. It was interesting that parts of the road still looked like a road, and parts were barely a trail, being very overgrown. We got to a point just short of Beachie Saddle, which offered a great view and we could see the point where I told my daughter where we would be later in the day.
Got up to Beachie Saddle, rested a bit after the long climb and then headed back to the truck (which was all downhill). I was absolutely amazed that they had cut a road through that area so long ago. It must have been a terrifying road to drive, especially in a truck!
After getting back to the truck, we found two other vehicles at the trailhead. We took our boots off and headed home. A short stop at Dairy Queen in Stayton for dinner and then home. It was a long day, a little over 12 miles and quite a bit of elevation.
All in all a good trip, however I was a little disappointed we didn’t see more interesting things – I guess that is what I get for doing a quickly planned trip. The trail from Battle Ax Creek to Beachie Saddle isn’t a great trail – there isn’t much to see, and on a sunny day would be quite warm. It is pretty open most of the way. I very much enjoyed the south end of the Bagby trail and Whetstone is always an interesting place to be. It would be interesting to see what that Gold Creek trail is like and the section between Jawbone Flats and Battle Ax Creek – That will have to wait for another day…..
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Wilderness
Trail Number: 559, 554, 555, 558, 557
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: Approximately 30 miles
Day 1 – 11 miles, plus about 1600′ of elevation gain in the last 2 1/2 miles
Day 2 – 10 miles – not too bad, but still a good day
Day 3 – 6 miles out (with backpacks) and then another 3 (without packs) up to the Gold Butte lookout.
This was a different trip than many I have taken with my daughter. In the past, we have backpacked in to a base camp, and then day hiked around to explore areas. This time, almost all of the mileage was with our backpacks on.
Day 1 was quite a killer day, especially since the last 2 1/2 miles was all uphill. 3 creek crossings (a new experience for me with a backpack),
unable to find lower Welcome Lake (where we had planned on camping) and major mosquitoes at the upper lake campground made for a tough day. We didn’t get there until about 7pm. It is a very pretty trail, however.
Day 2 – We started out by going back to look for the cutoff to lower welcome lake. We ended up finding it, however there wasn’t much of a place to camp, and you couldn’t see much of the lake due to the vine maple growing up around it. After eating breakfast and finding the lake, we set out on the West Lake way trail, bypassing the end of the Welcome Lakes trail. We saw a beautiful overlook, and saw West Lake,
which there is no trail to. It is several hundred feet below the trail.
After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we then headed over to the junction with the Schreiner trail, took that up the side of the mountain (a bunch of switchbacks) to the junction with what I think was the beginning of the Mother Lode trail. After a half mile or so, we dropped our packs and took the cutoff up to the Bull of the Woods lookout.
What a beautiful view from up there! The wildflowers were in full bloom, and most of the mountains were clearly visible.
We got a good view of Big Slide lake, where we camped a few years ago, as well as all the other peaks around.
After a half hour or so of resting and enjoying the view, we hiked back down, picked up our packs and continued on the Mother Lode trail. We came to the junction with the Pansy Lake trail, and continued south. We crossed a few more creeks, although none of these we had to get wet on (too bad, since the cool water felt REALLY good on some tired feet!). We came through a narrow canyon where Motherlode creek gets very narrow and deep. There was a cool campsite on the east side of the creek, but someone was camped there. We continued down the trail and the clouds started gathering and we were concerned that we would be getting thundershowers, so we ended up making camp at the last Motherlode creek crossing (right near the junction with the Geronimo trail). It ended up being a great idea, since it was a very nice campsite, and the creek lulled us to sleep.
Day 3 – We started out by having breakfast and breaking camp. Just past our camp is the Geronimo trail, an abandoned/unmaintained trail that is VERY steep, although it is a great shortcut through the wilderness area. We wanted to see the old Geronimo mine, which was only up the trail about a quarter of a mile. We found the site, and what we think was the old mine shaft, but after all this time, there really wasn’t much to see.
We continued on down the trail, crossing Battle Creek just before we got to the old Battle Creek shelter area where we were originally going to spend the second night. We passed through and took the trail back the lake and the truck. We got back to the truck a little before noon. We then ate a little bit and enjoyed soaking our feet in the lake before we left.
On the way home, we decided to stop and see the Gold Butte lookout, since it was right on the way home. It was supposed to only be a mile to the lookout, but it was a mile and a half each way, and it was several hundred feet up in the hot sun. Even though we were tired, we ended up making it to the lookout (which is available for rental).
The view from the lookout is one of the best views I’ve ever seen! It was absolutely incredible.
After enjoying the view for a few minutes and having a snack, we set back down the trail. We got back to the truck and ended up coming back through Detroit (rather than Estacada). We stopped at Dairy Queen in Stayton for a feast since we were both REALLY hungry.
A great and memorable trip, although I probably won’t go out of my way to go to Welcome Lakes again. I don’t know how they got their name…..
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Wilderness - Twin Lakes and Silver King Lake
Trail Number: 546, 544, 573, 558
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: Approximately 30 miles
Trail 546 (Whetstone) to Trail 573 (Twin Lakes) to Twin Lakes – Camp
It time available, Take 573 to end and explore up and down 558 – Motherlode
At junction of 558 and 559, remains of Elk Lake shelter
Off 558, trail down to porcupine mine
North on 558, proceed near Mother Lode mountain
Back 573 to 546 and camp at Silver King Lake
If 573 trip not done, do that before leaving Twin Lakes
After setting camp at Silver King Lake, explore up Bagby Trail 544
Back to Whetstone trailhead
We started out on Tuesday, 7/29 about 10:30am at the trailhead for the Whetstone trail. The weather forecast called for rain, and it was getting increasingly cloudy, so I was worried about getting setup in the rain. We talked about it, and thought about camping at Silver King Lake on Tuesday night, but decided to press on and make it to Twin Lakes.
We got a little drizzled on, but made it to the lake before the rain got too bad. After dinner, we made a short trip down to the Lower Twin Lake to see what it was like. It had a fire late last summer and it had destroyed part of the trail and possibly the campsites there. The lake is smaller than Upper Twin Lake, but was still very pretty.
It drizzled most of the night and it was pretty wet when we got up on Wednesday, but the sun was starting to come out. We then hiked down the Twin Lakes trail to the junction with the Mother Lode trail (558), looking for the porcupine mine.
We didn’t end up finding it, but did find an old campsite. We also got VERY wet due to the brushy trail and everything being so wet from the rain. Since we had a long day of hiking ahead, we turned around, went back to camp, had lunch and packed up. We then went back up the Twin Lakes trail, up a section of the Bagby trail to the Silver King Lake cutoff. Silver King Lake is a little unique in that we had to hike UP to it. Typically, lakes are at the bottom of a hill, but this lake was set up on a high “ledge”. We had to hike about 200′ up from the Bagby trail, on a rather tough section of trail. We got camp setup and started hanging up wet stuff when 3 other hikers showed up.
Since there really was only one campsite there, we offered to share with them. We talked a bit and they started a nice fire. Carly instructed me on how to solve a rubics cube after dinner (freeze dried lasagna-yum!), and then we had chocolate pudding for desert. We played a little 5 card rummy and then turned in after hiking about 12 miles that day. We were pretty tired.
The third day, we got up early, made breakfast and broke camp. We were on the trail by about 8:00, wanting to hike in the cooler weather of the morning. The hike back up the trail up to the junction with the Whetstone trail is pretty grueling. It is a narrow, steep and brushy trail that gains about 700′ in a mile. That first mile took up about 45 minutes, and we were huffing pretty good when we finally got to the top. After that, the trail was a little more forgiving, doing gentler up and downs. We hiked to the junction that goes to the top of Whetstone Mountain, dropped our packs in the woods, and hiked up to the top of Whetstone Mountain. The view from the top is absolutely spectacular, having an unobstructed 270 degree view.
The top of the mountain is a large rock outcropping, so there are no trees up there to block the view. You earn the view, however. The trail is pretty steep, and gains something like 900′ in a mile. It was also pretty tough due to the many downed trees over the trail. I have to say it was worth the hike, however. The view is one of the best in the area, I think. Looking out over the uncut sections of the forest is simply beautiful. After enjoying the view for a few minutes and taking some pictures, we descended back down, got our packs, ate a little lunch, and then finished the hike at the truck about 12:30. Since it was still pretty early, we decided to take a detour on the way home, looking for the “bridge to nowhere” that I had recently heard about. Apparently, the story is that the USFS wanted to log the trees in one area, and they were trying to get the roads into it before the area could be designated a wilderness. The built the bridge, but before they could build any roads, the area was designated wilderness and no logging could be done. So, the bridge sits and goes straight into a hillside.
It is a very odd sight! Due to the road closure (road 63 washout), we had to take the long way around and it took about 1 1/2 hours to get to it. It was worth the drive, though!
All in all a great 3 days through some absolutely gorgeous country. Most of the area we hiked in was old growth and/or virgin forest.
Location of Hike: Fish Creek Basin
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm during the day, cool at night
Hiking Buddies: Larry, Andrew, Alex, Gabe
Hike Distance: ~25 miles
The plan was to head up road 45, and make our way down to the point where the road was closed, and make that the starting point for the trip. I guess it was not to be, since we didn’t get more than 1/2 mile off road 45 (close to the Memaloose Lake turnoff), and there was a HUGE boulder blocking the ENTIRE road. I wish I had gotten a picture of it, since it couldn’t have been more perfectly placed to close the road. Well, this is where the adaptation comes in…..We talked about it, and decided to hike in from the North (the same way I have hiked before), and we hoped that we could get in far enough to see some of the southern areas. We ended up hiking in a little over 6 miles, and camped on the 3rd bridge that crosses Fish Creek. It was about the only place we could find that was reasonably flat. It actually worked out really well, and it was a very pretty area with plenty of water close by.
We ended up making that our base camp, and did a couple day hikes to explore the area a little more. We hiked about another couple miles up the road, and found a beautiful waterfall. It was difficult to see due to the heavy undergrowth, but we did get a pretty good glimpse of it. We went up a little further and decided to turn around.
On Saturday afternoon, I tried to explore the old road that went down Wash Creek. WOW was that a tough hike! The old road has been quickly reclaimed, and lots of it is VERY overgrown and tough to navigate. I only hiked a couple of miles, but I was BEAT. Sometimes I wonder if not being able to get to the southern “trailhead” was a good thing. Maybe it would have been a very difficult bushwhack up from that side. The reports I have seen from people that have been that way say that it isn’t too bad, and that the Wash Creek road is the worst of it. Someday I’d love to see for myself.
On Sunday morning, we decided to hike up the creek from our base camp, trying to get to the falls. It was an interesting trip, with some gorgeous views that you can’t see from anywhere else, but we didn’t make it to the falls. The creek kind of falls into a canyon, and continuing hiking would have been very dangerous, so we turned around and then headed for home.
It was 3 days of hiking in a beautiful area that looks very close to wilderness now. The only reason that the hike up old road 54 is still passable is that ATVs use it, and there is a narrow path they have created. Normally, I don’t like ATVs, but in this case, it is the only thing that is keeping that road open, and I can’t say that is a bad thing.
Location of Hike: Mink Lakes Basin
Weather during Hike: Mostly Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 18 miles
The trail in started out with scrubby pines, but changed to larger pine/fir as we got closer to the lakes.
We stayed the first night at Cliff Lake, then did some day hiking to explore some of the other lakes.
We saw the shelter at Mink Lake and some other, smaller lakes in the area.
After the day hiking, we decided to hike back out to make Sunday a shorter day (since we had about a 4 hour drive home). The weather was pretty good and the mosquitoes weren’t too bad, as long as you kept moving. If you sat down, they pounced pretty quickly.
We spent most of our evenings in the tent to escape them. All in all, a very nice long weekend backpack trip with my daughter.
Location of Hike: Backpacking at Big Slide Lake
Trail Number: 553
Weather during Hike: Warm and sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly (my daughter)
Hike Distance: 18
We took a couple of side trips to Lake Lenore and also the Bull of the Woods lookout.
Interesting areas, especially on the trip from the lookout to Lake Lenore.
Some parts looked a LOT like eastern Oregon (lots of scrub bushes and rocks, and VERY warm) Lots of pictures to look at, and yes, there are fish in the lake!
Location of Hike: Shining Lake Trail
Trail Number: 510
Weather during Hike: Wam, some clouds
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 10 miles
Location of Hike: Serene Lake and Grouse Point Trails
Trail Number: 512, 517
Weather during Hike: Warm
Hiking Buddies: Alan, Alex, Dylan and Nick
Hike Distance: 17 miles
Location of Hike: Red Lake and Potato Butte
Weather during Hike: Overcast and Cool
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 8 miles
Location of Hike: Duffy Lake in Mt Jefferson Wilderness area
Weather during Hike: Warm, with a few showers
Hiking Buddies: Carly (my daughter) and Nick (my son)
Hike Distance: 12 miles