Location of Hike: Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to sunny - cool
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:35 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We headed out about our normal time and got to the trailhead about 10:30. On the way in we passed a LOT of what I’m pretty sure were hunters camped along road 58. We passed a few vehicles, even up 5830. There was one car at the Shellrock lake trailhead when we passed and we even encountered one truck past that trailhead – almost to the Cottonwood meadows trailhead. It was kind of weird – I’m not used to seeing so many people up in the woods so late in the year.
We packed up and headed out. As usual, Thor was raring to go. We started down the trail and were quickly presented with lots of nice fall colors:
It wasn’t too long before we got to the first meadow, which was completely dry:
A few things that were different that I remember from my last trip (2 years ago):
- The flags marking the entry and exit to the meadow seemed gone – I really need to make sure I have flagging in my pack to help with stuff like this. I think I’ve used all my flagging up.
- The trail generally was in rougher shape than I remember – mostly due to downed trees
- I always seem to forget how much elevation you gain/lose on this trail – I think it is pretty flat due to the meadows, but you go down to each meadow and then down to the spur road on the south end.
We found our way across the first meadow, found where the trail re-enters the woods and continued down. We soon got to the second “meadow, which is more of a lake. It seems to hold water pretty much all year long. Although the map doesn’t show a name, I call it Cot Lake since this feeds Cot Creek:
We made our way around the lake and continued to the third meadow which gives you a good look back north at Mt Mitchell. I played with the zoom on my phone and I’m pretty sure this is a (blurry) shot of the overlook above off the Rimrock trail:
Thor was have a good time running around in the meadow. After a bit of looking around, we continued down and soon hit the 240 spur. From here, there is really no trail – it is in an old cut area and the trail was never maintained thru it. The good news is that for the most part it isn’t too bad to walk thru. The cut is not recovering well at all and there is a lot of open space that makes walking thru it relatively easy. We made our way thru it – I think I finally found the “wash” that Donovan refers to. It appears to be a runoff “creek” that runs down the east side of the cut along the cut line. For the most part, that is relatively easy walking but there were a few rough spots. It seems like I never take the same route twice thru there. I end in the same spots in a few places but get there differently every time. I guess that is part of the adventure.
As we headed thru the cut, we came to an old skid road. The trees in this area were getting a bit tougher to get thru, so we headed up the skid road to where it meets the 260 spur and then walked down the 260 spur. On the way down the 260 spur, I saw a lot of large hoof prints. At first I thought they were from a horse, but I think they were from a large elk – some of the prints (although they weren’t fresh, they were reasonably easy to see), had a line down the middle which would indicate deer or elk hooves, not a horse:
If that was indeed an elk print, it was a VERY large elk!
When we got to the junction with the 270 spur we stopped to have lunch. After eating, I took out my drone and got some interesting video from a higher vantage point:
After putting away the drone, we continued down the road to the end and started down the lower segment of the trail. This segment is significantly rougher than I remember. The vine maple and rhodies have REALLY grown up in some areas, obscuring the tread. I didn’t bring my loppers, but I did spend a fair amount of time cutting out a few sections – one spot had a tree right in the tread, making it almost impossible to get thru. After you get back into the real old growth again it gets better, but the transition from the cut to the old growth needs some attention for sure.
Once back into the woods the trail gets better, however there were quite a few logs down. I cut the smaller stuff out but this too could use some attention. I counted approximately 25 logs (some pretty large) in the last quarter to third mile above the 4635-120 spur.
We made it down to the 4635-120 spur and found it pretty rough – no traffic here for quite some time since 4635 has been closed for over a year now:
We didn’t spend too much time here – mostly just turned around and headed back uphill. As we were going up, I took a photo of probably the largest downed logs in this lower section:
I didn’t really spend any time on the way back up doing any maintenance as we needed to get back to the truck. As we headed back up the hill, the sun actually came out! The wind kind of picked up a bit too – I think the forecast rain was blowing in. We made it back up the lower segment in about 45 minutes and then did the cross country section in another half hour or so. When we got back to the 240 spur crossing, we headed across the road back on the real trail (even though it is still kind of rough). When we were getting to the north end of that south meadow, Thor took off, bouncing thru the meadow (he looked kind of like Tigger bouncing thru the meadow) – I thought he saw an animal, but as I got closer there were 3 hunters standing in the entry to the meadow. I called him and he finally came – I put his leash on and when we got to the hunters I told them I hadn’t expected to see anyone and they replied they weren’t expecting to see a dog either. They asked if they were on the Cottonwood Meadows trail and I told them they were, but it doesn’t get much traffic so it can be kind of faint. We didn’t talk long and we continued our trip north. We made good time, getting back to the truck about 2 hours from the bottom end. We packed up and headed out.
As we were driving out the 5830 road, I saw these beautiful fall colors across the canyon and had to stop to get a photo:
Shortly before 5830 meets 58, got behind two trucks who were going VERY slowly (like 15 miles an hour). The first one kind of sped up and disappeared but the one in front of me just putted along – I had to follow him for several miles until he finally turned off on a spur road. It was pretty frustrating that someone was not considerate enough to let me pass – that is just kind of common forest road courtesy.
Once past the slowpoke, it was the typical long ride back home over Mt Hood. It was a beautiful fall day with amazing hiking weather. A great day out in the woods.
I think we need to put this trail on the “todo” list to clean up some of the rougher spots…..
Location of Hike: Olympic National Park
Weather during Hike: Sunny to rainy
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 18.1 miles Elevation Gain: 4100 feet
Due to lots of activity and general life busyness, we decided to do a less strenuous trip this year. Carly nicknamed it a “chill” trip, which was reasonably accurate. While it was reasonably easy, especially compared to some trips we did, it did have several surprises and enough challenge.
This was the plan:
- Day 1 – Drive to the Olympics, get our permits, etc situated and stage the cars for the shuttle
- Day 2 – Third Beach to Toleak Point – 6.8 Miles
- Day 3 – Toleak Point to Mosquito Creek – 5.5 Miles
- Day 4 – Mosquito Creek to Oil City Trailhead and then drive home – 5.9 Miles
Total Mileage: 18.2
Monday – 9/13/2021
This was a day of driving and getting things setup for the trip. We decided to meet in Port Angeles and then decide on what to do from there. It is about a 5 hour drive from home for both of us so it seemed a good place to meet. We met around 1:00 and then had lunch at a restaurant on the water. After a leisurely lunch (this was a “chill” trip), we drove down to the southern trailhead to leave my truck there for the shuttle. I was surprised to see quite a few vehicles at that trailhead since it was a Monday – but Carly thought maybe people were doing a long weekend. I unloaded my gear into Carly’s car and then we drove back to the campground (Bogachiel State Park) where we had a reservation for the night. After setting up camp, we drove into Forks (a small town – the only one nearby) and had pizza for dinner and then came back to the campground and went to bed since it was getting dark.
Tuesday – 9/14/2021 – 6.8 Miles
We woke up Tuesday morning, broke camp and then headed out to the northern trailhead. It was kind of a foggy day to begin with and I had seen that there was supposed to be rain (which I wasn’t looking forward to) I think we ended up starting out about 9:45. There were quite a few cars at the trailhead, even though it was a Tuesday. I later found out that many people just hike to the beach and back – they aren’t doing the whole loop like we did. This part of the trail is REALLY wide – like a road:
It wasn’t too long before we got our first look at the ocean – this was “Third beach” (there is a first and second beach farther north):
This was our first beach leg – the trail alternates between beach segments and headland segments where you have to go around spots there is no beach. The interesting thing is that there isn’t much of a trail from the beach to the headlands – you basically just go straight uphill for the most part. The good news is that these areas do have some assistance in the form of ropes and/or steps to help.
We started down the beach – at this point it was just kind of foggy – no real rain, just a slight mist from the fog:
Very quickly we came across this beach art – one thing we were amazed by was the amount of ocean garbage that washes ashore – I don’t think they have real beach cleanups here and there is literally tons of garbage that washes ashore – people have gotten creative in how they utilize it:
It wasn’t too long before we had to climb up to the headlands to continue. This was our first experience with climbing to the headlands – it is steeper than it looks – this was climbing up to the Taylor trail segment:
Here is another example – a “ladder” (which has some missing rungs):
The climb up is not too far, and not that difficult but it is rather short and intense. Once in the woods, the trails were in good shape for the most part, but I was surprised at how muddy they were:
You do get some great views from the headlands:
And this segment of coast has lots of interesting rocks offshore:
A bit farther along the Taylor trail, we came across this huge pile of ocean garbage – I don’t know if people collect it and just dump it here or if they take it out with some frequency or what – but it was a LOT of garbage, all apparently washed up from the ocean:
This trail segment wasn’t too long in the woods and then we dropped back down to the beach where it got a bit rocky:
At some point in this area Carly found a fully inflated soccer ball. It had started raining a bit and we started kicking the soccer ball down the beach. It kind of helped to keep our minds of the rain (and the wind in our faces). Since the weather had gotten increasingly tougher, I didn’t take a lot of photos for a while. We just kicked the ball down the beach, retrieving it from the ocean when it rolled into the waves.
Since this was a relatively short day, I think we got to our planned spot around 2:00 and started looking for a campsite for the night. There were a couple that were occupied but there were quite a few available. We found a nice one and setup camp. The campsite was in the trees and it helped cut down how wet we had gotten. After we got setup I think we both kind of chilled in our tents for a while.
After a while of hanging out, we decided to go find water – it was a bit of a hike, having to go all the way around Toleak Point (with its accompanying wind) to the outlet of a small creek. We filled up and while I was looking at my map it showed a shelter in that vicinity. We looked around and didn’t see anything and then I looked up and saw the shelter – it was a bit above the creek. We climbed/clawed our way up the hill and took a look. It was in pretty poor shape but was an interesting artifact:
We went back to camp and made dinner and went to be early. This is what our campsite for night 1 looked like:
Wednesday – 9/15/2021 – 5.5 Miles
It rained during the night but at some point things cleared up and the view on Wednesday morning was much nicer:
We got up – it was a bit chilly but not too windy. We made breakfast but kind of lazed around camp for a while. This was the day (we thought) we had to pay attention to the tides and hike at low tide, so we were not in a hurry to leave. I think we left camp around 10:20 or so – normally we are usually gone by 8:00 or so.
We continued south, around Toleak Point and the weather was so much nicer today – a little windy but dry and sunny:
We didn’t hike too far on the beach and then had to head up on the Goodman trail. Once up on top this was looking north from where we came:
Partway down the trail we came across this really interesting root – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a root like this:
And shortly after that strange root, we came across this “Candelabra Tree”:
About halfway on the Goodman trail, we came to a creek crossing and a small waterfall on a tributary of Goodman creek:
A bit farther we crossed Goodman Creek proper which looked pretty low:
One thing I noticed on this segment of trail was the absolutely beautiful, huge trees:
After crossing the creek we soon made our (rapid) descent back to the beach. This is what the beach looked like after coming down from Goodman Creek:
At this point we had a clear shot all long a reasonably easy beach segment to get to Mosquito creek. That was our destination for the night.
This is what Mosquito Creek looked like – more of a small pond than a creek:
We headed over Mosquito creek and back up into the trees since we didn’t really see any campsites. Once up the hill a little ways we found several campsites as well as the toilet and we decided on a campsite for the night. One thing I forgot to mention – other than the people camped at Toleak Point, we only saw two people all day – two guys coming north. They said they were alone at Mosquito creek the night before, and we were also the only ones camped there the night we were there.
This is what our campsite Wednesday night looked like:
Close by our campsite there was this tree with these very weird bumps on it – I wonder what causes those?:
After setting up camp and relaxing for a while we made dinner and then went up to a viewpoint where someone had built a little bench where you could watch the sunset. We watched the sunset, and although it wasn’t a spectacular one, it was really nice to be in this beautiful setting watching the sun go down:
After the sun set, we went back to camp and went to bed.
Thursday – 9/16/2021 – 5.9 Miles
Thursday was our last day on this trip and usually the last days are not too exciting – it is mostly about getting off the trail and getting back home. This day had a few surprises for us however.
The plan was to get going early so we could get out and get lunch in Forks and then head home – we both had 5+ hour drives ahead of us. We got up, ate breakfast and got all cleaned up and packed up and headed up by about 8:00. We only had less than 6 miles and we thought we’d easily be back to the truck by noon – you know what they say about plans….
We continued on the Hoh Head trail which had some gorgeous huge trees on it:
This segment of the trail also had some interesting boardwalks – other segments had something kind of similar but these seemed better built (or maybe they were just newer):
We also passed this HUGE uprooted tree:
And had to navigate this interesting carved staircase:
This segment of woods walking was one of the longest of the trip – these were typically harder to do because the trail was muddy, there were lots of roots to avoid and lots of up and downs – not too much clear sailing. It took us about 2 hours to navigate these 3 miles thru the woods and we thought we were home free. This segment had one of the more difficult descents:
We finally made it to the beach and it was just about high tide but we didn’t think that mattered too much. We figured worst case we’d have to wait a few minutes. We were wrong.
As we were walking down the beach we saw these prints in the sand:
After looking at them I think it might have been a fox – it certainly looked like a canine and since dogs are prohibited from the park, a fox seems like a likely probability.
At one point I looked back at Hoh Head where we had come from:
It was shortly after I took this photo that things changed quite dramatically. There is a rock outcropping just north of diamond rock that is covered at high tide. There is no beach, just large rocks. We made our way partway around the corner but got stuck. We stopped and waited for a while and the water receded enough that we could pass if we timed it correctly. We got around the corner to another spot that was the same, so we had to wait some more. While we were waiting, I was watching the waves, trying to figure out how to time them correctly. While I was looking, I saw something with a fin pop up in the water. After looking at things post hike, I think this was a harbor porpoise:
After 3 hours of waiting (about half way to low tide) this was the area we needed to get by:
The water had gotten low enough and it looked like it was just a short segment that we needed to get thru – worse case was we’d get wet feet. We tried and Carly got both feet wet and I got one foot wet, but we finally made it thru. We thought we were home free but we found out we still had more obstacles – at least these were passable:
We had to walk over rocks of various sizes almost the whole way back but at least we weren’t stopped by the tide anymore. When we finally got to the spot where the Hoh River dumps into the ocean we found literally THOUSANDS of birds (they are really hard to see in the photo – it just amazed me how many birds were there):
We kept walking and followed the river and found the trail back into the woods. As we were walking, the trail basically followed the river and I saw these interesting rock formations in the river:
We kept walking and finally made it to the truck about 3:00! Had we not had to wait 3 hours for the tides we would have been able to get back around noon as we were planning.
Since we hadn’t really planned food for lunch on Thursday, we wanted to have a “goodbye” lunch – it ended up being more of “linner” (lunch and dinner). We stopped at a local place, had a nice meal, and then continued north to go get Carly’s car. By the time we got there, it was almost 5:00. I changed into my driving clothes and we said goodbye. She headed north on 101 and I headed south. I got home about 10:00 after stopping only once for gas. I think Carly got home a little later than I did.
It was an amazing trip that had a great mix of being laid back while also throwing in some unexpected experiences. It was cool we didn’t see anyone the last two days except the two guys going north – we saw not one person on Thursday at all! It is definitely a trip I’d do again.
Location of Hike: Shining Lake Trail
Trail Number: 510
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:10 AM End Time: 2:40 PM
Hike Distance: 10.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
Since it was going to be a long drive, I left a bit earlier than normal. We made it to the trailhead about 10:00 and I was surprised to see another car there. I remember the last time I did this trail (one of the first backpacking trips I did with my daughter), a truck had driven around the tank traps and drove all the way down to the old campsite above the lake. They have reinforced the deterrents to do this and I don’t believe anyone can drive down the road any longer. This is what the start of trail/road looks like now:
The old road is relatively flat and the areas where it gains/loses elevation are very well graded. A short ways down the trail, you get a nice view of Mt Hood from the Trail:
We continued down the road and about a mile in, we passed a group of 4 backpackers returning from the lake. I’m assuming that was who had the vehicle at the trailhead. A little farther, I was surprised to see this huge tank trap:
We continued down the road/trail making really good time. A short ways before the turnoff down to the lake, I saw this broken axle discarded on the side of the trail:
And soon we got to the old campsite at the top of hill – this is where a truck was last time we were here:
From that campsite, the trail takes off down to the lake. I was surprised at how good the tread was. I thought this trail got very little use, but maybe I’m wrong. It certainly looks like a reasonably well used trail – either way, it was in really good shape:
On the descent, we got a few tiny glimpses of the lake, but after about three quarters of a mile, we finally arrived at Shining Lake:
This was the first campsite, which is I think where we camped 16 years ago – although it looks a bit different now:
Here is the photo I took of our campsite in 2005:
We stopped here and had lunch and enjoyed the view. Thor took a short dip in the lake and did his usual sniffing around. After lunch, we decided to see if the trail continued around the lake – the map shows the trail stopping here, but it looked like it continued. We followed the trail (which got kind of indistinct at times) around the lake and found at least 2 more campsites – maybe 3 – I can’t remember. I took photos of at least two of them. Campsite #2:
And here is Campsite #3:
From that last campsite we continued until we got to the rockslide. I was wondering if maybe the trail continued across the rockslide but I don’t think so. I took this cool photo of the lake from the rockslide:
After taking that photo, we turned around and headed back up the hill. The trip up seemed a bit quicker than the trip down, but maybe that was just an illusion. We got back to the old road, and headed west toward the old lookout location. From this point on, the road got markedly worse. Some areas looked mostly like old road, and some were almost completely brushed in by rhodies.
It wasn’t too long before we reached the end of the road – the road takes a short loop at the very end which was interesting. There was a small fire ring at the end of the road and then a very short trail out to the site of the old lookout. It was easy to tell this is where the lookout was – there was glass on the ground and also you could see the mortared stones for the foundation:
The view isn’t as good as it was back when it was a lookout. but you can still see things. It was a bit smoky/hazy, but you could still see some peaks – looking southwest-ish:
After looking around a bit we turned around and headed back. On the way in, I remembered seeing a big pile of bear scat and thought “I should have taken a picture of that!” – well, on the way out I saw it again and took a photo this time – that is a pretty hefty pile of berries!:
We continued back and I cut a few small trees off the trail as we went to make passage easier – it is obvious this old road doesn’t get much in the way of maintenance – there was quite a few trees down over it. As we were walking back, at one point I noticed a rocky outcropping just above the road. I decided to head up there to see what we could see. We got to see the pretty smoky view of Mt Hood and surrounding hills:
It was an interesting diversion on the way back. The rest of the trip back was pretty uneventful – the easy road walking made for a pretty quick trip back. When we got to the truck, I noticed there was another vehicle at the campground but I didn’t see anyone so I’m not sure where they were.
We packed up and headed out – on the way out of the 240 spur I met another truck coming in and we had to pass on the road which was rather interesting.
When I was driving out road 58 a car was coming the other way flashing their lights and waving their hand out the window. It was a woman with her family looking for Little Crater Lake. I had gone there a few years ago just to see what it was, but couldn’t remember exactly where it was. I pulled out my maps and figured out she had taken a wrong turn. She went left instead of right. So I think I got her straightened out and she was very thankful. The only other thing of note was the traffic on the way home – 26 was REALLY busy. At times traffic came to complete halt. When we got to Zigzag where 26 turns back to 4 lanes things cleared up but it was a pretty slow trip until then.
A great day in the woods rediscovering a very interesting trail and location.
Location of Hike: East Side Driving Tour and Mt Lowe Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 12:30 AM End Time: 2:00 PM
Hike Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 500 feet
As with last time, we didn’t have much of a plan, but I kind of wanted to see the Collowash river. With that vague goal in mind, we set off on the long drive around Mt Hood. We made it to the turnoff at the 42 road and headed south. When we got to Clackamas Lake, we zipped by, but I thought I saw some sigh about a closure. A little farther up the road, there was a sign saying “road closed 20 miles ahead”. Since they JUST opened this us, I figured it must have been something on 46 – maybe doing some cleanup or something – I was wrong.
We made it about a mile from the junction with road 46 and then came to a road closed sign – and the road is definitely closed! They are working on replacing the bridge at Last Creek:
After looking at that area for a bit, we had to figure out how to get down to 46. The only way we could see was to go back to road 4220, take that down to 4690 and take 4690 down to 46 – a detour on an already long detour. The good news is that 4220 used to be a pretty bad road, but they had done quite a bit of work on it last summer during the Lionshead fire. It looks like they were going to use it as a firebreak if needed. This made the detour not nearly as bad as we were fearing – the last time I drove 4220 it was a rocky, potholed mess of a road.
We got to the junction with 4690 and saw the gate to Olallie closed. We continued down 4690 to 46 – part way there we were greeted by a truck with its flashers on and he said there was a semi truck behind him so we needed to move over. Fortunately there was plenty of room to get off the road at that point. The semi passed with what looked like a big grader – we were guessing maybe they were going to work on the road to Olallie.
We got to 46, headed north and soon got to 4670. From there we headed west – one interesting thing we saw along the way – someone was parked at the old road up to Tarzan Springs – we were wondering if someone was hiking the old trail up to Burnt Granite. At the same place we stopped for lunch two weeks ago, we stopped again – this is the spot the Rho Ridge trail almost comes to the road – it is right above the road and there is an old trail sign there. We hiked north on the trail to the summit of Mt Lowe – I haven’t been there in a long time – if my reports are correct I’ve only been there once and it was in 2007!
This is what the old Old lookout site on Mt Lowe looks like now:
We stopped and ate lunch and after lunch we looked around and also noted all the mountain views. I got this cool annotated peak view from Mt Lowe of the Fish Creek Mountain ridge:
After enjoying the view for a bit, we decided to head back. The dogs were hot due to the sun and we had more places to see. On the way back, eagle eye Kirk noticed this old yellow diamond trail marker and insulator:
And at an open spot on the way back to the truck, we got this spectacular view of Mt Jefferson, Broken top and Three Sisters from Rho Ridge trail:
We soon got back to the truck and packed up and started heading down to the Collowash – down 6350 to 63. Along the way we did see (surprisgly enough) a few campers along the river. Little Fan campsite had several people and there was at least one other dispersed camping area that had someone, but it is NOTHING like it would have been on a normal 4th of July weekend.
We finally made it to the road closure at the junction of the 63 and 46 roads:
We walked past the gate up to road 46. This is what the burned area to the north of that area looks like:
And then looking north on 46:
Kirk wanted to go swimming for a bit, so we went down to the river and I put my feet in the river while the dogs cooled off a bit:
Kirk swam across the Collowash and then went all the way over to the other side of the Clackamas. Ollie was a little stressed about that. You can’t really see this in the photo, but Ollie swam all the way across the river to the other side to be with Kirk:
After a quick swim, we loaded back up into the truck and started our trip home. On the way in, there was a spot called “Bob Meadow” which looked like it was close to a spur road that we thought was open, so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately, the spur road was tank trapped pretty quickly, so we just ended up walking up the road. At one point we had to go cross country to Bob Meadow. We finally found it, but was a bit of a let down. It wasn’t really anything special, just a swampy area:
It was pretty buggy too, so we didn’t stay very long. We found the easiest way back to the road and then walked back to the truck. By this time it was after 4:00 and we still had a fair amount of driving to get home. We went back the long detour. When we got back to Clackamas Lake, we stopped to look at the sign I buzzed by on the way in. If we had paid attention this sign it would have saved us about 7 miles of driving:
Oh well, it was a day of exploration and it was kind of cool to see that bridge under construction. We made it back over Mt Hood and decided to stop at Fearless for dinner. By the time we got there it was almost 7:00 I think. It was a long day of driving – I didn’t keep exact count, but I think it was about 260 miles.
It was an interesting day of exploration and it was cool to see part of Rho Ridge and Mt Lowe as well as the Collowash.
Location of Hike: East Side Clackamas District
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 6:00 PM
Starting out, we didn’t really have much of a plan, but this is how the day progressed:
- Headed out highway 26 to where road 42 intersects it – took road 42 all the way to where it meets 46 (about 26 miles)
- Drove road 46 to the south end closure where 4690 intersects it
- Drove road 46 north to 4670 – headed up 4670 to 6350 (Graham Pass) – had lunch where the Rho Ridge trail comes close to the road
- From Graham Pass, headed south to 6355 – headed up to the south Rho Ridge Trailhead
- Continued south on 6350 to the closure gate at 46 – interesting thing was that the gate was open
- Headed back north on 6350 to Cachebox meadow and then out 4671 to 4672 and then up to the intersection on 4672 of the Rho Ridge trail – we walked down to Fadeaway Springs – it had water in it!
- Drove 4672 back to 4671 and then 4670 to 46 – headed north on 46 to the north closure point near Austin Hot springs
- Drove back down road 46 to 42 – headed up 42 to road 57 to Timothy Lake – Followed detour signs over to 58 – headed up 58 to the east end of the 4610 closure gate
- Drove out to high rock springs primitive camp – found out the east side of the road was closed due to at least one large log over the road
- Drove back out to 4610 to 58 to 42 and then back highway 26
It would have been nice to have been able to get down to the Collowash, but we ran out of time. That would have added another 20 miles to our trip, or about 30 miles if we went all the way down to where the closure would be on 63. We did a lot of driving as it was. I guess that will have to wait for another day.
We started at our usual time and headed out to Sandy, out highway 26 to Government camp and over the Blue Box pass to where Skyline Road (road 42) hits it. We headed south on 42 all the way to where it intersects road 46, which is about 26 miles if I did my calculations correct. From there we drove south on 46 to where 4690 meets it and where the south end closure gate was:
While we were looking at it, amazingly enough there was a van that came down 4690 – we think they were looking for a spot to camp. We let the dogs run around a bit and looked around, took some pictures and then headed back north. As we were driving, we came across the small burned area across road 46:
It isn’t too long, but it did burn pretty significantly. There was a sign that burned – not sure what it said, but one side of the post burned.
We continued on 46 to where 4670 intersects it and headed west. Near the 46 junction there is a spring that I never really knew about – it is on the map and is a good water source:
We headed out 4670, and at one point, there is an old access spot for the Rho Ridge trail – we stopped here and had lunch:
There were some great views to the south of Olallie Butte:
The bugs were pretty bad here so we had a quick lunch – Kirk walked north on the trail and he saw a log – I brought my chainsaw just in case we hit a log across the road, so we decided to do a little tiny bit of maintenance – here is the before shot:
And here is the after shot:
There was a smaller log just past this one that Kirk cut out as well, but this trail is really becoming overgrown and somewhat faint – at least in this section.
We finished our maintenance and looked around a bit more and continued south to Graham Pass and then continued south on 6350 to the Rho Ridge southern trailhead:
From here, we went back to 6350 and headed south to see how far we could go – we passed thru a few burned areas until we got almost to 46 where we found this gate – it was open:
We turned around (I kind of wanted to drive down 46 to see what it looked like but I resisted the urge), and headed back north to Cachebox meadow where we headed out 4671. We decided to head up to the Rho Creek trail and see what Fadeaway spring looked like.
Along the way, we turned off 4671 to 4672 and we stopped where the road crossed Berry Creek – it was an interesting little creek:
After a short stop there, we continued and finally got to our next stop at the point where the Rho Ridge trail crosses 4672. We headed down the trail to Fadeaway Spring:
Amazingly enough it had water in it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen water in this spring. After a little looking around, we headed back up to 4672 and back down 4672 to 4671, past the lower trailhead and back to 46. From there we headed north on 46 to the closure gate at the north end of 46 – Near Austin Hot Springs:
After looking around for a bit we turned around and headed back down 46 to 42, then north to road 57 and over to Timothy Lake. From there we went across the dam and then followed several detour signs, taking 5810 to 5820 back to 5810 and then up 58 to the gate at east end of 4610:
We got out and walked down the 4610 (Abbot) road a short ways. We saw this area that had been dug out when the did the work on the road last fall for the fire – wondering if this was intended to be a turnaround spot?:
At the end of the road, there was also this piece of what appeared to be old logging equipment – wondering if it got unearthed when they were doing all this work:
We looked around a bit, enjoyed the view of Mt Hood and then packed back up and headed out. That was to be the last stop of the day. We headed out 58 to road 42 and then 42 back to highway 26 and then back home. It was a lot of driving, but I saw some things I’ve never seen before, we got to see some fire damage and even got in a little bit of trail maintenance on an abandoned trail!
We decided to stop at Fearless for dinner, which was a great way to cap off the day.
Location of Hike: Douglas, Plaza, Old Baldy, Eagle Creek Cutoff, Eagle Creek trails
Trail Number: 781, 783, 502, 504, 501
Weather during Hike: Sunny to Rainy to Overcast
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Zack
Hike Distance: 28 miles Elevation Gain: 8200 feet
- Day 1 – Head down the Eagle Creek trail to the Douglas Trail and head down the Douglas Trail to its intersection with the Plaza trail. Go on the Plaza trail till we get to Coffman Camp (we were hoping it still existed).
- Day 2 – Continue down the Plaza trail to the old Plaza guard station and 4610. Walk a short distance down 4610 to the end of the Old Baldy trail and head down Old Baldy to the Eagle Creek Cutoff trail and head down to Eagle creek – camp at the creek.
- Day 3 – Head down the Eagle Creek trail back to our starting point.
We mostly followed the plan but day 2 was quite a bit harder than we had anticipated. More on that later.
Day 1 – Eagle Creek Trailhead to Coffman Camp – 8.75 miles
While we were driving to the Eagle Creek trailhead we encountered a dump truck which we thought rather odd, but once we got to the trailhead, we started down the road to the “new” landing (we’ve parked there before) – on the way down there was a grader – the dump truck had been dumping gravel on this road and the grader was smoothing it. We decided we should park at the top of the hill since we didn’t know what was going on. As we were getting ready, the grader came up the hill and Zack talked to the driver. It is a good thing we decided to part at the top because he said before the day was done they were going to be putting in a big pile of gravel at the top of the hill to block the road. Had we tried to park at the bottom we would have been stuck.
Due to that work, we decided to take a slightly different route to begin. We had found the that other road continued all the way up to the abandoned road that the Douglas trail drops onto, so we decided to head up that way. We went by the location of the old lookout and soon reached the Douglas Trail. From there is was pretty easy walking, uphill a lot of the way, and soon, we got to the Wildcat Quarry where we got a nice view of Old Baldy:
We saw one other hiker while we were here. It was a beautiful day and it wasn’t too warm. We rested a bit there while enjoying the view and then continued up. At this point the trail is pretty wide:
We continued up the trail and it wasn’t too long before we encountered our first real bit of snow – nothing difficult to get thru – YET:
At some point, we got a nice view of Mountains to the North (St Helens, Adams, Ranier):
Since we were doing well on time, and it is a very short side trip, we dropped our packs and headed up to the top of Wildcat Mountain. There isn’t a lot to see up there since all the trees have grown up. We didn’t spend too long up there and then came back down and re-donned our packs and continued down the trail. The Douglas trail past Wildcat Mountain gets a bit narrower and a bit brushier:
At some point we got a great picture of where we were going – Tomorrow we would be going around the head of that basin:
The trail kind of follows the ridge (more or less) and at one point there was a rocky outcropping where we got some nice views – here is Mt Hood:
And there were some pretty flowers in the rocky areas:
A little farther down the trail Zack noticed this sign – a “3” – but 3 miles from what? We all scratched our heads and even after coming home and looking at several things, I still can’t figure out what it is 3 miles from:
We continued down the trail – as we got farthe down, the trail was getting even more brushy in places:
We finally arrived at our destination for the night – Coffman Camp:
It is a pretty large, flat area but it is obvious it doesn’t get used much any longer – the ground cover was pretty healthy and the fire pit hadn’t been used in a while.
There is a sign pointing to the spring below Coffman Camp – it is a rather long trip down the hill to the spring:
We setup camp for the night, had dinner, started a fire and then went to bed. It was somewhat breezy at times but not bad. We were still hoping the weather would hold out for us.
Day 2 – Coffman Camp to Eagle Creek – 11.7 miles
We got up Saturday morning, had breakfast, got water and then packed up and headed out. We knew today was going to be a longer day, but we weren’t quite ready for how long of a day it was going to be. While we were getting packed up, it started to rain – so we had to pack up wet tents. At this point it wasn’t much rain, but it was enough to get things wet – and they would stay wet for the remainder of the weekend.
We packed up and headed out. Beyond Coffman camp, the Plaza Trail gets REALLY brushy in places – its good we all had full rain gear on because otherwise we would have been soaked:
It was starting to rain more consistently although it was still rather light – the winds had also picked up but for the most part we had been protected from them. We soon got to the junction with the Salmon Mountain trail – this goes out to the old lookout location on Salmon Mountain:
We continued along. At the point where the trail turns south, Kirk wanted to go find “Stony Camp” (it is shown on older maps) – I didn’t realize this and since I was somewhat slow due to all the uphill we were doing, I continued up. I stopped a few times and waited, thinking everyone was going to catch up but no one came. I finally dropped my pack and headed back down to see what happened. I finally found Zack who was waiting for Kirk to come back up the hill. We then continued up towards Sheepshead rock.
By this time, the rain was getting worse – it was cold, and we were intermittently getting some good winds thrown at us. It was just flat out cold. It was near this point where we saw our first significant snow – and it was tiring to get thru:
We made it thru all the snow, past Sheepshead rock, thru the wind and rain and hail (at times). We got to the point where the trail kind of levels out and it just disappeared under all the snow. At that point we just kind of headed downhill in the general direction of the trail. We got to the point where it took a hard turn, and I was thinking that had been an old road and thought it would be very recognizable – but we didn’t see it. We were able to find the old fireplace at Plaza – this was the old Guard station:
From there we started trying to follow the trail but we decided to just cut our losses and make the most direct way over to 4610. After a bit. we finally made it out to milepost 18 on the 4610 road:
And wood deck 54 on 4610 was right there – apparently they numbered each wood deck along the road – I looked at my photo from last fall at the east end of 4610 and it had a 1 on it, so the numbering appears to to east to west:
We walked up 4610 – we were all hungry and wet. We were hoping the rain would subside a bit but we didn’t have much luck with that. As we were walking we got out of some of the snow and you could see all the masticating of brush they had done on 4610 last fall – this was to be used as a secondary firebreak for the Riverside fire if needed:
We finally decided to stop at the old abandoned/decommissioned Twin Springs camp – we quickly ate some lunch under the trees trying not to get too wet. After a quick lunch, we walked down the road to the Old Baldy trailhead. We stumbled around in the snow a bit but finally found the trail and followed it. Soon we were out of the snow and following bare trail again. It was still pretty wet and windy along the trail however.
The next obstacle/challenge of the day was navigating the switchbacks up to the saddle below Squaw/Tumala Mountain. Kirk and I had been there about a month ago and turned back at about the first switchback because there was so much snow. I was hoping there would be significantly less but fearing it would still be covered. Fortunately, I was wrong – most of the snow had melted and we had a clear trail to the top except for a few small patches of snow.
We made it to the saddle pretty quickly and then headed down. The trip over to the junction with the Eagle Creek cutoff trail was pretty easy. We were now relatively protected from the wind and the rain seemed to have mostly subsided. Not having snow to navigate over helped as well. Once at the junction, Kirk checked out the car that was sitting at the access point on 4614. Zack headed off ahead of us since his knee was bothering him a bit and he was taking it slower.
Once we started down the 504, we hit a spot of snow and then a HUGE blowdown mess where we briefly lost the trail. We quickly found it and headed down – well, I mean we headed up – I had forgotten that even though this trail loses like 2000′ of elevation, it starts out GAINING elevation – you have to go back up to the ridge to follow it down – which is kind of a silly route. Once on the ridge, the trail goes up and down a bit, following the ridge. It is a pretty long slog down to Eagle Creek. When we got to the serious downhill part, I was amazed at how well the switchbacks were maintained. I likened that descent to the last bit of Corral Springs, but down there you can barely see the tread. The tread here is VERY visible and although it is steep, it is well maintained.
We finally made it down to the creek and then the search for a campsite began. Here is Eagle Creek:
Originally we were going to camp on the west side of the creek in the small campsite there, but we quickly realized that would be pretty tight for 3 tents. Zack went across the creek looking for a site but didn’t find anything too great. Kirk headed downstream and found a very old campsite that had not been used in years. The firepit was in good shape but the area had tons of small vegetation growing. We trampled it down and made camp successfully. It was a really nice site.
After dinner, Kirk and Zack were able to get a fire going even though the wood was pretty wet. The small cedar sticks and pitch wood were enough to get things dry enough to burn. Kirk and I by the campfire on Saturday night:
After not too long the fire had turned to coals and we were all tired so we all went to bed. It got dark sooner in the trees than it had the night before when it was more open.
Day 3 – Eagle Creek back to Trailhead – 7.2 miles
We got up a bit earlier this morning and made breakfast and then packed up. The goal was to be back at the truck before noon – Zack had to drive to Klamath Falls that night, so didn’t want to be driving all night long. Once we got packed up, rather than wading the creek, we found a log to cross on – Here is a picture Zack took of me crossing the log:
Once on the trail, we wasted no time – the trip was pretty uneventful and we didn’t stop too many times. Since it is mostly a gradual downhill, it was pretty easy to maintain a good pace. As we progressed, my ankle started bothering me more and more, so I had to slow down a bit.
One of the few pictures I took while we were heading out on Sunday morning – the lush rainforest of Eagle Creek:
Near where the trail heads uphill, we encountered two women hikers. They were very friendly and said they were surprised to see 6 vehicles at the trailhead. When we got to the trailhead, we were surprised to only see one other vehicle there, so I’m not sure what they were talking about. One thing I am glad is that we didn’t park at the landing on Friday because at the top of the road, there was a large pile of gravel with some VERY large stones in it. Had we parked down at the landing we probably would have been trapped.
We made it back to the truck ahead of schedule and packed up and headed out. It was quite the epic trip – very challenging, but seeing a lot of country that I’d never seen before.
Location of Hike: South Huckleberry Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Zack and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 1:40 PM
Hike Distance: 8.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We discussed what to do, and decided to head up a gated road – apparently it is the “Yellow Gate trail” which connected with the Huckleberry trail – these didn’t seem like trails really, they were old roads (and really not that old).
The beginning of the trip was relatively steep, especially for a road. We soon got up on more of a contour line and it mostly leveled out except for a few ups and downs. At one point, we got a good look at the burn damage across the canyon:
We continued down the road, which was in excellent shape, although not well travelled. We saw recent evidence of horses. One thing that was most amazing was how much green was on the ground under the burned areas – all the growth has occurred this spring:
We continued down the road until we got essentially to its end, where there is another loop trail around a wet area – the signs said it was the “wetlands trail”. Partway around the loop there was this cool bench that fortunately was mostly spared in the fire – you can see it burned thru in one small spot on the right side but otherwise is fully intact:
Not too long after the bench, we got to another road and then to what appears to have been a group camp area:
It had an outhouse, picnic shelter, fire ring and a big sign board, but it didn’t look like anyone had been there for a while.
We continued down the road, getting into another burned area where it looks like they had tried to make a firebreak and chipped up some logs:
Just into this burned area, the continuation of the wetlands trail headed west off this road. We decided to head down the road a bit to see what we could find. Looking across the canyon, there as this really interesting green plateau:
We also saw another picnic shelter up on a ridge – we thought that would make a good lunch spot. We weren’t sure where the road continued, but it didn’t look like anything too interesting so we turned around (after coming home it looks like the road continued back down to the main road – I kind of wish we had continued down – more explorations for another day)
We turned around and found another side road we believed to head up to that picnic shelter. This is what it looked like:
We stopped there to have lunch. It was interesting – one of the posts of the shelter was completely gone, as well as one of the benches and the top of the picnic table – but the other bench and everything else was untouched:
After we ate lunch, I pulled out my drone and took a video of the surrounding area:
After eating lunch and doing the video, we packed up and headed down – back to the wetland trail junction we had earlier seen. We headed west on that trail which obviously hasn’t seen many people recently. It was kind of interesting – but was most amazing to me was all the green in the midst of the burn:
At one point there appeared to be a side trail and we heard water so we headed over to investigate. There was a small creek running down from the cliffside that surrounded this wetlands area.
After exploring the creek a bit we headed back and were soon back where we started the loop around the wetland area. We then headed back the road/trail that we came in on. On the way in, we had seen a trail near the road and thought we’d go back that way on the way down. We made it to the junction and found what I’m pretty sure were a couple of the brown sign posts that you see – the plastic/fiberglass flexible posts – but this one was completely melted/burned:
We headed down this side trail, which basically just paralleled the road – at one point there was a big ditch and an odd looking area – we figured out it was a melted plastic culvert – it looked like volcanic rock:
We continued down the side trail but it didn’t last very long, dumping back out onto the road – we couldn’t figure out why it was even built – it was rather odd since it was so short.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, just heading back down the road to where we started. On the way down, I had to take another shot of the stark contrast between the burn and the lush green underneath:
We made it back to the truck relatively early and headed home. It was an interesting day of exploring an area I’ve not explored before. One more option to have until the forest opens back up.
Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 502, 505
Weather during Hike: Overcast and misty
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:30 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 10 miles Elevation Gain: 2700 feet
We started out a bit earlier than normal and made it up to 4614. Kirk thought we could make it up to the corner which isn’t too far from the Old Baldy trail. I didn’t think we would make it that far, but I was hoping we could make it to the midway point where we started a snowshoe a few years ago. We didn’t make it to either as there was still quite a bit of snow on 4614 in places. We ended up stopping at a wide spot and then walking up the road a bit and then heading south thru the woods to meet the trail. The trip up the hill to the trail was kind of steep but not bad walking at all. This is what the forest looked like near where we joined the trail:
Once on the trail, we headed down. At this point there was essentially no snow on the trail at all, so it was pretty easy going. I forgot to mention that it was VERY foggy when we got there, and that persisted all day long. We got to this first viewpoint, but unfortunately, there would be no view this day – just lots of fog and mist:
We continued east on the Fanton trail and soon came to this interesting wet area – all melted with a couple of skunk cabbage:
We continued east and soon got to the mid point where we had hoped to start the trip, which had a fair amount of snow on the old spur. We soldiered on, got to the corner access point and there was even more snow there:
It was at this point where I put on my snowshoes as the snow cover was consistent and getting deeper. Kirk opted to leave his off, but I’m glad I put them on – it made the snow a little easier to navigate.
We continued up and soon got to the old Baldy junction which was barely noticeable with all the snow. We got up to the saddle where the trail splits – one up to Squaw Mountain and the other continuing down to Twin Springs (and the meadows). We stopped and had a quick lunch there. We both got a bit cold at lunch because there was a slight breeze coming thru the saddle which really cooled things off. We packed up and tried to head down the switchbacks but were kind of thwarted. The trail takes a pretty good dip down a steep hillside, but all the snow really obscured where the tread went. We headed down in the direction of where it was supposed to go, but the sidehill was really steep and icy in spots. It was tough going. We got down to the spot about where the first switchback was, and we both decided that we should turn around. We would have had to come back up that slope and we didn’t think we’d have enough time to get to the meadow anyway – so we turned around. This is what the trail in that area looked like – the trail is somewhere on this steep hillside:
Since our primary goal was thwarted by all the snow, we decided to salvage the day and head up to Squaw Mountain. At some point the route of the trail became indistinguishable so we just ended up going cross country, roughly following the route of the trail. There were a few pretty significant snow fields we had to cross over. We finally popped out onto the road leading up to Squaw Mountain which had a lot of snow on it:
We then got up to the top where the radio repeater is and found it almost buried in snow – we were estimating there was at least 8 feet of snow here:
We went up to the old lookout location but nothing was visible due to all the snow. I took a picture of Thor and Ollie playing in the snow on the top of Squaw Mountain:
We spent a few minutes on top – it was actually warmer than it was in the saddle – we were hoping the sun would break thru but it never did. You could tell it was trying, but it was still socked in. After a few minutes, we headed back down, mostly re-tracing our steps out. On the way out, I took a photo of one of the snow fields we had to cross – lots of snow – the wall of snow we had to kick in was probably about 3′ high:
We took a slightly different route back as we figured on the way in we went too low on the hill. Kirk found an old segment of phone line:
And one of the most interesting things was that it was actually growing into the tree:
After seeing that interesting historical artifact, the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. The trip was mostly downhill. I took off my snowshoes a little earlier than where I put them on – while they help with the snow, they are more difficult to walk in and require more effort.
I guess the only thing that I recall on the return trip was where we were going to head back over to the 4614 road. On the map it looked like a great place was in a flat area shortly before where we would hit the 130 spur. There were TONS of rhodies that we would have to push thru so we ended up heading out to the 130 spur. We thought we could head over to 4614 from there, but the trees were pretty thick, so we ended up just walking the spur out to where it hit 4614. It was slightly longer but much easier I think. We liked walking thru the trees because there was less snow which made for easier walking, but sometimes you have to just go with the flow.
We got back to the truck before our targeted time, but I was surprised to see that no one had attempted to drive up 4614 any farther than we did. I’m guessing it was due to the weather – there weren’t a ton of people out. We packed up and headed out.
While the day turned out differently than expected/planned, it was still a really good day of exploration – I always enjoy the snow (so does Thor). We are hoping that at some point we can attempt this trip and make it down to the meadows. More to come on that.
Location of Hike: Eagle Creek and Douglas Trails
Trail Number: 501, 781
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed out at our “normal” time, and got to the trailhead. There were already 5 or 6 cars there which is unusual, but with so many trails closed due to the fires, it is kind of expected. We headed down the road and pretty quickly got onto the “real” trail where it enters the old growth. This trail is so lush and has some gorgeous old growth on it. The constant sound of Eagle creek is pleasant as well.
We got down a couple of miles and the decided to head uphill. We spread out as we were going uphill, looking for signs of trail. We did find a few spots that kind of looked like tread, but it didn’t last very long. We looked for blazes, cut logs and insulators. The only thing we found was the one cut log:
Not too far away from this we found this old campground:
We continued up the hill and eventually joined with the Douglas trail a little east of where it hits the old 255 spur road. We hit tiny spots of snow on the way up the hill and when we got to the top, there was patchy snow. There was a couple of inches on the road – the dogs enjoyed that quite a bit.
We headed west down the road until the spot where the trail takes off again. We weighed our options and decided to go up the trail a bit and then basically follow the ridge. A little ways up the hill, we found what looked like tread – as we proceeded along it was definitely tread and it seemed to kind of come and go, but basically followed the ridge. There is a lot of salal up there which made it tougher in spots. We didn’t go too far, when Kirk found the remains – right on this tread:
We looked around a bit and then decided to have lunch. After lunch, we decided to continue following the tread we had found. It kind of continued to come and go, but we mostly followed tread along the ridge. We got to one open spot where there were these HUGE, ancient vine maples – they looked like huge spiders or something:
As we continued trying to follow the tread, we did end up finding one cut log:
It was shortly after this that we lost the trail completely, but we were very close to the old road, so we walked over there and then continued west. We walked past the end of the road down what we figued was an old quad track. When we were here a few weeks ago, we followed it down to the point where it took a steep turn down the hill. Today we continued down the hill – we were assuming this would eventually bring us out onto an old road that we could walk back to the van. That turned out to be a completely correct assumption. The track continued down the hill, soon getting into a cut area (15-20 year old cut probably) and then down onto an old road. The road has been bermed for a few years so no one has driven up that far, but we did see recent evidence of cutting back some brush.
It wasn’t long before we were back at the van. By this time there were probably 10 vehicles at the trailhead. We loaded up and headed out. It was a great day of exploring on an absolutely beautiful spring day.
Location of Hike: Douglas Trail
Trail Number: 781
Weather during Hike: Partly Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 9.1 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
We started out at the normal time and headed up to the “other” Eagle Creek trailhead (Harvey Road Trailhead). We decided to park at the new landing since I had driven down there last week. It takes a little bit off the hike. We weren’t sure exactly how far we were going to go – it depended upon our energy and how the day progressed.
We set off down the old road from the new landing and very quickly got to the Douglas trail junction. From this point, we started our uphill climb. We started at just under 2000 feet and got up to almost 3000′, kind of going up and down in the process.
After several switchbacks and going thru old growth and cut areas, we popped out on the old 3626-255 spur road which has been closed. At this point, we decided to head west to the site of the old lookout to see what we could find. It was rather challenging, since the road to the west was all ripped up. This is what it looked like:
The section that the trail heads down (east) was left intact thankfully. We made our way west on the ripped up road, navigating the rather deep snow and the big piles on the road. At one point we thought about heading up to the ridge, wondering if it might be easier walking thru the trees than down the road, but there was a pretty significant cut bank and by the time the cut bank disappeared the road evened out and got easier to traverse (they stopped the decommissioning).
Partway up to the site of the old lookout, the sun made an appearance and I captured this cool sunray effect thru the trees:
It wasn’t too long after that and we got to the literal end of the road – somewhere in this neighborhood was where the lookout used to be (it was abandoned in 1957-64 years is a LONG time in the woods).
We looked around in the brush and groundcover for a while trying to find some remnants of the lookout, but we couldn’t find anything. It is pretty well grown over and the groundcover is pretty thick.
After looking around for a while, we decided to head down the “continuation” of the road – we were guessing that it was an old quad track, probably coming up from one of the roads down below:
We walked down the quad track to the Forest Boundary – about this point it started taking a steep turn downhill and we didn’t really feel like losing a bunch of elevation, so we decided to turn around. It we getting near lunchtime, so we went and found the best view we could (which wasn’t great) and had lunch.
After eating lunch, we headed back to the quad track/trail and then the road and headed east, back down the ripped up road. After a short section, the trail heads off the road again and we continued east. It was shortly after this that the trail started getting snow on it – we kept gaining elevation. This is what the trail looked like in the area – east of the 3626-255 spur:
The goal for the day was to get to at least the place where we came down and met the trail last year, so we can say we hiked the whole trail. We soon got to the place we joined the trail last year and then decided to turn around.
While we were coming up the trail, we noticed a spot where it looked like the trail used to continue straight ahead. The trail now took a sharp turn. On the way back, we decided to follow this “old alignment” and did indeed find it was the old alignment and went across a wet area/old spring. It almost looked like there might have been a bridge over the we area but it was hard to be certain. We followed it a bit further and saw where it rejoined the trail. We both remembered seeing this on the last trip and guessing the trail had been rerouted but we weren’t sure why. The old alignment was much straighter but maybe that wet crossing was too problematic or something. This segment was only one of several re-alignments we found (or think we found) during the day.
We soon made it back to the 255 spur road and continued west. We saw quite a few deer and possibly elk tracks in the snow on the road as well as what looked to be a small kitty (Lynx? Coyote?) We quickly made it back to where the trail heads off from the road. We let the dogs play in the last of the snow and then headed down.
As we were headed down this segment of trail, we had a bunch of different precipitation events. It sleeted for a bit, it rained, and there was rain mixed with snow. None of it was heavy or long lasting but it made for an interesting trip down.
It wasn’t too long before we were back at the junction with the Eagle creek trail. We headed up the road to the landing. The last thing we were going to look for was the quad track coming down. The maps show the Douglas trail hitting the Eagle Creek trail quite a bit farther west than it actually does – we were thinking maybe that was where the quad track was. After looking for it for a bit, our guess is that the quad track probably comes down somewhere on the road above the trailhead. Something to look for some day.
A stop at Fearless on the way home for an early dinner was a great way to end the day. Fearless was REALLY busy – I guess there is a lot of pent up demand for eating out since covid restrictions have loosened up a bit.
Location of Hike: Eagle Creek Trail (Clackamas)
Trail Number: 501
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor and Jet
Start Time: 10:10 AM End Time: 1:20 PM
Hike Distance: 7.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Since Tuesdays are the normal “Granddaughter/Granddog babysitting”, I decided I would take the “Granddog” on the hike too. It worked out pretty well. It was a beautiful day – one I couldn’t pass up.
We got to the trailhead about 10:00. I had heard that the new trailhead was down at the landing a bit down the hill, but there were two vehicles at the old trailhead. I decided to park there and walk down the road. The new landing/trailhead is about a third of a mile down from the old trailhead – it has a great view looking over to Old Baldy:
Once past the landing you continue down the old road for a ways – probably another three quarters of a mile or so and then you get into the good part of the trail – some real old growth – this is kind of a typical section of the trail:
We made good time, even though I had both dogs on leashes – since there were two cars at the trailhead, I assumed there were people ahead of me on the trail, and since Thor isn’t great around dogs he doesn’t know, it is safer to just keep him on a leash.
A little farther down the trail, we encountered something rather odd – it is hard to see in this photo but there are two cedar trees that got cut down – one right next to the trail (it might have been over the trail) – the other about 30′ uphill from the trail. And they weren’t cut like you’d be cutting a log off the trail, they were cut like you were cutting down a tree. I’m not sure what the deal was with these:
A little farther down the trail we got a good view of Eagle Creek from the trail – we had been able to hear if for quite some time but this was our first good look at it:
I had intended this to be a relatively short day, and we had covered almost 3 miles and it was getting near lunchtime, so I started looking for a good spot to eat. I came across a campsite down near the creek which would have been perfect, but as we started heading down, we encountered a hunter with a dog down in the campsite, so we went back up and continued down the trail for a bit. A bit further up the trail we had to cross the biggest side creek crossing of the day – it was running pretty fast:
Shortly after that crossing, we were at almost 4 miles and I found a good log to sit on. We sat a bit off the trail (in case someone else came by) and ate lunch – the dogs got their normal lunchtime treats. This was Thor at lunchtime:
We ate lunch and then turned around and headed back up. We didn’t see any other people on the way back in, and by the time we got to the truck, both other vehicles that were there earlier had left. I got the dogs loaded up and decided to try and drive down to the new landing – it is certainly doable – the entry is a bit narrow, but not too bad – there are still some pretty big water diverters in the road as well, but as long as you go slow it is fine. We drove down to the landing and turned around and headed out.
I think I did a good job of exercising the dogs. They were pretty tired after the hike:
I stopped in Estacada to see if Fearless was open (to get some fries) but they were still closed. So we ended up just coming home.
It was an excellent, unexpected day in the woods on a beautiful spring day (even though spring is a couple weeks away still).
Location of Hike: Cool Creek Trail to Devils Peak Lookout
Trail Number: 793 and 794
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 7:20 AM End Time: 1:35 PM
Hike Distance: 7.3 miles Elevation Gain: 3500 feet
We started out very early since Kirk had to get back for a dinner party in the evening. So, we left the house a little after 6 in the dark. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was getting light enough to hike without headlamps. The traffic on 26 was pretty heavy – we were guessing lots of people headed up to the mountain to go skiing.
When we got to the trailhead there was no one else parked there. We got all suited up and loaded our snowshoes and headed up the trail. The beginning of the trail is a pretty steep ascent. The route gains over 3000′ of elevation in about 3.5 miles. The lower portion of the trail is pretty “rooty” as well, with lots of roots protruding into the tread. The tread is well worn (this trail gets a fair amount of traffic), but it can be tough on the feet with all the roots in the tread.
We made pretty good time given how much elevation we were gaining. We kept looking for a view of Mt Hood – it took quite a while, but we finally got a view – it was thru the trees, but we got a pretty good view of Mt Hood in the early morning light:
A little farther up the trail, I took this photo of the sun rising on the trail:
We continued up – it was tough due to the elevation, but we slowly made our way up. Probably about halfway up, we got our first clear view of Mt Hood – which was gleaming white:
As we continued up, I was amazed that we weren’t seeing ANY snow whatsoever. The first time we saw any real snow, it was pretty light, but it was well over 4000′ – this photo appears to be taken about 4400′ and it was pretty much a dusting of snow:
A little farther up the trail there was a large rock outcropping above the trail – we headed up to it and were rewarded with this great view of Hood:
A picture of the outcropping we were standing on:
After enjoying the view for a bit, we continued on, climbing up and up and up. At one point, I remarked that this trail reminded me a bit of the Bull of the Woods trail – the approach to the lookout felt very similar – there was a sharp knife ridge and below it the trail headed up to the lookout.
At some point, we ran into 4 guys coming down the trail. I was surprised to see them – fortunately they didn’t have any dogs with them since Thor was offleash. I was behind Kirk a bit and I heard dogs barking. At first, it sounded like Ollie, which isn’t surprising since he frequently goes off into the wood to chase a smell. I soon realized it was BOTH dogs and was worried there were other hikers with dogs. I caught up and saw the 4 backpackers coming down from the lookout. They had spent the night in the lookout and camped at the campground near the trailhead (which is why we didn’t see their vehicle at the trailhead).
We continued up the trail and soon got to the junction with the Hunchback trail, which headed up to the lookout. From the junction it was a very short trip to the lookout – this is what it looked like as we were heading up to it:
We headed up the stairs and Kirk opened up the protective panels. The inside of the lookout is mostly what it would have looked like when it was being used (except the Osborne Fire Finder isn’t in the middle of the lookout anymore):
You got a beautiful view of Mt Hood from inside the lookout – looking out the door:
We ate lunch in the lookout and then headed down to take a look around. The ridge to the south went downhill – I was wondering if the outhouse was still around (like it is at Bull of the Woods), but we didn’t find one. I did get a pretty good view of Olallie and Mt Jefferson from this sport just below the lookout:
And looking back up towards the lookout, you can see there was a fair amount of snow up there (but it was all frozen and hard):
After looking around a bit, I decided it was time to put my drone up in the air to get some videos. At that point, the wind was very calm. I’m still not great at getting videos with the drone, but here is a 360 panorama from about 50′ above the lookout:
And here is another one where I get more of a closeup of the lookout:
While we were there another guy came up – he was worried we were going to stay in the lookout (it is a first come, first served place). Since he was staying we didn’t need to close it up. A little later, two ladies popped out of the woods. They had come up a different trail – I believe it was from the Green Canyon campground up to the Hunchback trail to the lookout.
After eating lunch, exploring a bit and flying the drone a bit, we decided it was time to head back down. There is the note of a “spring” not too far from the lookout, so we decided to see if we could find it. We headed down the Hunchback trail, and found a sign saying “water” – we found a small, narrow side trail, however we didn’t go too far as the hillside was VERY steep and the trail was covered in snow. We turned around and came back up and when heading back up the Hunchback trail, we found this very old water sign (it was pretty cool):
After that exploration, we headed back up to the junction and then back down the cool springs trail. Going down was a lot easier on the lungs, but still pretty tough as the trail was still just a hunk of ice. We went slowly and finally made it out of the ice and snow. After we got back to solid ground, it was still rough going as many spots are rather steep (which is hard on the knees).
Along the way down, we probably encountered 5 or 6 groups of people who were headed up. All in all, we probably encountered 20 people all day long.
We made it back to the truck about 1:30, packed up and since we were a little earlier than expected we decided to do a little exploring – we drove up 2612 a little ways, then drove on some other roads. We got turned back a few times as bridges over creeks were closed (not sure why – maybe they were unsafe for vehicles?). We stopped and looked at the east end of the Flag Mountain trail – it looked somewhat interesting – there were no cars at the trailhead at the east end, so we thought we’d go around to the west end and see if there were any cars – maybe this is not popular trail we could hike? Anyway, we kept getting blocked from the west end – we ended up turning east on 26, but the traffic coming west was so bad we weren’t sure we would be able to turn left. So, we opted to skip it for the day. We turned around and finally get in line with the traffic. It was a solid line of cars coming west – and that was only at like 2:30! I can’t imagine what it would have been like later in the day!
We made it back home a little after 3 – plenty of time for Kirk to make it to his evening affair. Days like this don’t get much better – it was an absolute Bluebird day – FANTASTIC weather – not too many people and incredible views.
Location of Hike: White Iris Trail
Trail Number: 502-A
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 9:55 AM End Time: 1:55 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
When I looked at the modeled snow depth maps, it didn’t show any snow at all at the trailhead. The modeling was obviously wrong – this is what it looked like driving to the trailhead:
The modeled snow depths did seem to get updated – I checked them after I got home and they seemed pretty accurate. I’m guessing most/all of this snow came down yesterday. This is what it looked like parked at the trailhead:
No one had been that far down 4615 recently – you could see old tracks but nothing in the last day or two. We parked and got ready and headed up – it was really easy to see the trail heading up in the snow. When Carly and I looked for this trail in the spring it was hard to see where it was. Today it was really easy.
We headed up the trail and soon I got annoyed with some of the brushiness and hanging branches, so I got out my loppers and started lopping the worst of the hanging branches. Soon, I got out the saw and I started sawing thru some small logs to clear the path. I spent a while on some of the spots since there were multiple logs I had to cut. Once we got a little higher, Thor was complaining about not moving too fast so I stopped doing so much cleanup. Here is a picture of part of that lower segment – it had a lot more snow than I was expecting:
When I was working on the hanging branches and logs, I had to be very careful with loppers and saw – the snow would eat them up REALLY easily:
Once we got up a ways, I stopped lopping completely – when we got to the big uprooted tree where the trail heads north, the tread got a lot better. It was near this point where we stopped to have lunch. I had hoped to have a little bit of sunlight but it quickly moved. We ate a quick lunch because it was kind of cold.
Past the uprooted tree, this section of forest is quite impressive. Beautiful old growth. In the fresh snow it was just incredible. There were a few sunbreaks in the forest and it was absolutely spectacular. We continued up the trail and it wasn’t long before we got to the 4614 Crossing. It was kind of interesting -someone had been there very recently:
I kind of pondered what we should do and I decided to keep going. Since I hadn’t brought my snowshoes the going was getting tougher, but we didn’t have too far before we’d hit the junction with Old Baldy, so I decided to press on.
We kept going and the snow continued to get a bit deeper as we got higher. It was tough going, post holing (I’d guess the snow was getting to about a foot deep), but I took it slow. We finally made it to the junction with the Old Baldy trail – Here is the very beginning of the north fork of Eagle creek – where Old Baldy crosses it:
And the Old Baldy trail sign – this was our turnaournd point:
As we headed down, I noticed that someone is showing this trail some love – this is a new sign it appears:
The trip down took quite a bit less time than the trip up. Partially because it was pretty much all downhill and partially because we weren’t doing any maintenance on the way down. As we came down, I had to take a picture of this section of tread – although it doesn’t even begin to do it justice. There was a sunbreak down the trail and the sun coupled with the was just beautiful.
It wasn’t long before we got back to the 4614 crossing and then it seemed REALLY quick when we got back into the cut area. We continued down and got back to the truck just before 2:00. Days are very short this time of year, so between it being quite a workout and the fact sunset was in another couple of hours, I was happy with how the day progressed.
A fantastic day out in the woods! Nothing better than fresh new snow and no one else around.
Location of Hike: Bissell and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny most of the day
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:05 AM End Time: 4:15 PM
Hike Distance: 5.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1800 feet
We started out at our “normal” time since it is a relatively short drive to the trailhead. On the way there, we decided to switch from White Iris to Bissell and I’m glad we did. I didn’t take a lot of photos since we ended up doing quite a bit of trail maintenance on the Bissell trail.
Once at the trailhead, we quickly got suited up and headed out. Before we left I had to get a shot of my truck parked at the trailhead (I love this truck):
We headed up the old spur road (or whatever it is), and soon found the real tread. It was easy to follow for a while. It heads uphill pretty aggressively. We got to the spot where it joins with a side trail out to the 4614 road. This spot is no longer accessible via vehicle since the road has been bermed off. This is what the end of 4614 Road looks like:
After heading back up the trail, we struggled for a bit to find where the trail continued up the hill. I headed in one direction and Kirk headed in another – I found the trail farther up the hill and he found where it took off after the junction – we then connected the pieces together and did some clearing so it was much clearer where the trail went.
We got up to a flat spot and had a hard time figuring out where the trail went. After a bit of searching, we found it again and did some more clearing. I added a couple flags for clarity as well. We continued up the trail, lopping stuff off, pulling small trees, etc. in order to be able to follow the trail easier. We continued doing maintenance for a while. At one point I looked at my watch and it was already after 1:00. We were within about a half mile of the junction with Old Baldy and decided to just head out there, stopping our maintenance activities.
We had a few rough spots but followed the trail out to its junction with Old Baldy:
From there, we decided to head up to the ridge to see if we could find any views. We didn’t really find much in the way of views, so we found a large log to sit and eat lunch. We ate lunch and then decided to follow the old trail route (there were blazes all over the place along the ridge) until it met up with the Old Baldy trail. While we were able to follow the blazes, there was really nothing in the way of discernible tread. We soon got to the junction with old Baldy and since it was only about a quarter of a mile, we decided to head up. It appeared there had been a lot of blowdown recently and we were wondering if maybe it opened up more of a view from up on top.
We headed up the trail and soon got to this enormous bundle of blowdown:
We found a few more on the way but we worked our way thru or around it and were soon on top of Old Baldy. Unfortunately, there is still really no view from up there. It seemed to be somewhat more open than what I remember, but there were still no views.
We didn’t spend a long time up there since the days are short this time of year and it was already after 2:30 already, so we headed back down. It wasn’t long before we got back to the Bissell junction. We turned and headed back down the Bissell trail. We started doing more maintenance, making the trail more evident and wider. It wasn’t too long before the clouds started to come in and it started to get noticeably darker. At that point, we decided we needed to stop doing maintenance and just head down the trail so that we made it back to teh truck before it got dark (sunset was at 4:28).
On the way down, I stopped and had to take this photo. I just liked the tread in this picture:
We made it back to the truck about 4:15 – just a little bit before sunset. We loaded up and headed out.
On the way home we decided to stop at Fearless for dinner – it was different today due to COVID restrictions – we had to eat outside. It was a bit cold, but it was nice to end the day in traditional fashion.
A great day out – I’m guessing I will e re-visting this trail again soon partly because I don’t have too many options right now, but partly because it is a very cool old abandoned trail.
Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 505, 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny but cold
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 12:30 PM
Hike Distance: 3.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
We got to the chosen access point a bit before 10. When we got there, a woman was there – I rolled down the window and asked where she parked – she said she parked down at the Fanton trailhead. She had gotten an early start! Anyway, she headed out and we got suited up for the cold and snow and then headed out a few minutes later. Although the trail was snow covered the entire way, it was easy to follow – there have been others hiking this trail after the snowfall. The snow was mostly crunchy and hard down lower – as we got higher out of the trees we got into some new fluffy snow however.
On the way up, there were several points where the sun was shining thru the trees on the snow. I caught one of the on my camera:
We made pretty good time – I actually missed the junction with the Old Baldy trail (I missed it on the way down too). I was thinking we should see it soon and I looked at my phone and we had passed it. Soon after that point, we got to the now unmarked junction to Squaw Mountain (the sign fell off the tree):
We continued straight to head up the Squaw Mountain. A little farther up the trail there was another beautiful show shot with the sun:
It was about at this point where I put on my snowshoes. I wasn’t sure if I would need them or not, but I brought them just in case. I could have made it without them, but there were enough sections where they came in handy.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the road and then the old garage location and lookout. The views were spectacular! Here was Mt hood from the old lookout location (you can see the old steps):
Next I headed to the south end of the ridge to see if I could get a good view of the the Riverside fire damage. Unfortunately it was hard to see a lot – it is too far south:
Got to see the tip of Mt Jefferson:
And then heading up to the north end of the ridge, we got to see St Helens, Ranier and Adams – they were a LOT clearer in person:
As we were looking around, the woman who we had met at the parking area came over – she had been down the ridge a bit. We talked for a bit (keeping our distance of course). She has been discovering the Clackamas district and hiking a lot of the trails she can. There were others she wanted to hike, but was unable to because of the fire. She then headed back down.
It was still a bit early, but I thought we should eat some lunch before heading down. It was a bit windy on the ridge, so we headed down to the old garage foundation and ate some lunch there. While we were down there, another group came walking up the road with 2 dogs. The headed up to the lookout.
We finished lunch, packed up and headed down. The trip down was pretty quick. On the way down we encountered (I think) 2 more groups of people. I’ve never seen this trail so busy, especially in the winter! We made it back to the truck, and after getting everything packed up, I started driving out, and someone was trying to head up the spur road to the trailhead! Kind of a late start it seemed. But on the way out, I ran into about 10 vehicles coming up! There were a lot of people in the woods!
As I passed one of the spur roads (167 I think), I saw a car parked there – There have been people shooting down this road and the Fanton trail crosses it. I backed up and asked if they were shooting and said there was a trail down the road. They seemed to appreciate knowing that and I think they were going to pack up. I wish they would put up a “no shooting” sign on this road.
Since we were so early, I decided to drive down 4613 to see how far I could get – I figured they probably blocked it at some point since it intersects 4610 which has been closed since the fire. Sure enough, it has a big concrete barrier at the North Fork Crossing:
We turned around and this point and headed home. It was a short day, but a really nice one. I’m glad I was able to get out.
Location of Hike: Shellrock Lake to Cache Meadow to Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 700, 702, 703
Weather during Hike: overcast and snowy
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:105 AM End Time: 4:20 PM
Hike Distance: 10.5 miles Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
The days are short right now and I had to take the long way around over Mt Hood to get here – it takes about 2 hours to get to the trailhead, so I started early – I left the house at 8:00. The weather report said it would be cold, but it also said it would be “partly sunny” – that turned out to be a lie. I got off 26 and started down 42, soon getting to road 58. It climbs quite a bit and I was soon into a fair amount of snow. It kind of looked like someone had plowed the road (two tracks – it didn’t look like just driving). But it was deeper than I was expecting:
We soon made it to the junction with 4610 and I decided to drive up a bit to see what the east end of the road closure looked like – I don’t think anyone will be getting around that gate:
There was also a pretty large log deck there:
After quickly checking this out, we headed back down to 58, then down to the 5830 road and out to the Shellrock lake trailhead. As I expected, I saw no one else, nor any evidence of anyone driving out this way at all. This is what my truck looked like parked in the Shellrock Lake trailhead parking area in the morning (about 10:15):
And this is what it looked like when I returned about 4:15 – It had been snowing a lot of the day and I was concerned it would have been a lot more snow – and I would have a difficult time getting home – fortunately things were OK – I think we got about a half inch of snow during the day:
We suited up for the cold and quickly headed out. A little bit up the trail we got a really beautiful view from the trail – looking east ish:
It didn’t take Thor long to start REALLY enjoying the snow – doing his “beaver” thing in the snow – you can hardly even tell he is there – he kind of buried himself in the snow! There was probably 4-6″ of snow at this point on the trail:
We continued down the trail and soon got into the woods. It is at this point that the abandoned trail takes off to the west. There used to be a post that was a good jumping off spot – the trail going up the hill seems to have mostly disappeared but once you are up the hill a bit, it re-appears. I couldn’t find the post so we took a shot and headed up the hill – it was kind of tough going, with the snow, but we eventually found the trail and continued west. Pretty soon, we got to this junction with another abandoned trail that heads down to 5830 – I had not seen this before – but I’ve only been on this segment a couple of times:
We followed the trail thru the snow and soon came to this small lake around cache meadow:
Shortly after this small lake, we hit the junction with the Grouse Point Trail (517). Just past the junction we saw Cache Meadow proper:
And near this is a campsite where Cripple Creek Trail comes in and where there used to be a cabin – it burned in the early 2000s:
We stumbled around in the snow a bit, struggling to find the trail, but eventually found the cripple creek trail and headed south, and then took a westerly turn. At that point, we came to this lake – I’m not sure what it is called – Cripple Creek Lake? – Cripple creek feeds it and is the outlet from it, so that would make sense, but it is not labelled on any of the maps I have:
We continued down the trail, fighting a LOT of downed logs such as this – I’m guessing these might have been casualties from the Labor Day windstorm:
Soon after that tree, I found this Bear print in the snow:
And soon after, Thor found what looked to be a “deer nest” – there was deer fur all over the place – or maybe that is where a deer got eaten – I’m not sure – it sure looked like a good “den” – It sure interested Thor:
We continued down the trail – I kept looking for the trail heading north (I didn’t want to have to road walk around) – I found it and we soon got to the spot where where all the trail junctions come together with a few signs – it is very confusing:
We actually headed off in the wrong direction – heading back up the Cache Meadow trail – I soon realized my mistake and we headed back and found the correct trail – which was probably 20′ from those signs. We soon got out to the 4635 road where the Cache Meadow trail starts:
We headed a bit down the road where Cripple creek continues downhill and continued down. It wasn’t too long before we got to the spot where the trail crosses the 4635 road farther down:
Shortly after the road crossing, the trail gets into a big rockslide. It was here that we got our first look into the burned areas farther below:
We continued down the trail, thru the cut area, and soon saw the first evidence of burn damage. It started out relatively limited, and soon got worse. This is one of the more severe burn damaged areas – lots of trees downed across the trail – you can see a cut log where the trail went in the distance:
Some of it wasn’t too bad to follow, but some got tough. In many spots, the tread burned out, like this section -a big hole that was one tread:
I saw this interesting section as well – it burned on both sides of the tread but the tread itself is completely intact – It seems like in this area it was mostly a ground fire:
We continued down the trail – it kept getting harder and harder to make progress – there was a lot of stuff on the trail, a lot of downed trees (some green). I used my loppers and a bit of hand saw work to get thru some of it, but it was getting increasingly difficult. This was another example of a heavily damaged area:
It was getting close/past my turn around time (1:30) and we still had not eaten lunch. I decided that we would turn around and find a spot to eat lunch. We had been pushing hard all day long. We found a small unburned section not too far from where we turned around. We quickly ate lunch and then headed back up.
On the way up, it started to snow, even at the lower elevation where there really wasn’t any snow. I started to get worried about how much snow was falling and whether or not I’d be able to get out. We hurried our pace (as much as I could, since the beginning was mostly uphill – heading back up to Cache Meadow). It continued to snow off and on. When we got back to the confusing junction (with the signs), I decided to go back on the Cache Meadow trail instead of going back the way we came in. I wasn’t sure if it was any shorter, but it didn’t seem like it was any longer and since it has been a LONG time (2008?) since I’ve been here, I thought it would be good to have different scenery. We made it around the north side of Cache Meadow and soon got back to the Grouse Point trail near the old campsite. We went a little bit on Grouse Point to the cutoff trail – on this end it is VERY apparent – so apparent it would be easy to take the wrong turn. We headed east on the cutoff trail, heading uphill – struggling a bit to follow the trail in the snow, but keeping with it. We did well until we got to the top of the hill. There was a big downed tree, and we kind of lost the trail at that point. We went downhill, navigating a BUNCH of downed logs and finally hit the Shellrock lake trail. From there, it was easy sailing back to the truck. I had set a target of being back at the truck by 4:30 – we beat it by about 15 minutes. We quickly loaded up and headed out. I didn’t want to drive too far on the forest service roads in the dark. Fortunately, it didn’t get really dark until we got close to 26. The drive over 26 was rather interesting. It was snowing pretty hard and it was icy – the thermometer on the truck said 27 degrees and there were signs that said watch out for ice. At some point, there were trucks and what looked like some cars spun out. We successfully navigated all that, and got home safely. I think it took us almost 2.5 hours to get home, though.
It was a challenging, beautiful, COLD day. I’m glad I was able to get as far as I did. I think this is the last opportinty to get into the high country this year. It is forecast to be cold and snowy all week long – unless we get a big warm spell, I think these areas area all closed for the year now.
Location of Hike: Eagle Creek Trail
Trail Number: 501
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:10 AM End Time: 5:20 PM
Hike Distance: 15.5 miles Elevation Gain: 3700 feet
Unfortunately, there was a security guard posted at the border of the forest and he was not letting anyone pass. So, we had to move to plan B. Plan B was to hike the Eagle Creek trail (501) which was not in any kind of closed area. It took a little time, but we made it to the trailhead and it looked a bit different than we remembered. There appeared to have been recent work done there. We were greeted by this sign at the start of the trail, informing of us the closures, etc (which seemed odd, since this trail and the whole Salmon-Huckleberry wilderness was open.):
We started down the road which has been widened considerably. Soon we got to a new landing area, which had been worked quite extensively. They took a huge chunk of the hillside off to make the landing:
After that, the old road reverts to what it used to be – a very narrow old logging road that is pretty overgrown:
We hiked down the road and soon took a hard left onto real trail. From there we got down to the creek, which the trail follows the rest of the way. It goes up and down a bit, but is relatively level. We were making really good time as we were not doing any real trail maintenance – just hiking. Since the tread was pretty level, we were able to make really good time.
A little over 4 miles down the trail, we explored a side trail that Zack and I had found almost 5 years ago. It is an old “cattle camp”. We found the side trail (it was more overgrown than I remember, although we were there in January when all the ground cover was dormant). We headed up and looked around and found several old relics. One of the coolest is an old watering trough which Thor just thought was the coolest thing ever:
Here is one of the old hitching posts:
We searched around a bit and then headed down the trail looking for a lunch spot. We found a somewhat sunny spot next to the creek. Ollie took advantage of it to cool off – he spent most of the time in the creek:
We ate lunch and then headed back up to the trail and continued east. Soon, we found this really interesting tree on nurse log that had toppled over and raised up the nurse log out of the dirt:
We continued down the trail – although it still gets traffic this far up, you could tell it gets less traffic. The areas that were more open were rather overgrown although you could clearly see the tread. There were a few spots where the brush was still really wet – we were guessing it must have had a heavy dew the night before.
We continued down and finally got to the crossing point – from the other side of the creek the trail transitions to the 504 – Eagle Creek cutoff trail – it heads up to the Old Baldy trail. The crossing point is very calm and pretty:
We rested a few minutes at the campsite on the south side of the creek and then headed back. It was about 2:30 and we had quite a ways to get back to the truck. And a lot of it was still uphill – especially at the very end. We tried to make good time and we didn’t stop a lot – we took a few water breaks, but they were pretty short. The trip back was pretty uneventful – we got back to the truck about 5:15. We loaded up and headed out.
We decided to have dinner at Fearless but before we did that we decided to head up 224 to the crest to see if we could see what the Clackamas Canyon looked like. We couldn’t see a ton, but this is what it looked like from the crest of 224:
A fair amount of burned area with some green areas and also some mosaic burning as well. Time will tell what it really looks like. It is kind of doubtful we will be able to drive 224 this year I think.
Dinner at Fearless was great as usual, and to top off the day, Zack and his family stopped in after doing some exploring on the east side of the mountain.
It was a great day out.
Location of Hike: Mosier Creek BLM Land
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 1:45 PM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 4.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
The trail is only about 10 minutes from our house and I knew there wasn’t a ton of space to explore so I figured a Sunday afternoon would be great. We hiked a lot farther than I thought we would be able to. We went a bit off the BLM land, but not too far – and I think Port Blakely allows people on their land – I see people all the time parked at the various entry points.
We headed up the road and soon started seeing lots of side trails – these woods have TONS of trails going all over the place. We more or less stayed on main paths – there is a lot more to explore up here at some point. We headed up and more or less continued straight on the main road/trail. We ended up at the border with the Port Blakely land – a section line – and went just past, but this area was all small trees (it had been harvested within the past 20-30 years I’d guess). From there, we turned around and headed north at another junction – this was on more of a real road I think. We headed up this road looking for a spot to head down to the lake that showed on the map. We finalyl found a side trail that went down to it. I’m not sure what its official name is, but since it appears to be essentially a dammed up Mosier Creek, I’m calling it Mosier Lake – almost a swamp really – not very deep:
We continued north past a second small pond and heard water gurgling, so we looked for the “dam”. We found something that was sort of like a dam – it was some rocks piled up that appear to be somewhat damming up the creek to create the lake/swamp. There appears to be a LOT of people that come in here, as there was lots of activity visible.
Once we found the dam, we needed to re-cross Mosier creek, which we found a great spot – basically a ford of the creek:
We crossed and continued back from where we came. On the way back, we decided to take another junction – we were hoping it might lead to a spot where we could see an odd feature on the map. Neither Kirk nor I could tell what it was supposed to be so we wanted to get a good look at it. The road continued up and ended at a gate along Rutherford Lane:
We turned around and headed back where we came from. Somewhere along the way, I took a photo of what one of the older areas looked like:
There wasn’t really much more of note during the trip – it was short, but this is a very interesting area and one which I’m sure I will come back to in order to do more exploring. It is certainly convenient!
Location of Hike: Bull of the Woods Trai
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:00 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed out and made good time up to the trailhead. We got there just after 10:00 and found no cars there (whew!). We suited up and headed up the trail. The hike up was pretty uneventful, but I did get some nice views of Mt Hood from the trail:
We probably stopped once or twice to drink some water, and I stopped a few times to eat some huckleberries – they were all over the place right next to the trail, but it didn’t seem like anyone was eating them! Thor even ate a few – they were small, but REALLY good.
Just before noon we made it to the lookout. I could tell Thor was tired. He laid down under the lookout and I went up to look around. I had an experience I’ve never had up here before – I was actually able to go inside the lookout! Someone had replaced windows and had one of the storm shutters propped open. This is what it looks like inside the lookout:
Nothing hugely special – pretty much typical of what you’d see in a lookout. There were lots of tools in there – a few years ago I remembered seeing shingles inside the lookout – I couldn’t tell if they had used them on the roof or not, but they were gone. Someone had replaced some of the windows in the lookout however, so it does appear to be getting a little bit of attention.
From the catwalk on the lookout it gives you great views of the surrounding mountains and peaks. Looking northeast, there was a great view of Mt Hood and Big Slide Mountain:
And to the south there was Mt Jefferson and Three Sisters:
I was enjoying the view from up there, but Thor was whining because I was up there, so after taking a few photos I came down. We ate lunch in the shade under the lookout where Thor laid down for a bit. I just enjoyed the view and the solitude for a while and then we decided to head back down. As we started down, I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of the lookout, so I snapped a quick one from the trail below as we were leaving:
As we headed down, I was stopping to eat some of the huckleberries and encountered a couple that was backpacking. They must have come up from Dickey Lake because when I got back there were still no cars in the trailhead lot. We passed each other quickly (in a covid world) and I continued down. As we got partway down, I decided to start looking for insulators – I’d never been able to find any, but today I found two – here is one I found:
We made good time going down, and the last thing I wanted to do was to try and find the old alignment of this trail. I had made a waypoint at some point marking “old trail”. When coming up, I realized it was where a post was. There was no tread apparent right at the junction, but going just offtrail, the old tread was quite evident. Here is a photo looking back up to the existing trail and the post. The tread is all there, just overgrown with huckleberries:
Here is another section not quite so overgrown:
It was pretty easy to follow all the way down to where it ended at an old spur road – I’m guessing the old trailhead must have been here at one point:
We walked back this road to the truck. Here is a view of Pasola Mountain from the 6340-033 spur – the original trail used to go to the left of Pasola and would have met up with this alignmnent I’m pretty sure – but that was a long time ago:
We soon made it back to the truck and headed out.
The last memorable thing about the day was on the way out a fox trotted across the road in front of me. He didn’t seem too concerned about me – he wasn’t running or anything. First time I’ve ever seen a fox in the woods!
It was a great way to spend my birthday.
Location of Hike: White Iris Trail
Trail Number: 502a
Weather during Hike: Rainy
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 12:00 PM
Hike Distance: 1.7 miles Elevation Gain: 900 feet
We started off early to make sure we had enough time to do the hike and get back home in time. We left about 8:00 and headed up 4614. It has been several years since I’ve been up this way and I made a wrong turn. I thought the 4615 junction was farther up 4614, but I was wrong. We made it all the wy to the current end of 4614 – it was bermed a few years ago:
After reviewing maps to figure out where I made the wrong turn we headed back. We finally made it to the real western trailhead on 4615. We looked for the trail for a few mins (it is an abandoned trail and is rather brushy) – I finally found it and we headed up. As we went up, there was a lot of small tree blowdown from the winter as well as a LOT of brush – since it had rained, it made for a very wet hike. We cut and lopped several trees off the trail as we went up.
As we continued up the hill, what started as a light mist started getting heavier. It went on and off, but since the trail is so brushy, we did some maintenance and everything was drenched, we both got VERY wet. We continued up the hill, losing the trail a few times along the way, but mostly following it. We soon got to the beginning of the bloom:
And here is probably the best bloom photo of the day – it might not have been in full bloom but it was blooming pretty good:
We continued up and got to the downed log where we had to turn north (left) and continue up the hill. There were several large logs that have come down in the cut area so it made travel tougher. We got back into the old growth and headed up a ways. I checked the time and it was a little after 11:00. I figured we should turn around to make sure we got home in time. We were both really wet anyway, and there wasn’t anything terribly different that we would see if we made it up to the 4614 road anyway. So we turned around and headed down.
We made good time on the way down and got back to the truck right at noon. We headed out and then called home to see if we had enough time to stop at Fearless for lunch. We were both hungry. We had enough time so we had a nice lunch at Fearless and then headed home.
It was great to hike with Carly and to see the white iris in bloom, even though it was a very wet day.
Location of Hike: Rho Creek Trail
Trail Number: 569
Weather during Hike: Overcast with periods of rain and sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:45 AM End Time: 5:00 PM
Hike Distance: 9.4 miles Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
We headed up the trail and soon saw evidence of recent maintenance:
A little farther long where the trail gets very close to Rho Creek we got this great view of it:
And a little farther we got to one of the rough spots – the crossing of Tumble Creek:
We crossed the creek on the big log and continued – there is a switchback just past the crossing and the trail starts climbing more aggressively. At some point along the way, we encountered the relatively new, very large uprooted tree:
We had to climb above the tree to get around it, but it wasn’t too bad. As we continued up (this trail gains 2000′ of elevation, so it is almost constantly going up). Along the way, I noticed that the rhodies were starting to bloom:
As we proceeded up, we got to this old post, which marked the intersection with an abandoned trail (the Tumble Creek trail) that headed north:
Here is a piece of the abandoned Tumble Creek trail – we only headed up a tenth of a mile or so:
After exploring the Tumble Creek trail, we continued up the trail, crossed the beginnings of Rho Creek and then got into the clearcut. We passed Fadeaway spring and continued up thru the clearcut. Near the upper part of the clearcut, Kirk saw this really interesting orange fungus on a relatively young tree:
When we got to the top of the clearcut we had a decent view of Peavine Mountain:
We got to the 4672 road and headed across, up the next segment of the trail. The trail continues to climb thru large old growth until it gets up to the flat area surrounding Rho Meadow. As we were heading up this segment, we found these bones right in the middle of the trail:
Somewhere near these bones the trail flattened out and there were lots of downed trees. They were almost all small trees (2-6″), with a few larger ones, but there was a lot of them, many times piled on top of each other. It made passage rather difficult. We passed the post that wet southeast towards the meadow and continued down the trail. We finally came to the collapsed Ranger/Guard station at Rho Meadow:
We stopped there for lunch – there were a few bugs, but not too bad. It threatened to rain on us, but we mostly stayed dry. After we ate, we decided to continue west, following some flagging – there were trails going all over the place from this spot – it was the center of a lot back in the day.
We were able to follow the trail for a while, but at some point lost it. We just continued in the same general direction and soon came to a decommissioned road. It does not appear on any maps but appears to be a spur road off of 4670. We saw a flag and a blaze across the road and we followed it – this was the continuation of the trail. We also found the trail on our side of the road – it appears we were a little bit too low. Anyway, we followed the trail across the road and quickly intersected the Rho Ridge trail. We walked this out to the junction of 4670 and 6350 – Graham Pass. From there, we pondered going up to Mt Lowe, but I’m glad we didn’t -that would have added another 5 miles to our day and it was already about 3:00. Kirk remembered a trailgoing east from a hunters camp just up 4670. So we headed up there. We found the camp and then started searching for the trail. We never did find it, but we did end up finding the Rho Creek trail just west of the guard station. We then started hiking back and soon found the junction with the trail we had been looking for. We apparently didn’t go north quite far enough to hit this trail. Kirk did a short recon trip up the trail and then we started back.
As we were heading back, Thor saw those bones again. He decided he wanted to take one home, so he grabbed it and was carrying it for a while. After a tenth of a mile or so, I guess he decided it was too heavy or something and dropped it.
The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful – we were trying to make time since it was getting late. We only stopped once on the way back. We made it back to the truck about 5, just about as it started raining. It rained harder the closer we got to town. We were very fortunate with the weather.
We capped off the day with a trip to Fearless for a burger and a beer – it was the perfect way to end a great day of exploration.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Sunny at times
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
The weather was supposed to be reasonably good and I expected new snow (and wasn’t disappointed). New snow is always really pretty in the woods, especially when it is undisturbed. We were the only ones on the trail all day long and it did not appear anyone had hiked it the day before.
The hike itself wasn’t anything special, other than being on a beautiful trail that goes thru some spectacular forest scenes. We headed up the trail, went past the “grotto”, the unique hillside meadow (where the dogs seemed to have caught some scent as they all wanted to head up hill into the woods). We continued up the trail to my favorite spot – the spot between the two road crossings:
I’m not sure why I like this area so much – it is just a beautiful section, especially in the snow. Big trees, a serene setting between two hills. We went thru this section and decided to continue up the trail, since the snow wasn’t really all that deep. The 4635-130 spur probably only had 3-4″ of snow on it. I was expecting quite a bit more.
Shortly after the road corssing, we got to a pretty significant section of blowdown – the trees weren’t huge, but it was tough to make it thru them, so we decided to clean it up with our loppers and handsaw. This is what it looked like before the work:
And this is what it looked like after we were able to remove all the blowdown:
As we continued up, the trail ends up going thru a rockslide, which didn’t have a ton of snow on it. This was the view from the rockslide:
We continued across the rockslide – this is the only spot where Otis had some trouble. He didn’t like the large rocks in the rockslide and didn’t want to proceed. I had to help him thru one section of the rockslide. After that, we continued up the trail to the spot where it crosses the road:
We decided this would be the perfect turnaround spot, so found a spot below the road that had a bit of a view. We had lunch – we tried to eat quickly because Otis didn’t have his jacket and since he has a short coat, we thought he would get cold quickly. Ollie, Otis and Thor did a LOT of horsing around on the 4635 road, keeping active so he didn’t get cold.
After eating lunch, we headed back down the hill. We did some more lopping and trail maintenance on the way back down, trying to improve the trail for the next trip.
The trip down was pretty uneventful and pretty quick since it was all downhill and we didn’t do NEARLY as much trail maintenance on the way down. We got back to the truck about 3:00 and then headed home.
Location of Hike: MP3 Trail
Weather during Hike: Overcast with some sun breaks
Hiking Buddies: Otis and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 305 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We headed out a little early, as it sounded like the weather might be better earlier in the day. I was expecting to have rain and/or snow later in the day, but fortunately, it appears the rain came in a bit later than expected.
I decided to do MP3 because I love this trail and I was hoping we could get to it. I was curious how far we would get.
On the way in, on the the 4630 road we came across 3 pretty good sized deer who were making their way across the road. Once they saw us, they scurried up the hill. It was kind of a cool way to start the day. We got to the trailhead about 9:40 – here is what it looked like when we arrived:
We quickly headed up the hill. This trail gains quite a bit of elevation pretty quickly. We soon got to the first rockslide – there was a pretty good view of up on top where you could see there was quite a bit more snow:
As we continued up, the snow got deeper in places – mostly open areas. This is a more open area where it was probably a foot deep or so:
It was right around this spot somewhere, in a rockslide that had a new bit of blowdown. The tree kind of shattered, so I was able to use my loppers and handsaw to clear the mess. Unfortunately, when I was moving one of the pieces off the tread, it rotated and a branch came back and hit me in the forehead. It hurt, and left a nice bit gash on my forehead. Earlier on the hike I hit my knee and it hurt but I didn’t realize until later than it also bled – my knee and my head are pretty sore, but they will recover.
After clearing that spot, we continued up – I did some lopping on the way up to remove some of the brush. The snow continued to get deeper, but we were able to make it up to the point where MP3 joins the Rimrock trail, which is where we ate lunch:
The snow up here was probably 18-24″, maybe a little less in places – quite a bit less than other times I’ve been up here. I thought it would have more.
We ate lunch and I could tell Otis didn’t like it too much – he wanted to sit/lay down, but it was too cold for him. So we didn’t spend too much time up there. We packed up and headed back down.
On the way back down, I did some more brushing in some of the rockslides where it was getting really tough to get thru. I tried to pull out some of the new shoots rather than just cut them, hoping it would slow them down more.
The trip back down was pretty quick, even with the additional brushing work. We made it back to the truck about 1:30 – the dogs were tired and slept the whole way home.
On the way out, I stopped at an old cut area where you get a nice view to the south and west. I took a couple of photos:
Oak Grove Butte:
Fish Creek Mountain:
It was a nice, but short day out in the woods.
Location of Hike: Fish Creek - Old Road 54
Weather during Hike: Partly sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor and Otis
Start Time: 1:30 PM End Time: 4:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed out after lunch and got to the trailhead a little after 1:00. I was surprised to see another car and and a truck there. The truck had a guy getting out of it, getting ready to hike it appeared. I was amazed there was so much interest in this “trail” on a Monday. But I guess it was nice weather and it was technically a holiday. The Clackamas River trail parking lot had quite a few people in it as we passed by.
The man in the truck headed out before us, and since there were others on the trail, and I haven’t really hiked by myself with Otis, I decided to keep them on the leashes. We soon headed down the trail, with Thor and Otis in the lead:
That didn’t last too long as Thor seemed like he felt it was his “job” to lead, and would growl at Otis if he got ahead. So Thor lead, and Otis followed (mostly).
It wasn’t too far when we met a group coming back – and I heard another dog bark, so we got off the trail and let them pass – both Otis and Thor barked at them but they passed without incident. We continued south down the old road and soon saw the man who headed out before us. It wasn’t too long before he said he needed to remove some layers and let us go by. The dogs were pulling me hard, so we were making GREAT time. We passed him and a little farther down the trail I let them off leash since there shouldn’t have been anyone ahead of us. They loved that and did the usual running around with me having to remind them not to get too far ahead. They did pretty well off leash, though.
It didn’t take too long (a bit over an hour I think) to get to the first bridge, which I thought would be a good turnaround point for the day. Just short of the bridge there was a tree across the old road, so I sawed off some branches to make it easier to step over. We then got to the first bridge, with Fish Creek rushing underneath. Here is the view looking north:
And then looking south:
We stopped, had some water and ate a little bit – the man soon caught up to us and the dogs started barking at him, but once they saw he presented no danger they stopped. We chatted for a bit – he said his dad was a logger who had cut out a lot of the roadways in the drainage back in the 60’s. He had been coming down there regularly and liked the area. I wish I had gotten his name, but we were chatting about all the history in the area it never came up.
After a bit, he decided to continue further south. We shortly packed up and headed back north, back to the truck. I don’t think we really stopped at all on the way in or the way out. As I said, it was a pretty short hike by design, but we did end up hiking over 6 miles! It was a nice day out in a beautiful forest along an gorgeous creek.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Overcast
Hiking Buddies: Jet and Thor
Start Time: 10:20 AM End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4.25 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
I headed over to pick up Jet and then we headed out. It is a relatively short drive to the Cripple Creek trailhead, which is a good wintertime hike. I didn’t think I’d need my snowshoes, although it turned out they would have been useful farther up the trail.
We got to the trailhead a little after 10:00 – I had to get myself ready before I let the dogs out of the truck, and I wanted to keep them on their leashes for at least the beginning of the trip – at least until we got out of view of the road. We headed up the trail and I was getting assisted up the hill by two dog power:
We got to the first rockslide and I wanted to experiment a bit with my new drone – my Christmas present. I haven’t flown it much yet, so I’m only trying to fly it relatively close and within eyesight. This was the view looking south(ish):
And here is the same general direction from the drone (much better photo!):
After I flew the drone for a few minutes, I packed it up and we continued up the hill. There was essentially no snow for the first bit of the trip, but as we ascended, we started to see more and more snow. This is a picture of the dogs just after we hit some snow:
Right next to the trail is a really nice spring – great place for water. It also has a very nice “bowl” that makes it great for dogs to drink out of. Jet decided to get a drink:
And close by that, I noticed this tree root. I wonder if some animal has been sleeping here?
We continued up and the snow got deeper and deeper, especially in the cut area. We soon got to the first crossing of the 130 spur where the dogs played for a bit. I was thinking that the upper crossing would be a great place for lunch. But one of my favorites places on this trail is the section between those two crossings:
I’m guessing the snow was about a foot deep in here, which made moving rather difficult since I didn’t bring my snowshoes. I figured the upper road crossing would be a good spot to turn around.
We shortly made it up to the second crossing where we stopped and had lunch and the dogs played for while. Here are some videos I took:
Video of Jet and Thor chasing snowballs:
Video of Jet catching snowballs in his mouth:
Thor doing his “beaver” imitation in the snow and him and Jet playing:
After eating lunch and letting the dogs play for a while, we headed back down.. The trip back down was pretty quick and uneventful, minus one interesting thing. We were just east of the hillside meadow when both Jet and Thor wanted to head downhill off trail. I thought they heard some animal or something – Thor came back but Jet continued – he walked over to a tree and found this (which he promptly brought back):
Both of them had smelled this bone from 15-20′ from the trail! The both have pretty good sniffers!
After that, we headed back to the rockslides where I took the drone up again and took some photos (on the first flight I just took some video). After the quick flight, we headed down to the truck, loaded up and headed home. The dogs were both pretty tired and slept the whole way home.
A great day to spend MLK day!
Location of Hike: Wenatchee - Burch Mountain
Weather during Hike: Partly sunny to foggy and cold
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 10:50 AM End Time: 1:45 PM
Hike Distance: 7.9 miles Elevation Gain: 2100 feet
We drove up the road, which is the extension of the Burch Mountain Road (there are houses on it). At some point, it transitioned to gravel and eventually crossed into the national forest. Carly kept driving and we did OK on the way up. At some point we transitioned into ponderosa pine forest instead of just desert sagebrush, etc. We finally stopped at a spot where the snow was starting to get deeper:
We headed up the road from that point – there had been no traffic up that way on that day so far. We just walked up the road. It was easy walking except for a few icy spots (I fell in one spot and jammed my thumb pretty bad – it hurt for a couple days). When we got up a little ways, the road split. We had to decide which way to go:
The left road would go up to Eagle Rock and we could look at a communication tower – the right road headed up to Burch Mountain. We opted to see how far we could get up to Burch Mountain – Carly had not been up there before. So to the right it was.
As we worked our way up the road, we got to an open area where we could see the communication tower that we could have opted to go explore:
We continued up the road and the snow just kept getting deeper and deeper although it wasn’t too difficult to walk in – we followed the tire ruts mostly – the dogs were having a blast in the deeper snow:
As we were making our way up, I knew we would be later than expected so I texted Gail to let her know – we had good cell service the whole way. Eventually, we got to the end of the road, but we weren’t quite up to the top yet. We had to take a narrow path past the end of the road up to the summit of Burch Mountain – I think it ended up being about a quarter of a mile to the summit from the end of the road. Here was our final push to the top:
When we were lower, it appeared as thought we were going to be socked in with fog, but as we headed up, things cleared up quite a bit. Here is the view to the west from the top of Burch Mountain:
And this was a shot looking back from where we came – you can see the communication tower in the distance – we more or less followed the ridge out:
We didn’t stay on top too long – the dogs were getting cold and we needed to get back. So we headed back down and back to the car. When we were close to the car we encountered a group of people in side by side’s heading up the hill, but those were the only people we saw all day. We made good time on the way down and then started driving back down the road – slowly – there were a lot of icy spots. In one spot Carly’s car started sliding sideways and I took over driving – we didn’t have any other treacherous spots, but it was a pretty slow drive back down the road.
It was an unexpectedly nice hike with a lot more snow than I was expecting to encounter and also quite a bit farther than I thought we would be going. But it all worked out well.
Location of Hike: Wenatchee- Saddle Hill
Weather during Hike: Cold
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Gail, Otis and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 11:00 AM
Hike Distance: 3.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
We continued up and soon made it to the hill that overlooked Saddle rock:
While we were up there, Thor and Otis decided to run around and play:
While up there we decided to take a slightly different route back down and hike by Rooster Comb (shown as Old Butte on the map). We snaked our way down, using a faint user trail to get over to more of a proper trail. I didn’t climb up on the rock, but it was pretty much the same view we had the whole trip. This is what Rooster Comb looked like from the backside:
The whole hillside is covered in many trails – some official, some user trails. They head off in many directions.
It was a short hike, but it was interesting and a neat way to spend a couple of hours.
Location of Hike: Fish Creek Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 541
Weather during Hike: Overcast and Cold with a couple of sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:20 AM End Time: 2:50 PM
Hike Distance: 6 miles Elevation Gain: 2100 feet
and some shots down the South Fork of the Clackamas drainage (as much as you could see – it was pretty foggy):
Since Plan A and Plan B both were foiled, I had to figure out where to go. I could have hiked Hillockburn, but I wasn’t in the mood for that short of a hike and I wanted to see a little bit of snow. I thought I would try to see if I could get to the Fish Creek Mountain trailhead (which was about 3100′). If that wasn’t available, I figured I could hike Cripple Creek – I know I could get to that trailhead for sure.
I was able to easily drive to the Fish Creek Mountain trailhead – it had almost no snow. I’m guessing the first row of mountains must have sucked a lot of the snow out of the storms and Fish Creek didn’t get as much. Or something like that. There was just a tiny bit in the trees, but nothing on the roads. I’m also glad I got my Garmin so I could send a message to Gail to let her know where I was. I told her I might have to change plans, and it is nice to be able to do that but still let her know where I will be in case something happens.
We got suited up and headed up the trail. This trail starts on an old cat road and soon joins a very old abandoned trail segment that takes you up to the ridge and the old road which then takes you to the original trailhead. While walking the old road, I saw something I’ve never seen before on this trail – an old sign:
I know it means Township 6,Range 6, Section 18, but I’m not sure what the 05 is for or what it means – it has a US Forest Service plaque on it so it must be “official” – but it is very old.
We continued up the road and soon found the old trailhead and headed up. I was surprised there was not more snow up on the ridge. It was pretty much just a dusting of snow. It was mostly foggy the whole way but the clouds did part a few times like this quick view we got:
Another unique thing on this trip I noticed was this hard to see phenomenon – ice on the BOTTOM of the branches – I thought it was snow at first, but it was ice and it was under the branches – really interesting:
We continued up the trail and really had basically no snow until about 4000′ and even there it was pretty light:
This is what most of the viewpoints looked like – foggy:
But we got to see LOTS of the white stuff! As we were hiking up, I really liked this rock outcropping covered in fresh snow:
We continued up the hill (I forgot how much uphill this trip is – it is a LOT), with the snow slowly getting deeper. As we got closer to the lookout, the snow got quite a bit deeper – but not REALLY deep – this was maybe 5-6″:
We got to the old lookout location and had some lunch. Thor did some frapping in the snow and chased some snowballs. The sun briefly tried to peek out while we were eating lunch:
And here is Thor playing in the snow:
It kind of felt like it was getting colder and the sun went away and then it started snowing!
I contemplated going down to high lake, but since the days are short, I opted to just continue down the trail and head back out. We probably could have gone down to the lake and back, but it would have been getting dark by the time we got back to the truck, so I think it was a good call to skip the side excursion today. It would have been interesting to see in the snow. I was also curious how much snow would have been down by the lake. I’m thinking it probably hasn’t had time to accumulate so there might not be much yet.
Anyway, we headed back down, making pretty good time since it was all downhill. On the way back down, I let my phone acclimate and it said it was 25 degrees! I was thinking it was more like 30-31 degrees – just below freezing. I was off by a bit!
On one of the side viewpoints on the way back down, I think I saw East Mountain:
We soon got back to the old road and made quick work of getting back down to the truck. We made it back to the truck just before 3, so we were able to make it home before it got dark.
An absolutely beautiful snowy day in the woods. Very peaceful and serene. A nice way to close out my hiking for 2019.
Location of Hike: Pansy Lake Area
Trail Number: 551, 558, 554, 550, 549
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM End Time: 4:50 PM
Hike Distance: 8.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
I had seen references to the trail before, and a few years ago Zack and I did some explorations on the west side of the lake where we found the old mine and some blazes and such. I wanted to see if we could find the whole old trail. We were mostly successful.
Since the days are short this time of year I wasn’t sure how far we would get. We started at the usual time and ended up getting to the trailhead about 10:30. Not another soul in sight however we did pass a couple of trucks coming down the hill – I’m guessing they were hunters.
We suited up and headed out. Since neither of us were sure where the old trail started Kirk started from one campsite and I started farther west and then headed south looking for blazes or old tread. I was thinking this re-route was done in the 70’s or 80’s, but I think it could have been earlier. Even 1980 is almost 40 years ago now.
After walking around the woods in circles, Kirk found the old trail not too far from the current trail. We followed it a bit and decided to back track to see if we could follow it back to the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it all the way back to the road- it got lost at some point. We turned back around and followed the old trail. We did however find some pretty nice pieces of the old trail with some good blazes:
When we got to the Audrey Creek crossing (this creek is unnamed on the topo maps, but the project map document showed it as “Audrey Creek”), the trail crossed under a small but very nice waterfall:
Here is a video of waterfall in action:
We continued south and a bit farther we found an old campsite:
The trail then headed west and down into a flat area. We found the old trail along the north side of this flat area, but there was a wet area where we struggled thru some thick brush and kind of lost the trail. Kirk thought it might have gone up to the ridge farther to the west (which I think it did, because we found the tread farther south – up the hill). After re-finding the tread, we headed up the rather steep section to another flat area – we then climbed a small knoll and ate lunch. We thought this knoll might have a good view, but it had too many trees. Kirk got this photo looking north:
After eating a quick lunch and realizing it was getting late (it was like 1:30 at this point), we decided to just find the mine, take a look and then head up to the lookout and hopefully make it down before it got dark. On the Northwest side of Pansy Lake there is this interesting seasonal pond:
We continued south, following the trail past a bunch of campsites and finally finding the old mine:
We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the mine – we quickly headed back towards the lake:
And then headed over to the east side of the lake and then south (and up) on the current trail. (we had almost 1500′ to gain before we got to the lookout) On the way up the trail, we found one of the spots where the old trail crossed the existing trail (as shown on the project map). That was kind of cool. We shortly got up to the junction with the Motherlode Trail and headed east, climbing pretty much all the way. There was a viewpoint where we got a great view of Mt Jefferson:
We tried not to stop, but we had to make a few breather breaks on the way up. We finally got to the Welcome Lakes Junction and then headed back west – our final push up to the lookout. It wasn’t too long before we make it to the Bull of the Woods Lookout:
The lookout is doing pretty well, all things considered. It doesn’t appear to be really getting any maintenance but it still stands. Every time I see it, it is a little bit more weathered than the last time I saw it.
Here is a nice view from the lookout – looking over to Big Slide Mountain and Schreiner Peak behind it and Olallie Butte to the south:
We spent a few minutes at the lookout enjoying the view, but it was getting late – it was about 3:30 and we figured it would be getting dark by 5:00. We were hoping we could make it down in an hour – the plan was to take the Bull of the Woods trail (550) down to the Dickey Lake trail (549) and then back the final leg of the Pansy Lake trail to the truck.
We kept up a good pace, but were slowed somewhat on the Dickey Lake trail due to a bunch of downed logs. We were trying to go as fast as we could. Once we got to the Pansy Lake trail it started getting rather dark in the trees, but we didn’t need to pull out the headlamps. We finally made it back to the truck just before 5:00 and it was almost dark. Not another soul to be seen all day long.
I took the drive back down the mountain slowly – I was expecting to see some animals and didn’t want to hit any of them. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any animals on the way down. We made it back to Estacada a little after 6 and had a burger and a beer at Fearless.
It was a fantastic day of exploring on an absolutely beautiful fall day. I’m so glad I was able to get out and enjoy it.
Location of Hike: Rimrock Trail
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:50 AM End Time: 1:50 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
We got a bit of a late start – I had to help with a few things around the house before I left. We made it up to the trailhead just before 11:00 and quickly headed out. I wanted it to be a relatively short day since the days are getting pretty short. We headed down the trail and made pretty quick time of it, getting to the overlook just after noon. We went out on the point, where it was kind of breezy – and it was a cold breeze. I put my coat on and we had some lunch and enjoyed the views. Here is a picture of Thor at the overlook-I’m not sure what he was looking at:
Mt Hood was nice and clear today:
Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte were also pretty clear:
We spent a little bit of time up there looking for the old helipad – I swore I had seen one there before but haven’t been able to find it. I think I solved the mystery – I looked around and found some yellow bits and some old plywood where I thought the helipad was. After I got home I went back and looked at some old photos I had taken and it appears as though the yellow plastic in this photo:
has disappeared – either someone took it or it blew away. You can see some old plywood in that photo, but it looks like it continues to disintegrate which is why it is hard to see the remnants of it anymore. Mystery solved.
After looking for the helipad we headed back down. On the way back to the main trail Thor started running – there was someone else coming up the trail! It really surprised me. He said he was doing a 13 mile hike from Shellrock Lake and was on mile 8. I’m guessing he must have come Shellrock Lake trail to Grouse Point, then Grouse Point south to Cache Meadow, then walked the road to the Rimrock trailhead. He said he was going to head down to 5830 and take a left after he finished at the viewpoint, so I guessed he would probably road walk back to the Shellrock Lake trailhead back to his camp (or car). That is quite a hike for November!
After briefly chatting with the solo hiker, we continued down the trail. We did a couple minor items of trail maintenance, cutting one small log off, moving another and cleaning up a bunch of branches from another downed log (it made it a lot easier to get around without the branches). We made quick time down the hill and got back to the truck just before 2:00. We headed back down the narrow and bumpy upper stretches of 4635. On the way down, I stopped at a viewpoint and snapped this photo of Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead:
I recently realized that is the header image on the Trailadvocates page! That photo was taken at a different time of year however. All the leaves were gone today. It is still a really nice view.
I always enjoy the woods on this hike as well as the historical nature of the trail. I can always feel the history when I hike it. This was a pretty mellow hike, but it was nice to just spend some time in the moment up at the overlook and enjoy another beautiful fall day. I don’t know how many more we will have.
Location of Hike: Whetstone Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 546 3369
Weather during Hike: Sunny changing to overcast
Hiking Buddies: Nicholas, Jet and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 12:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
We left the house a little after 8:00 so that we could get back early afternoon. We made it to the trailhead just after 9:30 and got ready and headed out. I had forgotten that you head downhill a little ways at the start of this trail. You head thru an old clearcut, down hill to the “real” trail (in the old growth). From there, you travel some mostly level spots with some uphill until you get to the junction with “some” trail (I’m not really sure what trail is what in this area – the numbering is very confusing). From there you head west for about 3/4 of a mile to the spot where the 3369 Trail (coming up from Opal Creek) joins – from there it is a pretty short ascent to the top.
The hike was pretty short – about 2 miles each way. Jet and Thor had never hiked before but they had a great time and we had no problems with them. About all we had to do was to make sure they stayed relatively close to us – same problem I have with Thor – but when we called, they always came running so it all worked out great. Here they are on the trail:
When we got to a small rockslide, there is a small, shallow pond. It was completely frozen, and Jet decided to walk out on the ice:
Amazingly enough he didn’t fall thru until the very edge, where it was a little thinner. The pond can’t be more than 18″ deep or so.
We continued up the trail and soon joined the last push to the top. It gets kind of steep, but we soon made it up. The sky was almost completely cloud free on the way up. We ended up having lunch at the old lookout site and were rewarded with really nice views. To the east there was Pansy and Silver King Mountains:
And to the south there was Mt Jefferson, which was mostly visible – just the peak was hiding in the clouds:
We ate lunch and enjoyed the view for a while. Since we needed to get back, we started back down about 11:30 I think. By the time we headed back down, the clouds had started to roll in. It looked like it might rain at some point.
The trip back down was pretty uneventful. I enjoyed hiking thru the glorious old growth and Jet and Thor were having a great time together. We made it back to the truck about 12:30 and headed home. On the way home, the dogs were tired and Jet kind of took up the whole back seat, but after a while, they figured out how to both sleep in the back seat of my truck:
It was a great day out in the woods – a fantastic fall day. Having my son and the two dogs just made it that much better.
Location of Hike: Thunder Mountain and Skookum Lake Trails
Trail Number: 542 and 543
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cool
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.25 miles Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
We headed out at the “usual time” (just Thor and I) and made our way down all the narrow Forest Service roads. I drove quite a bit slower than usual because I was worried I might run into log trucks on the roads. There is thinning going on and I saw one loaded truck coming out as I was driving in. Fortunately, I didn’t meet any trucks. Not sure where the active thinning is going on, but that one truck was the only one I saw all day long.
On the way in, on the 4620 road, I got a pretty good view of Olallie Butte and the tip of Mt Jefferson – you can see the beautiful fall colors as well:
Shortly before the trailhead (probably the last mile or so), the road is getting increasingly brushy – I was pleased to see someone had cut a bunch of the brush out so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be. We got to the trailhead just before 11 and headed out. The beginning of this trail goes thru a cut area and has a few very brushy sections of Thimbleberry. Those were easier to navigate today as there has obviously been a hard freeze and many of the leaves are dying now. After getting thru those first couple of inital rough spots, we got back into the forest and soon encountered the first real snow:
Shortly after seeing the snow, I noticed this print which looks like a small bear (cub maybe?):
A little further up the trail there is a switchback that gives a nice view of Olallie Butte and Mt Jefferson:
We made it up to the top where the two trails meet and the Skookum Lake trail heads down. We decided to head down to Skookum Lake first and then do Thunder Mountain second.
On the way down to the lake, there is this cool rock grotto – I remember shortly after the fire (2005 maybe?) there was a ribbon there saying this was a “safe area” – some place the firefighters could go if the fire got out of hand:
We worked our way down to the lake – it was nice – the trail has been recently cut out and there are almost no downed logs on the trail. The last time I hiked this trail, there were several bad patches of downed logs that made hiking it difficult. Those have all been cleared.
Skookum Lake was sporting fall colors:
It was rather chilly down at the lake – the whole north side of the mountain was kind of chilly but since I was moving it wasn’t too bad.
We made our way around the lake to the nice campsite at north end of lake:
It felt good sitting in the sun at the picnic table. We ate some lunch, looked around a bit and then headed back up.
I had forgotten about some of these sections – maybe because they weren’t loaded with snow or dripping wet. But I got pretty wet and snowy going thru a few spots like this:
Good thing I have quick drying pants on! Otherwise I would have gotten pretty cold.
On the way down the hill I had noticed 3 of these huge ant hills – I didn’t take photos until the return trip. But they were pretty impressive:
The only other trail I remember seeing these on was the Fish Creek Mountain trail – but now there is another one! Those ants sure are busy! I hadn’t noticed them being active on the way down, but they were certainly active on the way back up. I’m assuming it had warmed up enough for them to get out of the hill by the time I went back up.
We made good time on the way back up – I only had to stop 2 or 3 times to catch my breath (I felt pretty good about that). We made it to the junction and then took the short spur up to the old lookout location. It was sunny and pretty warm up there, and very little wind. I had heard it was supposed to be rather windy, but I didn’t feel it up on top. There were great views in almost all directions – here is a great view of Mt Hood from the top of Thunder Mountain:
I wanted to stay longer, but Thor was restless, so we headed back down. On the way down, I did a bit of searching for potential old trail connections that would have headed up to East Mountain – unfortunately, I was not able to find any semblance of old trail connections.
We made it back down to the truck about 3 and headed home. Thor was tired (as was I) – but we both enjoyed a beautiful fall day out in the woods.
Location of Hike: Pacific Crest Trail
Trail Number: 2000
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 5:30 PM
Hike Distance: 12 miles Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
Thor and I made the long drive to the trailhead, the Breitenbush trailhead on the PCT – it is almost a 2 hour drive and the last 5 or 6 miles are down the pretty rough 4220 road. We got to the trailhead a little before 11. There was a man and his wife getting ready but only a few cars were there (maybe 4 or 5). We quickly got ready and headed out.
A short ways down the trail, we go this really good look at Ruddy Hill, Pyramid Butte, Mt Hood and Olallie (in the trees):
Then looking northwest we got a view of all the peaks in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (Battle Ax is the easiest to see – to the left – Schreiner Peak is the tallest peak to the right center of the photo):
We continued south on the trail, meeting a few people, including some PCT thru hikers. We went thru the first burned area and missed the junction with the trail to Pyramid Butte (we saw it on the way back). We made pretty good time and soon were almost up to Park Ridge where we got a good view of Mt Hood and Olallie Butte – you don’t see this side of Olallie too much as it shows the steep drop off on the east side of the butte:
Just below Park Ridge there was a small snow field next to the trail and Thor spent a while doing his “beaver” thing in the snow. We were in the sun a lot of the day and he had been getting hot, so I’m sure the cool snow felt good to him. I should have taken a photo.
We finally made it to Park Ridge – the high point of the hike. We stopped there for lunch, where there were quite a few people stopped. We found a spot in the shade where we ate lunch and I took a photo of Thor being Thor:
After eating lunch I walked around the ridge looking for the old sign that marked the entrance into the Willamette National Forest. We saw it back in 2012:
I had heard that it had disappeared and it certainly has. I think I found the logs that made up the frame of the sign, but no traces of the sign itself could be found. I’m wondering if the Forest Service came and got it or something as a historical artifact. Anyway, it is sad it is gone – it was a cool piece of history since it still said Skyline Trail. I’m glad I got to see it before it disappeared.
After looking for the sign for a bit, we headed down the trail into Jefferson Park. There was this great view of Mt Jefferson while we were descending into Jefferson Park:
And a little farther down the trail we started getting into Jefferson Park for real – it is very beautiful-green and lush, even in August:
It wasn’t long before we made it to the shore of Russell Lake:
There were a LOT of people milling around the area, and we saw a few tents there. We stopped in a shady spot and I wanted to just enjoy the scenery for a bit but Thor got restless. I took one last photo of Russell Lake beneath Mt Jefferson
and then we headed out. There are a LOT of user trails in Jefferson Park so we had to find our way out. As we were heading up and out, I took another photo of Mt Jefferson rising above Jefferson Park – I never get tired of that view:
We then headed back up the trail – it is rather steep farther down and gets a little more graded as you get up the hill.
We were almost back up to the top of Park Ridge when we finally met Kirk and Sarah. It was about 3:45 and we still had a ways to hike back. Ollie and Thor had fun playing for a few minutes and we all talked for a bit and then Thor and I headed up and Kirk, Sarah and Ollie headed down. They had camped before Park Ridge at one of the small tarns. Since they didn’t have too far to get back they still had a lot of time to explore before dark.
We got back up to Park Ridge and this time there were only a few people up there. We crossed over the ridge and headed down the other side. I caught this picture just below the ridge where you can see Eastern Oregon pretty well (although it was a lot easier to see in person):
Thor played in the same snow field he did on the way up – he was getting pretty hot – being in the sun most of the day. It is tough having black fur!!!
We made good time and on the way down, I took a photo of this cool rock formation that I had seen on the way up (but neglected to photograph):
There wasn’t a whole lot that stuck out on the way down. Since it was getting late, we were just trying to make time so that we wouldn’t be getting home too late. We met a few people on the way back, but it was a lot quieter on the way back than the way in. I could tell Thor was getting really tired. I was tired too, but we still had a mile or two to go, so I had to encourage him a bit to keep going. We stopped a few times so he could rest – I checked his pads in case he wore them off like he did a couple months ago on a very rocky hike. He was fine, just tired, so we took it slow and took a few rest stops.
We finally made it back to the truck about 5:30pm – that last mile seemed to stretch on forever! We loaded up and started the long bumpy road home.
I always love Jefferson Park. It was a good day in the woods.
Location of Hike: Three Sisters Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Varied from sunny and warm to cold and windy with some rain
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Sarah, Jeff
Hike Distance: 68.6 miles Elevation Gain: 16,000 feet
Originally we were thinking about going to Glacier National Park in Montana, but we realized that we needed permits (kind of like when we did the enchantments) and it was too late this year to get them. We decided to do the Three Sisters loop because next year this entire wilderness will be permits only (like the Enchantments and Glacier) and will be more difficult to get into. I knew before even starting that this was going to be a challenging trip (due to the length and elevation). This was the longest backpacking trip I have ever taken, both in duration and mileage. The initial plan was this:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – About 6.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – About 9 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then back out to Park Meadow – About 12 miles
- Day 4 – Park Meadow to Mesa Creek – About 11.5 miles
- Day 5 – Mesa Creek to Minnie Scott Springs – About 12 miles
- Day 6 – Minnie Scott Springs to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 6 miles
- Total Mileage: About 57 miles
What we actually did was significantly different than the plan, and considerably more mileage than estimated. We added a side trip up to Broken top and some of the distances I calculated were a bit off. This is what we actually did, with actual mileages:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – 7.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – 10 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake – 12 miles
- Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top – About 13.5 miles
- Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar – just short of Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!) – About 17.5 miles
- Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 7.5 miles
- Total Mileage: About 68 miles
Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek
The “Blue Adventure Bus” (Kirk’s van) came and picked Carly and I up about 8:30 on Saturday morning. Kirk had already picked up Jeff. The plan was to head out, have lunch on the way, and then get on the trail shortly after 1:00 or so which is why day 1 was shorter mileage (same for the last day).
We ended up stopping for lunch in Detroit since that was really the last slice of civilization with a decent restaurant before the trailhead (even though it was like an hour and a half away). We had lunch at a restaurant called Cedars – It was good to have one last “real” meal before heading out into the wilderness. We ate an early lunch and then continued to the trailhead at the Lava Camp Trailhead on highway 242 near McKenzie Pass. We passed the Dee Wright Observatory which would be an interesting place to explore some day. It is in the middle of a HUGE lava field. I had never realized how much lava there is in this area. We would be seeing more of it as the week progressed.
The other really interesting/weird thing that happened on the way to the trailhead was there were TONS of butterflies on the road. There was literally a swarm of them in places – there were so many we kept hearing “splat” when one would hit the windshield or the front of the van. It was really kind of strange to see SO many butterflies.
After the butterfly massacre, we shortly got to the trailhead and got all our gear on for the start of our 6 days in the wilderness.
We headed down the Millican Crater Trail (4066) – originally I thought we were going to go down the PCT for the first part of the trail, but we found this would make the trip a true loop – we wouldn’t be repeating any part of the trail with the exception of the trip in and out of Camp Lake. We headed down the trail and very quickly came into the burn area. This has been the site of at least a couple of rather large fires – I think one of the latest ones was the Pole Creek fire in 2012 and burned about 26,000 acres. The last one was just last year and was over 101,000 acres! We saw lots of this (and worse) all day long (and into the following day too):
When we got to to the Trout Creek Tie Trail (4067) we took a turn south and headed to Trout Creek. We had a snack there and got water and then continued on the Green Lakes Trail (17). Shortly before Alder Creek (our destination for the night), we got this view of Millican Crater in the foreground with Black Crater behind it:
And a little farther we also caught our first glimpse of North Sister:
Soon we made it to Alder creek and started looking for a campsite. We found one just up the hill from the creek. We were expecting to see some other people but didn’t see anyone camped there at all. Here was our campsite for night 1:
After setting up camp, we cooked dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed.
Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake
We got up and got going about 8:30 on Day 2, heading to Camp Lake. Shortly after leaving camp, we got a much better look at North Sister:
A little farther down the trail, we got a pretty good look at Mt Washington:
A little farther we got our first real look at South Sister thru the burned trees:
We continued down the trail until we got to the Camp Lake Trail junction and headed west. It was somewhere in this vicinity where I started noticing the mosquitoes more – maybe it was where we came out of the burned area into woods, I’m not sure. I just know that at some point, the bugs started becoming quite annoying, especially when you weren’t moving.
We continued down the Camp Lake trail and we originally thought this creek was Squaw/Whychus creek, but it turned out to be an un-named creek crossing – but it was a great source of cool, clear water:
Shortly after the un-named creek crossing we came to the actual North Fork of Squaw/Whychus creek – here is our group starting to cross it:
A little bit down the trail we got our first really good look at North Sister as well:
Shortly after that view, we started to hit significant snow, which obscured the trail in many spots. We were able to find our way thru (there were little to no footprints to guide us), and soon made it to Camp Lake – which still had quite a bit of snow and was rather un-inviting, windy and cold:
We looked around and set up our tents about the only place we could find to camp – and turned out to be probably the worst place since the wind came from the south across the lake and funneled thru the small opening on the north end of the lake:
We also got a good look at Middle sister above Camp Lake, which would be our objective for the following morning:
We setup camp but as we were setting up camp, one of the poles on Carly’s tent broke. We made a “fix” using some duct tape and were hoping it would hold up in the wind (more on that in a minute). After getting our tents setup we made dinner crouched behind the hills next to our tents – we found enough space to cook out of most of the wind.
We also noticed the huge slabs of snow that were calving off into the lake on the south side of the lake. We would regularly hear one of them crash into the water.
The most significant thing that happened on Day 2 was probably at night. After we cleaned up after dinner we went to bed. It had started to mist a bit and the wind had picked up. We were also planning to get up at 5 to get going up to Middle Sister early – so we would still have enough time to make it to Park Meadow. Shortly after we went to bed, the wind REALLY picked up and was blowing our tent in about a foot when it gusted hard. Some of the gusts were REALLY strong (like 40 MPH+ I think) and we were worried that our cheap tent pole fix would collapse during the night. Fortunately, it held up just fine, but no one got a lot of sleep that night due to the wind. It was the stormiest night I’ve ever spent in a tent.
Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake
We got up early (5am), made breakfast and headed out to summit middle sister. There isn’t a trail up to the summit, but Kirk had climbed this peak at least a couple of times before. We kind of picked our path up the hill, choosing what looked like the easiest route. Here is a shot looking back at Camp Lake after we had climbed a bit:
A little bit further up the mountain we started to get into real snow (and the clouds) – we would mostly be in the clouds the rest of the climb – that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture:
We kept climbing and when we got about half way up this was our view – it didn’t look like we had too far to go, but it got harder as we got higher – it was very deceiving:
As we were ascending, someone noticed that South Sister briefly peeked thru the clouds:
After a long, slow climb, we finally made it to the top of Middle Sister, but we were entirely in the clouds. Amazingly it wasn’t very windy when we were up there. We had no views whatsoever:
We spent a few minutes sheltered behind a big rock up on top and looked around a bit and then headed down. As we headed down, it started to really rain. Prior to that it was just misty due to the clouds. The rain was coming down sideways and was really cold. I was kind of expecting some snow, but we didn’t see any.
As we got farther down the hill, I got to experience a new skill – Glissading – this makes it really fast to come down the hill! (this picture was Kirk, but we all did it 3 or 4 times as we hit different snow fields):
We made it back down to camp a little after noon I think. We ate lunch and then packed up and headed out. Just before heading out, I decided to go look at the outlet to Camp Lake. I found this cool little snow tunnel made by the outlet – notice how much snow there is still on the hill:
And then there was this rock with some weird inscriptions at the outlet – I have no idea what it means:
I think we started our journey out about 2pm – we had a ways to go. We weren’t sure if we would be able to make it to Park Meadow, but we figured we would see how the day went.
As we were hiking out, I noticed some neat cliffs that I had not noticed on the way in:
The trip out was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the Green Lakes trail and then headed south. We got back into burned areas and kept hiking south. We were all getting tired and were ready to find a place to camp. We came across a pair of small, un-named lakes, and decided this would be a good spot to camp for the night – it was at least partially unburned, which was nice:
When we first arrived it seemed like there weren’t many bugs, but I think it was just that they hadn’t noticed us yet, as they arrived after we had been there for a bit. The bugs on this trip were pretty much unavoidable – the only things that mitigated them was having a breeze, keeping moving or bug spray.
We setup camp, cooked dinner and went to bed. We were planning on getting another early start as we added a summit of Broken top to our itinerary for the following day.
Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top
We got up early again to get an early start. The plan was to hike to the junction with the climbers trail to the top of Broken Top, drop our packs and then head up. Once we summitted Broken Top, we would come back down and then head south to camp for the night. We were thinking maybe Moraine Lake would be a good spot because the next water was quite a ways from Moraine Lake and we didn’t think we would be able to do an additional 4 miles to get to the next water source.
We got going a little after 7am and continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We finally got to Park Meadow (glad we didn’t try and make it here the night before). The maps were conflicting about trails. Apparently there has been some re-routes and some trails are no longer active, so it made for some confusion about where to go. Park Meadow was a nice place, though (even though the bugs were pretty bad):
We didn’t stay there long – we continued south on the Green Lakes trail. A little further down the trail, we got a good view of Broken Top – our objective for later in the day:
We continued south and soon saw the big Green Lake (there are at least 3 of them):
We stopped here for some water and a rest – we saw a few more people here than we had the rest of the trip. Green Lakes is one of the more popular places it seems.
We got a different view of South Sister from Green Lakes – a perspective you don’t see from the south:
We got to where we thought the climbers trail was (near campsite 10) and dropped our packs in the woods up the hill a bit and then headed up the trail about 10:30. This was the beginning of the trail – it was VERY steep – but it only got worse as we got up higher:
After what seemed like forever (at least for me) climbing up some VERY steep grades (some were literally straight uphill), we got to the saddle, where the trail transitioned to climbing the ridge on the northwest side of the mountain all the way to the top:
On the way up the ridge, we started seeing wave after wave of thousands of butterflies. Here is a video where you can get an idea – the butterflies are hard to see, but you can see some of them. (they are the black spots in the video) It was pretty amazing:
A little further up the hill there was a view to the northeast of this amazing hillside. I wish this picture had turned out better – the colors were VERY vibrant – I still don’t know what it is:
After a LOT of breaks, and huffing and puffing (at least by me) we finally made it to a small ledge near the top of Broken Top. There really wasn’t a safe way to go any farther without ropes – it was steep and narrow ledges with cliffs with small cracks you’d have to climb to get higher. Some cool views from the ledge – The big lava flow south of Green Lakes:
And a reasonably un-obscured view of the three sisters:
Here is a 360 photo from the top of Broken Top.
While the rest of us rested on the ledge and enjoyed the view, Kirk poked around and found a rather dangerous way to the top of the mountain:
Although he required some spotting assistance on the way back down – he couldn’t see his feet to climb back down the crack he went up on. I’m very glad he made it back down safely.
We stayed on the ledge for a half hour or so (waiting for Kirk to come down) and then headed back down the way we came. On the way down, I took a photo of this interesting rock we had noticed on the way up. Kirk thought it looked like a Chinese cat – I think it kind of looks like Garfield the cat:
As usual, the trip down was quite a bit faster than the trip up. We got back down about 3:30 (about a 5 hour trip up and down the mountain) and rested at the bottom for a few minutes before loading up our packs and heading south. We continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We started following one of the lava flows along Fall Creek (I think one is called the Newberry Lava Flow):
We continued south to the junction with another trail which then took us west over to Moraine Lake. This trail gained a few hundred feet of elevation and after the ascent of Broken Top, and all the other hiking, I was pretty tired. It took me longer than everyone else to get to the lake.
We finally got there and looked for a campsite (a post) to use. We ended up finding two since the sites were small. This was our site we shared with Jeff:
It was somewhat windy at Moraine Lake, but nothing like it had been at Camp Lake. Kirk decided to go for a quick swim, although he could only stand it for like 3 minutes it was so cold. He had to try and warm up once back at camp and there were no campfires allowed.
We made dinner and went to bed early again, as the next day was going to be a long one. We needed to make up some time that we had lost due to the extra side trip up Broken Top. We had 25 miles to get back to the van and we figured we would need to do 17 or 18 miles in order to make the last day reasonable enough to get home by dinner time. We had another very full day planned.
Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar
We started day 5 very early like many of our other days. This day would be all about racking up mileage – no big highlights on this day, but a few interesting things did happen.
We got going about 8:00 and headed west on the confusing array of trails around Moraine Lake. On the way, we noticed this cool Lenticular cloud over South Sister:
It was a bit chilly to hike, but that just makes you sweat less. We continued west, trying to figure out all the confusing trail junctions (we were successful and didn’t have to turn around or anything) About a mile or so from the junction with the PCT, there was this bug that just buried himself half way in the trail – have no idea what kind of bug or why – it was just weird:
We continued on the trail and it starts looping north. Soon, it joins the PCT. As the trails were getting closer, we saw 3 hikers on the PCT. We met them almost exactly where the two trails joined. They stopped and we chatted for a bit. There were two guys and a woman. One man was from New Zealand, the other from Alabama, and we never did quite get where the woman was from. They were thru hiking the PCT and taking their time. They had been out for I think 115 days and he said they were expecting to be out another 115 days. He made it quite clear they were there for the experience. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting with the PCTers for a bit, we continued on while they rested some more at the junction. We would see them one more time and then we passed them up. A little further up the trail, we hiked along side the Rock Mesa (Lava flow) to our right – it was another HUGE lava flow:
A little further north we came to a neat Meadow near Mesa Springs. This was our original campsite on the 4th night. It is too bad the flowers don’t pop in this photo, they were really gorgeous and colorful:
We stopped at this meadow and filled up with water and rested a bit. The PCT hikers we met earlier passed us as this point. After a little while, we headed out, continuing our journey north. A little further down the trail, we passed them again – that was the last time we saw them.
Nothing terribly exciting happened for a while – we were just trying to rack up some mileage (I kind of felt like a “real” PCT hiker who has to keep moving in order to complete the trail).
We stopped for lunch at Hinton Creek – at first, we were the only ones there, but soon, 3 new PCT hikers showed up. Two women and an older man. One woman was from Germany, one was from Austraiia and the man was from Tampa. Interesting mix. We chatted a bit. They were expecting to be complete with the trail in about a month. Much faster than the other 3 we met. We had lunch, got some more water and then headed out.
A few miles up the trail we got a great view of The Husband (I don’t think we could see The Wife from the trail):
We continued north and soon found ourselves entering the Obsidian Limited use area (Kirk had a permit for us). We didn’t see anyone else there, however and no one checked our permit. About a mile or so into the area, we came to Obsidian Falls, which was really interesting. The waterfall was all set on layers of black obsidian:
Here is a video of the falls in action:
We didn’t stay there too long as the bugs were especially bad. We quickly headed up over the falls into a flat area that had some really neat cliffs:
We continued north and in about a mile, we saw one of the special memorial Plaques up on a hillside (it is almost impossible to see in this photo):
I believe this is the one for Harley H. Prouty – there are 3 of them and all appear to be related to the Mazamas somehow. We couldn’t read this one – it was too far away and we didn’t want to stop to try and read it.
We continued heading north thinking we would stop somewhere before Opie Dildock pass – we thought we would camp in the first place after the Obsidian Limited use area we could find. The first place that was really anywhere we could camp was called Sawyer Bar, which is just Below Opie Dildock Pass – this was our campsite:
Soon after we got the tents setup, the clouds moved in and it started lightly misting. We made dinner and went to bed early again. We wanted to get another early start to make sure we got out on time. This would be our last night in the wilderness.
Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead
We woke up early again on day 6 to get an early start. The last morning was a lot tougher than the prior ones. Overnight it went from a light mist to real rain. It rained rather hard at times but by morning, it was mostly just misting (mostly). But our tents were all soaking wet and had to be packed up wet. The good news was that we wouldn’t need them again, so other than some additional weight it wasn’t too bad. Well, that and eating in the rain.
We made breakfast as best we could and got packed up. We then headed up the trail in the rain and wind thru the lava up to Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!? I wonder who it was named after?):
It is a very steep trail that zigs and zags thru the lava flow up to the pass where the trail flattens out for a bit and then starts heading down the other side. It isn’t too far before you get to Minnie Scott Springs (our original target for night 5):
It was wet – really wet but it looked like there were nice campsites there. But I’m glad we camped where we did. After hiking almost 18 miles the day before, doing this pass would have been very difficult. It was a lot easier to do it in the morning after a good nights sleep. We made it thru the pass and then started our slow downhill (mostly) to the van. We had a very steep uphill section near the Yapoah Crater, but we couldn’t see much. I thought the trail routing was really weird. We went up just to come right back down. Anyway, there was lots and lots of this stuff that we went thru – but this was where the weather finally started clearing up a bit:
And shortly after exiting all the lava, we came to South Matthieu Lake (we also passed North Matthiew Lake but we only saw it from high above):
Kirk decided to take the “low road” going down to North Matthiew Lake while we took the PCT (the “high road”). We had thought we might have to gain back a bunch of elevation if we went down to the lake, but apparently not. That route was slightly shorter and Kirk was there waiting for us when we got to the junction. Apparently the downhill was just mostly all at the start.
Shortly after that junction, we got to the last short connector trail to the Lava Creek trailhead and back to the van. We got to the van about 10:30am, so we made good time. It took us just under 3 hours to do about 7.5 miles. After cleaning up a bit and packing up all of our stuff, we headed to Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters for a well deserved post trip meal before our drive home.
A truly epic adventure!
Location of Hike: Memaloose Lake Trail
Trail Number: 515
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:05 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 3.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We decided to see if we could get up to Memaloose Lake, which is a little bit lower in elevation. Fortunately, we ran into almost no snow, and the few short spots we encountered were easily passable. We got to the trailhead and started getting ready, when another car pulled up. I was a bit surprised to see another car this far up this early in the season, but I knew we would have company. We shortly headed up the trail, which was littered with branches and detritus from the winter – it didn’t look like anyone had cleared anything yet this year, so we threw a bunch of branches off the trail as we headed up. We stopped at one of the switchbacks where the creek is near the trail and the folks from the car we saw passed up – they were a couple of trail runners, so were moving pretty quickly. We soon made it up to Memaloose Lake that still had lots of snow:
We stopped at the campsite next to the lake and had lunch. We decided to try and head up the trail up to South Fork Mountain to see how far we could get. There was patchy snow on the unmaintained trail:
When this trail finally hits the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, an old abandoned trail joined it – the South Fork Mountain trail headed west and the trail to Wanderers Peak went east. We decided to explore a bit of this abandoned trail – initially we were just going to go a little ways and then return and go up to the top of South Fork Mountain, but as we proceeded down the ridge, we finally realized we didn’t really want to go back the way we came, so we decided to continue down the ridge looking for blazes and tread and eventually come out on the 45 road and then walk back to the trailhead.
As we proceeded down the ridge, the side hill got steeper and steeper – we got concerned we were going to get cliffed out, but we continued to make progress, although it was pretty slow. Here is an example of some of the SERIOUS side hill action going out the ridge on the old Wanderers Peak trail:
At the end of one of the somewhat flat ridge lines, there was a bit of a knob. We climbed over to it and didn’t get as good of a view as we were hoping. This was a cool rock formation looking back at Memaloose Lake (hidden behind trees) from that little knob:
A little farther down the ridge, we came to this cool ridge top meadow:
And a little farther we came across a knob (it actually shows as a small knob on the map). We climbed to the top of it and found great views. Mt Hood and Mt Adams to the north:
Hard to see peak of Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte to the south:
We climbed back down and continued traversing the steep side hill, which got slightly better as we got closer to the road. We ended up following a second ridge down to the road, which was a little easier. We finally made it back to the road and walked back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, there was almost no trail left that we could find. A few blazes here and there and a few short sections of tread were found, but large sections were without any blazes and many of the sections where there would have been tread are so steep we figured that the tread has probably slipped down the hill.
We got back to the truck about 3:30, so we decided to head farther up 45 to see what conditions looked like. When we got to the 4550 junction, it was obvious that someone had spent some serious time brushing out the road:
We decided to head down it to see how far we could get, wondering if we could make it to the waterfall at Music creek. We made it there, but just past the first campsite, the road was impassible due to snow on the road again. We walked down to the creek, and got a great view of Music Creek falls running loud and fast:
Here is a short Video – it was rather LOUD:
After watching the waterfall for a little while, we headed back up. I walked up the road a bit to see if the brushing continued – it appeared to have stopped at Music creek, but it was hard to tell. Once the road re-opens, it will be interesting to see what it looks like. We walked back to the truck and headed out. On the way home, we took a short detour so that I could show Kirk the remains of the Silvicultural research area – I’d investigated this area several years ago – it is an interesting area where they studied ways to make trees grow better/taller/faster, but it has been closed for at least 10 years I think. There isn’t much left except for some remnants of the buildings and all the fences and trees they planted.
We stopped at Fearless in Estacada for a burger and a beer. What a great way to cap off a great day of exploring!