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: Helion Creek
Weather during Hike: Partly Cloudy and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 1:30 PM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 700 feet
I knew it would be a short day, so we headed out after lunch and arrived at the gravel area a little after 1:00. We headed out, down the horrible side hill, with tons of downed logs. We had realized that staying high was a better option that going low, as hugging the cliffs was usually a little easier.
As we went, we passed a couple of small creeks. One of them had a cool waterfall:
After about an hour, we made it to the creek and started searching. Kirk used his endoscope and I used mine and Zack was using his pole to poke around. Here is Kirk using his endoscope, attempting to find the drone (with the dogs supervising him):
And here is a great photo of the Helion Creek Waterfall:
Along with a video:
After a while with no success with the endoscope, I decided to put on my waders and wade the creek and use my hands to search the pools. That worked really well, although the water was REALLY cold. After about an hour of searching, we finally gave up. I thought we searched the target area pretty well, but there are a LOT of nooks and crannies it could have gotten stuck in, or it could have been washed way down the creek. Either way, we decided to call the search and head back.
The trip back seemed slightly better than the trip back the prior week (maybe we were getting better at finding a good route, or maybe we were just worn down by the rough trip). It took us about another hour to get out and back to the van. We were all tired and a little disappointed we didn’t find it. Even if we HAD found it, who knows what shape it would have been in. I guess I just wasn’t meant to have a drone. If/when I get another one, I will make sure I have one with obstacle avoidance, and I will make sure I’ve practiced flying it a LOT more before I try and fly it in a tight canyon.
Even though it was a disappointing day, it was nice to get out for a few hours.
Location of Hike: Helion Creek
Weather during Hike: Rainy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 2:15 PM
Hike Distance: 3.75 miles Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
The weather forecast for the day was wet – very wet. I was determined to go anyway – one plus was that it was supposed to be warmer most of the day – so as Kirk said “at least it is a warm rain”. The weather forecast was pretty correct. It rained most of the day a few times pretty heavily – but we also had a few spots of no rain at all which was nice.
We parked at the Armstrong campground:
We got all suited up for the rain and then headed back up the road to the bridge. One the way, Kirk wanted to look at something we’ve seen being built, but we never knew what it was. It is just south of one of the bridge crossings – just before the Lockaby campground. It appears to be an overlook, and maybe will have some interpretive signs. We got a good view of the Clackamas, which was rather angry – running high and fast:
We then headed across the road and then up the hill a bit – we had to go a little over a half mile on this steep hill to get to Helion creek. The first part wasn’t too bad, as there was kind of a Fisherman’s trail, but the hillside continued to get steeper and the going going tougher and tougher due to the steepness of the hill, the brush and a bunch of downed logs we had to negotiate over, under or around – all without falling into the river below us.
It was VERY slow going – It took us almost an hour and a half to get to the creek I think – and then took us a bit to actually get to where we could see it. The wash the creek was in was pretty steep and narrow. This was our first view of Helion Creek falls:
We carefully worked our way down to the creek and got a much better view of the waterfall. This is what it looked like from the bottom:
While we were there, I took this video of the waterfall:
It was at this point the trip took a decidedly bad turn. I got my drone for Christmas and thought this would be the perfect place to get a video of the waterfall from a perfect vantage point. It was crowded in the creek canyon so I knew it would be difficult. I unpacked the drone and fired it up. Kirk had to hold it to take off since there was no place to take off from. I had no sooner taken off than it started moving backwards (I still don’t know exactly what I did wrong – I’m very new at being a drone pilot) – but it moved backwards, hit a small tree branch and dropped straight into the creek. I watched all this in slow motion in my head. The creek was running really fast and there was a hole it fell into – we poked around trying to find it but the water was too fast and deep to really do much there. We looked for it downstream but didn’t find anything. Our best guess is that it fell into that hole and one or more of the arms got stuck in the rocks. Even if we had been able to find it, I’m sure it would have been ruined by the water. So my really cool Christmas present, which had probably only 4 of 5 flights (all but 2 at home in the backyard), was gone. It was about at this point when it started raining REALLY hard. We decided to head down the creek to a spot where it seemed easier to get out of the creek canyon. We headed downstream, looking for any evidence of my drone, but found nothing.
We made it down to a spot that was a lot easier to get up out of, and then started heading back. By this time it was getting close to 1:00, so we found a big log that was somewhat sheltered and had some lunch. We ate pretty quickly and were starting to get a bit cold, so we packed up continued on. We took a different path back. I’m not sure if it was any easier than the path we took in, but it had quite a few tough spots to get thru – a few that I had to help Thor get thru too. He kind of struggled with the more difficult log crossings due to the steepness of the hill.
We finally made it back to the parking area near the bridge -we were back on easy walking again. For the second piece of the day, we headed across the bridge and then over to the Carter Bridge campground where we headed up the hill to the old road grade. I’m not sure when the road was re-aligned but it had to have been a long time ago. The bridges don’t have dates on them, but they are riveted, so I’m guessing they are pre 1960’s at least. It kind of made sense the road went where it did because it eliminated the need for two bridges. The bad thing was that the route was pretty windy and they probably had some significant problems with rocks falling on the road.
Anyway, we headed down the road, and soon saw this aftermath from the 36 pit fire – it was laying right in the road – interesting it was upright:
A little farther the dogs (who were off leash – we didn’t expect to see anyone up here) started barking so we called them back and a couple passed us. They told us there was a shack a bit further up the road. And sure enough, a bit farther up the road we found this old shack – it appeared that it might have been water for the Carter Bridge campground at some point in the past – there appeared to be a spring or something directly behind it – it was obviously non functional:
After looking at the old shack for a bit, we continued down the road – at one point we got a pretty good view of the Clackamas:
We continued down the road – this is kind of what a “normal” section of it looked like:
We decided we would head down the old road to where it used to meet the current road. It wasn’t too long before we met highway 224. We then headed across the bridge and back to the truck. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t raining when we got back to the truck so we were able to change our shoes without getting soaked. The dogs were more than ready to get in the truck. We were all tired! Even though it wasn’t a lot of mileage, it was pretty tough mileage.
An interesting day of exploring with one bummer. A trip to Fearless for a beer and some fries (since we were too early for dinner) made for a great way to end the day.
Location of Hike: Lower Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to partly sunny with rain, snow and sleet
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie, Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.5miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Due to the warmer than normal weather we’ve been having, we were able to easily make it to the lower trailhead at almost 3000′. It wasn’t really raining when we got there, so we quickly suited up for extreme weather and headed up the trail. The trail basically follows the ridge up to an old clearcut below Cottonwood Meadows. The lower portion of this trail is in some magnificent old growth with tread in really good shape:
We did encounter quite a few downed logs and a few messes on the beginning of the trail, but we cleaned up what we could and went over/around what we couldn’t. It wasn’t too long before we popped up onto the 5830-265 road where we saw just a little bit of snow:
We walked up the road and then went cross country thru the clearcut (the trail thru the clearcut was wiped out). After a few attempts at making sure we were going the right direction, we got up tp the 240 spur crossing where there was more snow. Beyond this crossing the real trail continues north:
Right after that crossing, we got to the first, lower Meadow, which looked mostly frozen over:
And then continued north thru a couple of small little meadows towards Cottonwood Lake:
And shortly arrived at a mostly frozen Cottonwood Lake (although none of us wanted to try it out to see how frozen it really was!):
We ate lunch there and looked around a bit and then headed out. When we got to the 240 spur, we decided to walk back the road rather than going cross country, since it was rather difficult – there was a lot of melting snow water runoff which added to the difficulty of getting thru the clearcut. The plan was to head west until the road turned and then head uphill to the upper road – this would cut quite a bit of time off the trip – almost a mile of road walking it looks like.
We made it up to the road turn and then up the hill – from there we went uphill and soon found the upper road that had been bermed at an old gate location. It was in this section I took some photos of Thor having fun in the snow:
He had lots of fun with Ollie – running around and doing his beaver thing in the snow and even doing some frapping at one point.
We finally came back to the 265 spur and things had cleared up a bit from what they were in the morning – we still got gusts of wind occasionally but there was even a few small spots of blue sky at times – You can sort of see Mt Mitchell in the background (in the clouds behind the trees):
We headed down the road and onto the old trail and quickly made it back to the truck, doing a little bit of trail maintenance along the way – cutting out some smaller trees.
Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive down to the end of the road and check out the collapsed bridge over Cot Creek:
It is really growing in – it was interesting to see how much work went into building that bridge too – there was a LOT of cribbing on each approach.
After checking out the bridge we headed back to town – we wanted to stop at Fearless but they were closed for New Years Day. We headed over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon (I had been there once with Don) for a beer and some appetizers.
It was a very interesting day on a beautiful old trail in a very interesting area. The winter weather warning didn’t really seem to come to pass – other than a few gusts of wind and a little bit of rain, sleet and snow at times, it really wasn’t that bad up there. I was expecting to get a LOT wetter than we did. I wasn’t even sure we would be able to make it up all the way due to the wind. It turned out to be a pretty good middle of winter day in the woods. A good start to the new year.
Location of Hike: Elk Lake Creek/Welcome Lakes Trail
Trail Number: 519, 554
Weather during Hike: Overcast with a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:45 AM End Time: 3:40 PM
Hike Distance: 7.8 miles Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
We headed out about 9:00 and made it to the trailhead about 10:30 or so. I was surprised to see another vehicle there. We suited up – it was rather chilly (34 degrees or so) and headed up the trail. The trail starts out in an old clearcut and shortly opens out into the burned area from the 2008/2010 (I’m not sure which was where) fire. Here is a map showing the three different fires that have affected the Bull of the Woods Wilderness recently:
And this is what the beginning of the trail looks like thru the fire damaged area – lots of burned out trees but a few survivors, especially down by the creek:
A short ways in, you come to a really cool area – the creek takes more than a 90 degree bend and there is a nice waterfall – it was flowing very fast and loud today:
And here is a short video of the waterfall – you can hear how loud it was:
As we were hiking thru this area, I noticed quite a few young trees popping up all over the place – they are somewhat hard to see in this photo (all my photos were kind of washed out on this trip – maybe because it was so overcast and foggy) – here are some of the new sprouts:
We continued up the trail, doing a little bit of trail maintenance as we went – trying to make passage over some of the logs easier. Soon, we got to the Pine Cone Creek Crossing, which is where the Bull of the Woods Wilderness boundary is:
We continued up the trail and soon got got an unmarked side trail which we believe is the old trail over to Janus Butte. I had gone down this trail a few years ago and explored a bit – we decided to go down and to have lunch by the creek. This is what it looked like:
When looking at it, we wondered if this was a ford spot – it doesn’t look quite natural and somewhere they would have had to ford the creek to continue up the other side. That exploration would have to wait for another day, however. The water was too fast and deep to cross today.
We ate lunch next to the creek, did a little more exploring of the campsite there and then headed back up to the trail. We continued a bit farther to the Knob Rock Creek Crossing-this was a little challenging due to the volume of water coming thru here:
Right above the crossing there is a very nice waterfall:
And here is a short video of the waterfall – it was running pretty fast and loud:
We expected there to be some distance between the Knob Rock Creek and Welcome Creek crossings, but they are almost next to each other. The maps are not quite correct. I don’t know if winter storms have changed their courses or what, but they are VERY close to each other now. This is the much easier Welcome creek crossing:
After crossing these two creeks we very quickly came to the Welcome Lakes junction. We decided to go down to the Elk Lake Creek crossing just to see what it looked like. It is not very far from the Welcome Lakes junction. We headed down there and quickly got to the first crossing point:
I’ve crossed here at least twice – but always in the summer when the water is much lower. Even then, it is at least 6″ deep. I’d guess the water was 18″+ deep and it was pretty cold. We opted not to attempt crossing it. So, we turned around back to the Welcome Lakes junction and headed up that to see how far we could get.
The first half mile or so of the trail is in un-burned territory but is getting rather brushy in places. It goes uphill at a pretty good rate, so it was somewhat challenging. After the first half mile of wooded terrain, we started to break out into the burned area. From here is got even more challenging due to all the downed logs and washed out tread sections. Part way up, Kirk noticed Janus Butte to our southeast:
The one thing that the fire did is to open up a lot more views on this trail. Although there are a LOT of snags, you can see out across the valley – pre-fire this section of trail would have been in heavy forest cover.
There are a few VERY messy sections in this area like this (yes, there is tread under all those trees):
We headed up a little farther and got a pretty good look at Schreiner and Knob Peaks too:
And looking east, we could see a bit of Rho Ridge:
We continued up, seeing just a hint of snow here and there and doing a little bit of trail maintenance where we could, although most of it was not work for a handsaw. We made it up to about 3500′ and decided we should turn around – I was hoping we might be able to get to Welcome Lakes but the days are short and I didn’t want to hike in the dark. This trail is quite a workout between the elevation gain and all the downed logs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we encountered 100 downed logs in the mile of the trail we hiked.
The trip down was pretty uneventful – we did a little more work up high on Welcome Lakes, but soon decided we needed to just push to get out before dark. We made it back to the truck a little before 4:00 – it was already starting to get dark. When we got back to the truck, the vehicle that was there when we arrived was gone. We never saw anyone else all day long so I’m not sure where we crossed. Maybe they were farther up the trail, or maybe they came back while we were down at the creek or up Welcome Lakes or something. It was nice having the trail to ourselves all day long, however.
A stop at Fearless on the way home was a great way to finish a nice day of exploring an interesting area.
Location of Hike: Pansy Lake Area
Trail Number: 551, 558, 554, 550, 549
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM End Time: 4:50 PM
Hike Distance: 8.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet
I had seen references to the trail before, and a few years ago Zack and I did some explorations on the west side of the lake where we found the old mine and some blazes and such. I wanted to see if we could find the whole old trail. We were mostly successful.
Since the days are short this time of year I wasn’t sure how far we would get. We started at the usual time and ended up getting to the trailhead about 10:30. Not another soul in sight however we did pass a couple of trucks coming down the hill – I’m guessing they were hunters.
We suited up and headed out. Since neither of us were sure where the old trail started Kirk started from one campsite and I started farther west and then headed south looking for blazes or old tread. I was thinking this re-route was done in the 70’s or 80’s, but I think it could have been earlier. Even 1980 is almost 40 years ago now.
After walking around the woods in circles, Kirk found the old trail not too far from the current trail. We followed it a bit and decided to back track to see if we could follow it back to the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it all the way back to the road- it got lost at some point. We turned back around and followed the old trail. We did however find some pretty nice pieces of the old trail with some good blazes:
When we got to the Audrey Creek crossing (this creek is unnamed on the topo maps, but the project map document showed it as “Audrey Creek”), the trail crossed under a small but very nice waterfall:
Here is a video of waterfall in action:
We continued south and a bit farther we found an old campsite:
The trail then headed west and down into a flat area. We found the old trail along the north side of this flat area, but there was a wet area where we struggled thru some thick brush and kind of lost the trail. Kirk thought it might have gone up to the ridge farther to the west (which I think it did, because we found the tread farther south – up the hill). After re-finding the tread, we headed up the rather steep section to another flat area – we then climbed a small knoll and ate lunch. We thought this knoll might have a good view, but it had too many trees. Kirk got this photo looking north:
After eating a quick lunch and realizing it was getting late (it was like 1:30 at this point), we decided to just find the mine, take a look and then head up to the lookout and hopefully make it down before it got dark. On the Northwest side of Pansy Lake there is this interesting seasonal pond:
We continued south, following the trail past a bunch of campsites and finally finding the old mine:
We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the mine – we quickly headed back towards the lake:
And then headed over to the east side of the lake and then south (and up) on the current trail. (we had almost 1500′ to gain before we got to the lookout) On the way up the trail, we found one of the spots where the old trail crossed the existing trail (as shown on the project map). That was kind of cool. We shortly got up to the junction with the Motherlode Trail and headed east, climbing pretty much all the way. There was a viewpoint where we got a great view of Mt Jefferson:
We tried not to stop, but we had to make a few breather breaks on the way up. We finally got to the Welcome Lakes Junction and then headed back west – our final push up to the lookout. It wasn’t too long before we make it to the Bull of the Woods Lookout:
The lookout is doing pretty well, all things considered. It doesn’t appear to be really getting any maintenance but it still stands. Every time I see it, it is a little bit more weathered than the last time I saw it.
Here is a nice view from the lookout – looking over to Big Slide Mountain and Schreiner Peak behind it and Olallie Butte to the south:
We spent a few minutes at the lookout enjoying the view, but it was getting late – it was about 3:30 and we figured it would be getting dark by 5:00. We were hoping we could make it down in an hour – the plan was to take the Bull of the Woods trail (550) down to the Dickey Lake trail (549) and then back the final leg of the Pansy Lake trail to the truck.
We kept up a good pace, but were slowed somewhat on the Dickey Lake trail due to a bunch of downed logs. We were trying to go as fast as we could. Once we got to the Pansy Lake trail it started getting rather dark in the trees, but we didn’t need to pull out the headlamps. We finally made it back to the truck just before 5:00 and it was almost dark. Not another soul to be seen all day long.
I took the drive back down the mountain slowly – I was expecting to see some animals and didn’t want to hit any of them. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any animals on the way down. We made it back to Estacada a little after 6 and had a burger and a beer at Fearless.
It was a fantastic day of exploring on an absolutely beautiful fall day. I’m so glad I was able to get out and enjoy it.
Location of Hike: Three Sisters Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Varied from sunny and warm to cold and windy with some rain
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Sarah, Jeff
Hike Distance: 68.6 miles Elevation Gain: 16,000 feet
Originally we were thinking about going to Glacier National Park in Montana, but we realized that we needed permits (kind of like when we did the enchantments) and it was too late this year to get them. We decided to do the Three Sisters loop because next year this entire wilderness will be permits only (like the Enchantments and Glacier) and will be more difficult to get into. I knew before even starting that this was going to be a challenging trip (due to the length and elevation). This was the longest backpacking trip I have ever taken, both in duration and mileage. The initial plan was this:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – About 6.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – About 9 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then back out to Park Meadow – About 12 miles
- Day 4 – Park Meadow to Mesa Creek – About 11.5 miles
- Day 5 – Mesa Creek to Minnie Scott Springs – About 12 miles
- Day 6 – Minnie Scott Springs to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 6 miles
- Total Mileage: About 57 miles
What we actually did was significantly different than the plan, and considerably more mileage than estimated. We added a side trip up to Broken top and some of the distances I calculated were a bit off. This is what we actually did, with actual mileages:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – 7.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – 10 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake – 12 miles
- Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top – About 13.5 miles
- Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar – just short of Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!) – About 17.5 miles
- Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 7.5 miles
- Total Mileage: About 68 miles
Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek
The “Blue Adventure Bus” (Kirk’s van) came and picked Carly and I up about 8:30 on Saturday morning. Kirk had already picked up Jeff. The plan was to head out, have lunch on the way, and then get on the trail shortly after 1:00 or so which is why day 1 was shorter mileage (same for the last day).
We ended up stopping for lunch in Detroit since that was really the last slice of civilization with a decent restaurant before the trailhead (even though it was like an hour and a half away). We had lunch at a restaurant called Cedars – It was good to have one last “real” meal before heading out into the wilderness. We ate an early lunch and then continued to the trailhead at the Lava Camp Trailhead on highway 242 near McKenzie Pass. We passed the Dee Wright Observatory which would be an interesting place to explore some day. It is in the middle of a HUGE lava field. I had never realized how much lava there is in this area. We would be seeing more of it as the week progressed.
The other really interesting/weird thing that happened on the way to the trailhead was there were TONS of butterflies on the road. There was literally a swarm of them in places – there were so many we kept hearing “splat” when one would hit the windshield or the front of the van. It was really kind of strange to see SO many butterflies.
After the butterfly massacre, we shortly got to the trailhead and got all our gear on for the start of our 6 days in the wilderness.
We headed down the Millican Crater Trail (4066) – originally I thought we were going to go down the PCT for the first part of the trail, but we found this would make the trip a true loop – we wouldn’t be repeating any part of the trail with the exception of the trip in and out of Camp Lake. We headed down the trail and very quickly came into the burn area. This has been the site of at least a couple of rather large fires – I think one of the latest ones was the Pole Creek fire in 2012 and burned about 26,000 acres. The last one was just last year and was over 101,000 acres! We saw lots of this (and worse) all day long (and into the following day too):
When we got to to the Trout Creek Tie Trail (4067) we took a turn south and headed to Trout Creek. We had a snack there and got water and then continued on the Green Lakes Trail (17). Shortly before Alder Creek (our destination for the night), we got this view of Millican Crater in the foreground with Black Crater behind it:
And a little farther we also caught our first glimpse of North Sister:
Soon we made it to Alder creek and started looking for a campsite. We found one just up the hill from the creek. We were expecting to see some other people but didn’t see anyone camped there at all. Here was our campsite for night 1:
After setting up camp, we cooked dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed.
Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake
We got up and got going about 8:30 on Day 2, heading to Camp Lake. Shortly after leaving camp, we got a much better look at North Sister:
A little farther down the trail, we got a pretty good look at Mt Washington:
A little farther we got our first real look at South Sister thru the burned trees:
We continued down the trail until we got to the Camp Lake Trail junction and headed west. It was somewhere in this vicinity where I started noticing the mosquitoes more – maybe it was where we came out of the burned area into woods, I’m not sure. I just know that at some point, the bugs started becoming quite annoying, especially when you weren’t moving.
We continued down the Camp Lake trail and we originally thought this creek was Squaw/Whychus creek, but it turned out to be an un-named creek crossing – but it was a great source of cool, clear water:
Shortly after the un-named creek crossing we came to the actual North Fork of Squaw/Whychus creek – here is our group starting to cross it:
A little bit down the trail we got our first really good look at North Sister as well:
Shortly after that view, we started to hit significant snow, which obscured the trail in many spots. We were able to find our way thru (there were little to no footprints to guide us), and soon made it to Camp Lake – which still had quite a bit of snow and was rather un-inviting, windy and cold:
We looked around and set up our tents about the only place we could find to camp – and turned out to be probably the worst place since the wind came from the south across the lake and funneled thru the small opening on the north end of the lake:
We also got a good look at Middle sister above Camp Lake, which would be our objective for the following morning:
We setup camp but as we were setting up camp, one of the poles on Carly’s tent broke. We made a “fix” using some duct tape and were hoping it would hold up in the wind (more on that in a minute). After getting our tents setup we made dinner crouched behind the hills next to our tents – we found enough space to cook out of most of the wind.
We also noticed the huge slabs of snow that were calving off into the lake on the south side of the lake. We would regularly hear one of them crash into the water.
The most significant thing that happened on Day 2 was probably at night. After we cleaned up after dinner we went to bed. It had started to mist a bit and the wind had picked up. We were also planning to get up at 5 to get going up to Middle Sister early – so we would still have enough time to make it to Park Meadow. Shortly after we went to bed, the wind REALLY picked up and was blowing our tent in about a foot when it gusted hard. Some of the gusts were REALLY strong (like 40 MPH+ I think) and we were worried that our cheap tent pole fix would collapse during the night. Fortunately, it held up just fine, but no one got a lot of sleep that night due to the wind. It was the stormiest night I’ve ever spent in a tent.
Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake
We got up early (5am), made breakfast and headed out to summit middle sister. There isn’t a trail up to the summit, but Kirk had climbed this peak at least a couple of times before. We kind of picked our path up the hill, choosing what looked like the easiest route. Here is a shot looking back at Camp Lake after we had climbed a bit:
A little bit further up the mountain we started to get into real snow (and the clouds) – we would mostly be in the clouds the rest of the climb – that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture:
We kept climbing and when we got about half way up this was our view – it didn’t look like we had too far to go, but it got harder as we got higher – it was very deceiving:
As we were ascending, someone noticed that South Sister briefly peeked thru the clouds:
After a long, slow climb, we finally made it to the top of Middle Sister, but we were entirely in the clouds. Amazingly it wasn’t very windy when we were up there. We had no views whatsoever:
We spent a few minutes sheltered behind a big rock up on top and looked around a bit and then headed down. As we headed down, it started to really rain. Prior to that it was just misty due to the clouds. The rain was coming down sideways and was really cold. I was kind of expecting some snow, but we didn’t see any.
As we got farther down the hill, I got to experience a new skill – Glissading – this makes it really fast to come down the hill! (this picture was Kirk, but we all did it 3 or 4 times as we hit different snow fields):
We made it back down to camp a little after noon I think. We ate lunch and then packed up and headed out. Just before heading out, I decided to go look at the outlet to Camp Lake. I found this cool little snow tunnel made by the outlet – notice how much snow there is still on the hill:
And then there was this rock with some weird inscriptions at the outlet – I have no idea what it means:
I think we started our journey out about 2pm – we had a ways to go. We weren’t sure if we would be able to make it to Park Meadow, but we figured we would see how the day went.
As we were hiking out, I noticed some neat cliffs that I had not noticed on the way in:
The trip out was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the Green Lakes trail and then headed south. We got back into burned areas and kept hiking south. We were all getting tired and were ready to find a place to camp. We came across a pair of small, un-named lakes, and decided this would be a good spot to camp for the night – it was at least partially unburned, which was nice:
When we first arrived it seemed like there weren’t many bugs, but I think it was just that they hadn’t noticed us yet, as they arrived after we had been there for a bit. The bugs on this trip were pretty much unavoidable – the only things that mitigated them was having a breeze, keeping moving or bug spray.
We setup camp, cooked dinner and went to bed. We were planning on getting another early start as we added a summit of Broken top to our itinerary for the following day.
Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top
We got up early again to get an early start. The plan was to hike to the junction with the climbers trail to the top of Broken Top, drop our packs and then head up. Once we summitted Broken Top, we would come back down and then head south to camp for the night. We were thinking maybe Moraine Lake would be a good spot because the next water was quite a ways from Moraine Lake and we didn’t think we would be able to do an additional 4 miles to get to the next water source.
We got going a little after 7am and continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We finally got to Park Meadow (glad we didn’t try and make it here the night before). The maps were conflicting about trails. Apparently there has been some re-routes and some trails are no longer active, so it made for some confusion about where to go. Park Meadow was a nice place, though (even though the bugs were pretty bad):
We didn’t stay there long – we continued south on the Green Lakes trail. A little further down the trail, we got a good view of Broken Top – our objective for later in the day:
We continued south and soon saw the big Green Lake (there are at least 3 of them):
We stopped here for some water and a rest – we saw a few more people here than we had the rest of the trip. Green Lakes is one of the more popular places it seems.
We got a different view of South Sister from Green Lakes – a perspective you don’t see from the south:
We got to where we thought the climbers trail was (near campsite 10) and dropped our packs in the woods up the hill a bit and then headed up the trail about 10:30. This was the beginning of the trail – it was VERY steep – but it only got worse as we got up higher:
After what seemed like forever (at least for me) climbing up some VERY steep grades (some were literally straight uphill), we got to the saddle, where the trail transitioned to climbing the ridge on the northwest side of the mountain all the way to the top:
On the way up the ridge, we started seeing wave after wave of thousands of butterflies. Here is a video where you can get an idea – the butterflies are hard to see, but you can see some of them. (they are the black spots in the video) It was pretty amazing:
A little further up the hill there was a view to the northeast of this amazing hillside. I wish this picture had turned out better – the colors were VERY vibrant – I still don’t know what it is:
After a LOT of breaks, and huffing and puffing (at least by me) we finally made it to a small ledge near the top of Broken Top. There really wasn’t a safe way to go any farther without ropes – it was steep and narrow ledges with cliffs with small cracks you’d have to climb to get higher. Some cool views from the ledge – The big lava flow south of Green Lakes:
And a reasonably un-obscured view of the three sisters:
Here is a 360 photo from the top of Broken Top.
While the rest of us rested on the ledge and enjoyed the view, Kirk poked around and found a rather dangerous way to the top of the mountain:
Although he required some spotting assistance on the way back down – he couldn’t see his feet to climb back down the crack he went up on. I’m very glad he made it back down safely.
We stayed on the ledge for a half hour or so (waiting for Kirk to come down) and then headed back down the way we came. On the way down, I took a photo of this interesting rock we had noticed on the way up. Kirk thought it looked like a Chinese cat – I think it kind of looks like Garfield the cat:
As usual, the trip down was quite a bit faster than the trip up. We got back down about 3:30 (about a 5 hour trip up and down the mountain) and rested at the bottom for a few minutes before loading up our packs and heading south. We continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We started following one of the lava flows along Fall Creek (I think one is called the Newberry Lava Flow):
We continued south to the junction with another trail which then took us west over to Moraine Lake. This trail gained a few hundred feet of elevation and after the ascent of Broken Top, and all the other hiking, I was pretty tired. It took me longer than everyone else to get to the lake.
We finally got there and looked for a campsite (a post) to use. We ended up finding two since the sites were small. This was our site we shared with Jeff:
It was somewhat windy at Moraine Lake, but nothing like it had been at Camp Lake. Kirk decided to go for a quick swim, although he could only stand it for like 3 minutes it was so cold. He had to try and warm up once back at camp and there were no campfires allowed.
We made dinner and went to bed early again, as the next day was going to be a long one. We needed to make up some time that we had lost due to the extra side trip up Broken Top. We had 25 miles to get back to the van and we figured we would need to do 17 or 18 miles in order to make the last day reasonable enough to get home by dinner time. We had another very full day planned.
Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar
We started day 5 very early like many of our other days. This day would be all about racking up mileage – no big highlights on this day, but a few interesting things did happen.
We got going about 8:00 and headed west on the confusing array of trails around Moraine Lake. On the way, we noticed this cool Lenticular cloud over South Sister:
It was a bit chilly to hike, but that just makes you sweat less. We continued west, trying to figure out all the confusing trail junctions (we were successful and didn’t have to turn around or anything) About a mile or so from the junction with the PCT, there was this bug that just buried himself half way in the trail – have no idea what kind of bug or why – it was just weird:
We continued on the trail and it starts looping north. Soon, it joins the PCT. As the trails were getting closer, we saw 3 hikers on the PCT. We met them almost exactly where the two trails joined. They stopped and we chatted for a bit. There were two guys and a woman. One man was from New Zealand, the other from Alabama, and we never did quite get where the woman was from. They were thru hiking the PCT and taking their time. They had been out for I think 115 days and he said they were expecting to be out another 115 days. He made it quite clear they were there for the experience. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting with the PCTers for a bit, we continued on while they rested some more at the junction. We would see them one more time and then we passed them up. A little further up the trail, we hiked along side the Rock Mesa (Lava flow) to our right – it was another HUGE lava flow:
A little further north we came to a neat Meadow near Mesa Springs. This was our original campsite on the 4th night. It is too bad the flowers don’t pop in this photo, they were really gorgeous and colorful:
We stopped at this meadow and filled up with water and rested a bit. The PCT hikers we met earlier passed us as this point. After a little while, we headed out, continuing our journey north. A little further down the trail, we passed them again – that was the last time we saw them.
Nothing terribly exciting happened for a while – we were just trying to rack up some mileage (I kind of felt like a “real” PCT hiker who has to keep moving in order to complete the trail).
We stopped for lunch at Hinton Creek – at first, we were the only ones there, but soon, 3 new PCT hikers showed up. Two women and an older man. One woman was from Germany, one was from Austraiia and the man was from Tampa. Interesting mix. We chatted a bit. They were expecting to be complete with the trail in about a month. Much faster than the other 3 we met. We had lunch, got some more water and then headed out.
A few miles up the trail we got a great view of The Husband (I don’t think we could see The Wife from the trail):
We continued north and soon found ourselves entering the Obsidian Limited use area (Kirk had a permit for us). We didn’t see anyone else there, however and no one checked our permit. About a mile or so into the area, we came to Obsidian Falls, which was really interesting. The waterfall was all set on layers of black obsidian:
Here is a video of the falls in action:
We didn’t stay there too long as the bugs were especially bad. We quickly headed up over the falls into a flat area that had some really neat cliffs:
We continued north and in about a mile, we saw one of the special memorial Plaques up on a hillside (it is almost impossible to see in this photo):
I believe this is the one for Harley H. Prouty – there are 3 of them and all appear to be related to the Mazamas somehow. We couldn’t read this one – it was too far away and we didn’t want to stop to try and read it.
We continued heading north thinking we would stop somewhere before Opie Dildock pass – we thought we would camp in the first place after the Obsidian Limited use area we could find. The first place that was really anywhere we could camp was called Sawyer Bar, which is just Below Opie Dildock Pass – this was our campsite:
Soon after we got the tents setup, the clouds moved in and it started lightly misting. We made dinner and went to bed early again. We wanted to get another early start to make sure we got out on time. This would be our last night in the wilderness.
Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead
We woke up early again on day 6 to get an early start. The last morning was a lot tougher than the prior ones. Overnight it went from a light mist to real rain. It rained rather hard at times but by morning, it was mostly just misting (mostly). But our tents were all soaking wet and had to be packed up wet. The good news was that we wouldn’t need them again, so other than some additional weight it wasn’t too bad. Well, that and eating in the rain.
We made breakfast as best we could and got packed up. We then headed up the trail in the rain and wind thru the lava up to Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!? I wonder who it was named after?):
It is a very steep trail that zigs and zags thru the lava flow up to the pass where the trail flattens out for a bit and then starts heading down the other side. It isn’t too far before you get to Minnie Scott Springs (our original target for night 5):
It was wet – really wet but it looked like there were nice campsites there. But I’m glad we camped where we did. After hiking almost 18 miles the day before, doing this pass would have been very difficult. It was a lot easier to do it in the morning after a good nights sleep. We made it thru the pass and then started our slow downhill (mostly) to the van. We had a very steep uphill section near the Yapoah Crater, but we couldn’t see much. I thought the trail routing was really weird. We went up just to come right back down. Anyway, there was lots and lots of this stuff that we went thru – but this was where the weather finally started clearing up a bit:
And shortly after exiting all the lava, we came to South Matthieu Lake (we also passed North Matthiew Lake but we only saw it from high above):
Kirk decided to take the “low road” going down to North Matthiew Lake while we took the PCT (the “high road”). We had thought we might have to gain back a bunch of elevation if we went down to the lake, but apparently not. That route was slightly shorter and Kirk was there waiting for us when we got to the junction. Apparently the downhill was just mostly all at the start.
Shortly after that junction, we got to the last short connector trail to the Lava Creek trailhead and back to the van. We got to the van about 10:30am, so we made good time. It took us just under 3 hours to do about 7.5 miles. After cleaning up a bit and packing up all of our stuff, we headed to Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters for a well deserved post trip meal before our drive home.
A truly epic adventure!
Location of Hike: Memaloose Lake Trail
Trail Number: 515
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:05 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 3.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We decided to see if we could get up to Memaloose Lake, which is a little bit lower in elevation. Fortunately, we ran into almost no snow, and the few short spots we encountered were easily passable. We got to the trailhead and started getting ready, when another car pulled up. I was a bit surprised to see another car this far up this early in the season, but I knew we would have company. We shortly headed up the trail, which was littered with branches and detritus from the winter – it didn’t look like anyone had cleared anything yet this year, so we threw a bunch of branches off the trail as we headed up. We stopped at one of the switchbacks where the creek is near the trail and the folks from the car we saw passed up – they were a couple of trail runners, so were moving pretty quickly. We soon made it up to Memaloose Lake that still had lots of snow:
We stopped at the campsite next to the lake and had lunch. We decided to try and head up the trail up to South Fork Mountain to see how far we could get. There was patchy snow on the unmaintained trail:
When this trail finally hits the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, an old abandoned trail joined it – the South Fork Mountain trail headed west and the trail to Wanderers Peak went east. We decided to explore a bit of this abandoned trail – initially we were just going to go a little ways and then return and go up to the top of South Fork Mountain, but as we proceeded down the ridge, we finally realized we didn’t really want to go back the way we came, so we decided to continue down the ridge looking for blazes and tread and eventually come out on the 45 road and then walk back to the trailhead.
As we proceeded down the ridge, the side hill got steeper and steeper – we got concerned we were going to get cliffed out, but we continued to make progress, although it was pretty slow. Here is an example of some of the SERIOUS side hill action going out the ridge on the old Wanderers Peak trail:
At the end of one of the somewhat flat ridge lines, there was a bit of a knob. We climbed over to it and didn’t get as good of a view as we were hoping. This was a cool rock formation looking back at Memaloose Lake (hidden behind trees) from that little knob:
A little farther down the ridge, we came to this cool ridge top meadow:
And a little farther we came across a knob (it actually shows as a small knob on the map). We climbed to the top of it and found great views. Mt Hood and Mt Adams to the north:
Hard to see peak of Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte to the south:
We climbed back down and continued traversing the steep side hill, which got slightly better as we got closer to the road. We ended up following a second ridge down to the road, which was a little easier. We finally made it back to the road and walked back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, there was almost no trail left that we could find. A few blazes here and there and a few short sections of tread were found, but large sections were without any blazes and many of the sections where there would have been tread are so steep we figured that the tread has probably slipped down the hill.
We got back to the truck about 3:30, so we decided to head farther up 45 to see what conditions looked like. When we got to the 4550 junction, it was obvious that someone had spent some serious time brushing out the road:
We decided to head down it to see how far we could get, wondering if we could make it to the waterfall at Music creek. We made it there, but just past the first campsite, the road was impassible due to snow on the road again. We walked down to the creek, and got a great view of Music Creek falls running loud and fast:
Here is a short Video – it was rather LOUD:
After watching the waterfall for a little while, we headed back up. I walked up the road a bit to see if the brushing continued – it appeared to have stopped at Music creek, but it was hard to tell. Once the road re-opens, it will be interesting to see what it looks like. We walked back to the truck and headed out. On the way home, we took a short detour so that I could show Kirk the remains of the Silvicultural research area – I’d investigated this area several years ago – it is an interesting area where they studied ways to make trees grow better/taller/faster, but it has been closed for at least 10 years I think. There isn’t much left except for some remnants of the buildings and all the fences and trees they planted.
We stopped at Fearless in Estacada for a burger and a beer. What a great way to cap off a great day of exploring!
Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 505 and 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We tried to do this same trip in 2016, but the snow was much deeper and we had to turn around about 3/4 mile from the top so that we had enough time to get back before it got dark. Since the snow was much deeper it was a lot rougher going too. Having to break trail thru the deep snow was very tiring. For this trip, the plan was to drive up 4614 as far as we could, since the Fanton trail mostly follows it for a few miles. Then we would park and head up the trail to the old Lookout spot.
We decided to stop near the 167 spur – about a mile farther than we were able to get to in 2016 – I was hoping that would be enough to get us to the top:
We parked, and then headed up the road looking for where the trail crosses the spur road. At this point in the day, it was all untouched snow – this is the Fanton trail continuing south from the 167 spur:
We took off to the north, heading up towards the Old Baldy trail. The snow was probably 4-6″ deep here, but we really didn’t need snowshoes while we were in the woods. At this point, we really only needed them in open areas where the snow was deeper.
Not too far down the trail, Kirk saw this cool shadow of a cross, I thought I’d take a picture:
Very quickly we arrived at the landing just off the 4614 road – the last point where you can hit the Fanton trail from 4614. After seeing what we saw, we probably could have driven up this far with little effort – but we were confident we had enough time to make it to the top. The landing was beautiful in the morning light – with all the fresh snow:
Kirk took this picture of Ollie being a goof in the snow:
After enjoying the view from that landing for a bit we headed back to the trail and continued up. It didn’t take too long to get up to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The sign that used to mark the junction is gone – not sure if it is laying on the ground or what – you can see where it used to be though:
Anyway, we continued up towards the lookout, with the snow continuing to get deeper. It wasn’t long before we got to the road up to the lookout and finally popped out on top. It is hard to know where the lookout was – the snow had to be a couple feet deep at least. We stopped here and pulled out our stoves and made some hot beverages and ate some lunch. We tried to get a good view of Mt Jefferson, but it seemed to be hiding in the clouds. We did get a great shot of Mt Hood:
While Kirk and I were eating, Thor and Ollie were playing around:
After we ate lunch, we explored the peak a bit. Kirk found these cool designs in the snow:
And you could see part of Squaw Meadows to the east (it wraps around the back of the ridge to the south – this was just the north end of it):
After exploring the peak a bit we went down to where the old garage used to be but we couldn’t quite figure out where the foundation was – I think there was too much snow. We started our descent back down. I think the dogs were glad we were headed down – they were both having some issues with their feet and ice getting between their pads on their feet. As we got down farther and the snow wasn’t as deep, the problem seemed to go away. I could tell Thor was getting tired – between the foot thing and just being tired, he stopped a bunch of times on the way down.
We made good time on the way down – nothing much of note happened until we got almost back to the 167 spur – maybe 100 yards or so from the spur road, there were tracks on the trail – we weren’t sure if it was a jeep or what – but it was a 4 wheeled vehicle for sure. As we got back to the spur road, you could see they just drove up the spur road and then headed up the trail. I think there was a large enough log that they turned around.
Once we got back to the truck, we saw lots of new tracks – there was snowmobile tracks – not exactly sure where they went – and new tracks farther up 4614. As we were getting ready to leave, a side by side came up 4614 and went down the spur – I think that is the vehicle we saw tracks for – I hope they weren’t going to try and head farther up the trail…
We headed out and got stuck behind a caravan of 3 trucks – not sure if they were together or not, but the lead truck just stopped and talked to someone for like 5 minutes – we couldn’t really go around them due to the snow on the road, so we had to wait. This part of the forest seems to get very busy in the wintertime…. There were LOTS of people up here now with families.
An absolutely beautiful bluebird day in the snow – a perfect way to start 2019.
Post Hike note: While doing this hike I had a bit of a runny nose. I thought I was just getting a cold, but after I got back home, it really hit me. I got hit with a pretty severe flu bug. That is why this posting is so late – I was so tired I didn’t even look at my computer for like 3 days. Had I known what was coming, I definitely would not have gone on this hike, however I’m very glad I went. These are the kinds of hikes that are special. You don’t get too many beautiful winter days like this with undisturbed snow.
Location of Hike: Rimrock and Cottonwood Meadows Trails
Trail Number: 704 and 705
Weather during Hike: Sunny, cold and windy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:30 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 6.5 miles
We got a bit of a late start due to my sleeping in a bit. We got to the east end of the Rimrock trail about 11:30 and headed up. The dogs were ready to go (as usual). While we were getting ready, they were running back and forth down the 5830 road like maniacs. They probably hiked 2 or 3 times as far as we did….
Anyway, we headed up the east side – the hill is pretty steep in places, so we quickly got our hearts racing. The trail was relatively clear (this side doesn’t get a lot of traffic). Part way up the hill, we encountered a little bit of snow:
When we got to the top, at the rockslide, we got a pretty good view of the Shellrock creek drainage:
From there, we continued up the hill to the overlook trail junction, and then headed up to the overlook. I think the last time I was here was in the middle of winter when you could barely see the trail junction sign! This was almost 7 months prior:
We headed up the overlook trail and shortly got to the overlook where it was very windy. We headed out to the point, where we got some good views. This is looking south towards Mt. Jefferson and Olallie:
This is looking north towards Mt Hood:
This is looking southwest to Oak Grove Work center:
Here is a short video – It was really windy on the North/East side of the overlook – make sure to turn the volume down:
We kind of sheltered on the west side of the overlook where the wind wasn’t too bad – we ate lunch there and then headed back down. Just to make things interesting, we decided to head back along the bluff. It was quite a bit shorter and it looked pretty open and was a straight shot back to the trail (instead of going down and then back up). It turned out to be relatively easy walking, other than going over a bunch of downed logs. We soon made it back to the trail near the rocklide and then continued down. On the way back down, we saw several of these blazes – two on bottom and one on top – but weren’t sure what they meant:
We quickly got back to the truck (around 2:00) and then headed across the road to the Cottonwood Meadows trail. This is what greeted us near the beginning of the trail:
We went around the frozen spot (it wasn’t thick enough to walk on I don’t think). We continued down the trail and then explored a short alternate for the trail that ended up pretty much heading back up to the road. Not sure if it was an old alignment or what. As we continued down the trail, we soon got to the first meadow – we obviously had to go around – even the dogs didn’t want to go thru it – not sure how deep it was, but it was more than ankle deep for sure:
We continued around that meadow/swamp and soon came to the big swamp/lake – Cottonwood Meadow Lake? (not sure what it is called). We took the route on the west side of the lake, continued south and had to route around another wet area, finally coming to the large meadow north of the 5830-240 spur road. This is essentially the end of the trail until you get down to the 265 spur, where the beautiful south end of the trail exists. We didn’t go that far since we didn’t have enough time. We headed cross country a bit to explore the area – we went down the road a bit and then headed south where it seemed more open. It was for the most part, but was still rough going. We were running out of daylight, so we headed back up the hill – we didn’t really want to hike in the dark – we knew it would get cold really quickly once the sun went down.
We headed back up to the road, then back up thru the meadow. Just before the big lake, we saw some branches piled in the trail with a flag – it kind of looked like a trail, so we followed it around to a campsite on the south end of the lake. There was a boat there (I had seen it a few years ago on the west side of the lake). There was about an inch thick of ice on the south end of the lake (the dogs were walking all over the ice – we didn’t go too far out):
And here is Cottonwood Meadows Lake from this south end campsite – you can see the ice part way out – I don’t think this end of the lake gets any sun this time of year:
After exploring this campsite for a few minutes, we continued back up the hill. We made good time and got back to the truck just before 4:00. We loaded up and headed out. As we drove out, we decided to explore the 210 spur – I took this photo part way down the spur road. This was where we were earlier in the day – the overlook is to the left, Mount Mitchell proper is to the right:
We went down the spur pretty much to the end. We were hoping there might be some sort of view, but things have grown up too much. It was interesting – part way down, the road went thru some uncut area that was really pretty. It had a campsite next to the road. We turned around and headed back. As we were driving, the sun went down – by the time we got back to Estacada, it was pretty much dark. We stopped at Fearless for a burger and a beer. The perfect way to end a good day of exploration!
Location of Hike: Redwoods
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Sarah
Hike Distance: 31.5 miles
Unlike prior trips, we had kind of a loose itinerary. We had a difficult time finding accurate/current information and maps of the area, so we decided to have a rough plan and then adjust as we went along based on info we got at the ranger station(s). This turned out to be a good call. We found out that the whole Redwood park system is kind of a hybrid – being managed by state and federal (national parks and forest service). It made our trip to the ranger station rather interesting since he had to make a couple of phone calls to verify things for our various stops.
The rough plan was this:
- Wednesday – Drive to the Ranger station to get permits and then stage vehicles for the shuttle hike – hike down Dolason Prairie trail to Redwood Creek and camp on the gravel bar (dispersed camping)
- Thursday – Hike up Redwood creek to Tall Trees Grove – do the Tall Trees loop and then hike as far as we could up the creek and camp again on the gravel bar
- Friday – Hike up Redwood creek to the trailhead – then do some road walking over to the Skunk Cabbage Creek section of the Coastal trail and hike up the beach to the Gold Bluffs campground
- Saturday – Hike back to the Elk Prairie visitor center to get one of the cars – pick up second car and then visit Lyons Ranch, and some other highlights before starting the trip back home. Find someplace to do dispersed camping that is on the way home
- Sunday – drive the rest of the way home
Our actual plan was pretty close, however we didn’t head down the Dolason Prairie trail – we went down the Tall Trees trail (saving us about 3-4 miles of downhill hiking). Other than that, things went pretty much according to the rough plan. Our hiking mileage looked like this:
- Wednesday – 2 miles
- Thursday – 10 miles
- Friday – 11.5 miles
- Saturday – 5 miles backpacking plus 3 miles of day hiking
- Total Mileage: – 31.5 miles
Day 1 – Home to Redwood Creek
We headed out from Oregon City early on Wednesday morning (6:00am) – we had a long drive – google said it would take about 7 hours to get to the visitors center and that was with no stops at all – we figured it would take us at least 8 hours, which turned out to be just about right. We had to get the permits, stage the cars for the shuttle hike, and then hike down to the creek and find a good campsite. We weren’t sure how long all that would take and make sure we had enough time to find a campsite before dark. Fortunately, we planned well, and the elimination of a few miles of hiking helped a bit as well. When we got to the ranger station, he advised us to park at the Tall Trees trailhead instead of Dolason Prairie – it was safer. We got all the permits, staged the cars, went to a different ranger station to get bear canisters and then headed down the Tall Trees trail and almost immediately came to the junction with the Emerald Ridge trail – since we removed a few miles at the start, we figured we could add a little more mileage and see more of Redwood Creek. We took the junction and headed south down to Redwood Creek. Very quickly we got our first glimpse of what was to come over the next few days – Big Redwoods!:
It didn’t take us very long and we were at the creek – at that point the goal was to find a campsite along the gravel bar. In this section, we could camp anywhere along the gravel bar (which was very wide this time of year). When we got to the creek, we waded over to the other side to investigate potential sites. We would be wading the creek many more times over the next two days:
We pretty quickly found a really nice campsite a little south of where we arrived at the creek – nice and sandy with a fire ring and a nice sitting bench:
We were tired from a long day of driving and hiking, so we went to bed early.
Day 2 – Redwood Creek to Redwood Creek (farther north)
We got up early on Thursday, packed up and headed north up Redwood creek. We crossed Redwood creek and found this beautiful deep pool:
As we headed north, we got near the Tall Trees Grove (which was a highlight of the day) – it was at the end of this straight section of creek:
We crossed the creek again, and then popped right into the Tall Trees Grove. Here was the first tree we saw in the tall trees grove which was pretty impressive:
There was a bench in the middle of a bunch of large trees where we changed back into our boots (we had been wearing wading shoes since we had been going back and forth across the creek). We then took the short loop around the tall trees grove. This is one example of the scale of what we saw – and I’m sure this was not the largest tree we saw:
The scale of these trees is just incredible. I saw hundreds of trees over the course of our trip, and they never stopped inspiring a sense of awe.
Another very interesting thing was seeing how tough these trees are. They have a real will to survive. Fire is a part of their existence (the interpretive signs said fire was naturally occurring every 250-500 years). We saw many trees like this – severely burned out from the inside, but somehow still alive and apparently thriving:
We learned that when redwoods are stressed, they release “children” – shoots with the same genetic material – in some spots where trees had been logged, you saw an entire ring of trees around the logged stump – sometimes it is called a “fairy ring” or “family circle”. It just shows how persistent and tough these trees are. They said some trees are over 2000 years old!
Since the Redwoods were the highlight of the trip, here are some more photos for scale:
And this photo is pretty cool I thought – looking straight up from a cluster of trees:
And here is a 360 photo from the Tall Trees grove
After doing the Tall Trees loop, we continued north up Redwood creek, crossing the first seasonal bridge over to the west side of the creek:
From there we continued up to an old road (which was hardly recognizable as a road in most places). We headed north on this old road, a bit above the creek. We got to the Bond creek crossing and found the “bridge” was gone. Most of the bridges were in pretty rough shape. Some with missing handrails, most with missing or partially missing boards:
As we headed north on this trail, there were some pretty large trees here too:
The other unexpected thing was that while we were there for the redwoods, we also saw the largest maple tree I’ve ever seen – it was absolutely huge:
A little bit further down the trail we encountered this cut log that said it was 750 years old and we easily saw trees twice that size still alive:
We had to camp before the last seasonal bridge at McArthur Creek, so we spent a while looking for candidate campsites. We knew the next day was going to be rather long, so we wanted to get as far north as possible to reduce our mileage on Friday. We preferred a shady spot in a sandy area rather than camping on the gravel itself (that would be kind of hard). We dropped our packs and looked around – we crossed the creek and headed north – all the way to McArthur creek. We found what we thought was a pretty good spot a little south of the creek:
And looking upstream from our campsite:
We were tired again and went to bed early (after struggling to get out our messages from our SPOT and Garmin units – apparently even though it had a clear shot of the southern sky, we had to go all the way over to the east side of the creek to get the messages to send).
Day 3 – Redwood Creek to Gold Bluffs
We got up Friday morning and continued north along the old road, shortly getting to the second seasonal bridge on Redwood creek:
After crossing the bridge, the trail became much more “manicured” – I’m guessing that is because in the winter that bridge crossing point is the farthest you can go down the trail without wading the creek (which would probably be pretty tough, since it flows pretty high in the winter):
We soon got to the Redwood Creek trailhead with picnic tables and a bathroom. We took advantage of both, spending a little while there snacking. We then headed up the road – this was the short road walking section we weren’t too thrilled about. But as we were heading up the short trailhead road, Sarah noticed a bear on the side of the road! He was quite a ways away (150-200 feet), and rather small – he took off for the trees as soon as he saw us. He was so fast I was not able to get a photo.
We made it up to highway 101, which had a fair amount of traffic on it – this was the section we were most dreading. We started off facing traffic (as you are supposed to do when walking on a road), however there wasn’t much of a berm to walk on and there was a semi-blind corner. Kirk went across the road where there was a guardrail, and there was a nice concrete path along the outside of the guard rail – much safer than where we were walking so we headed back across the road and hiked behind the guardrail until we got to the road to the Skunk Cabbage Creek trailhead. We headed up that road – no traffic at all. We got to the trailhead and there were no cars there either, which surprised us.
We headed down the trail and soon we were into the lush coastal trail forest with more spruce and fewer redwoods:
And saw some huge skunk cabbage (which gives the creek/trail segment its name):
We continued to the “overlook”, which was rather disappointing since it was rather brushed in. We stopped there for lunch and then headed down to the beach. There were several areas in this section where we were walking in a literal tunnel of vegetation – and some spots were rather dark:
And this shows how lush the understory is – a carpet of sword ferns 5-6′ high in places:
We finally got down to the beach and rested a bit. This is where I made a mistake – I should have left my boots on, but I took off my boots and walked barefoot for a while – later I put on my crocs to try and protect my feet (I had a few hot spots and minor blisters that were getting abraded by the sand). Wearing crocs in the sand isn’t a good idea – it gets trapped in the croc and rubs on your skin anyway. This section of trail along with the sand made kind of a mess of my feet – a bad decision I would pay for the rest of the trip.
This is a shot looking up the beach from where we came down. We would be heading up this way – about 3 miles up the beach to the campground:
After a bit, we got to the beginning of the Gold Bluffs, which were not named for their color, but named for the gold they contained. Early in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s these cliffs were mined for gold using a variety of techniques. It sounded like the location of our campground might have been a mining camp too. Here is a photo of the beginning of the Gold Bluffs:
As we were walking up the beach, we found this almost perfectly intact jellyfish that had washed up on the beach – it was quite interesting:
After what seemed like forever (walking in the sand with a backpack is harder than it sounds), we finally arrived at the campground. We saw not a soul on the trail nor on the beach until we were almost to the campground. The campground was pretty full of car campers, but we had a reservation in the “Hiker/Biker” section. This was our campsite for Friday night – a nice place with picnic tables and fire rings:
They also had water along with real flush toilets and showers. I hadn’t brought soap, but I used some of the hand soap from the bathroom to take some sort of a shower – I felt a lot better after I washed some of the trail funk off me.
While we were at the camp, I was enthralled watching some sort of large bird (vulture?) circle around the cliffs. I took a short video of him/her:
And while I didn’t stay up for the “real” sunset, I did take this photo of the sun setting on Friday night:
I went to bed early, while Kirk stayed up for a while and explored the area a bit.
Day 4 – Gold Bluffs to Elk Prairie, then dispersed camping
We all got up early on Saturday and got ready to head out. Overnight, another pair of hikers had arrived in camp. We talked with them for a bit – We found out They were from Washington and Colorado and had been making rounds around the west to different national parks. They had apparently come in the Miner’s Ridge Trail (the one we were taking to head out) the night before and were surprised at all the cars in the campground – they thought it was a backcountry campground only.
We headed down the road – down the “Tsunami evacuation route” to the Miner’s Ridge trailhead. It starts as a gated road – we were thinking the road was so that people could drive up to safety from a Tsunami. The road ended at a bridge over Squashan creek. On the way up the road, we met a state ranger who was testing the water source for the campground. They pipe water from the creek into a couple of large tanks which feed the campground – but someone comes up every day to test the water to make sure it is safe. We had a nice conversation with him and then headed up the trail:
Of all the trails we were on during this trip, I think this was my favorite one – it had quite a variety of ecosystems and had a lot of Redwood trees on it:
We continued down the trail, encountering no one until we were about 2 miles from the Elk Prairie visitor center. We continued down the trail, encountering more and more people the closer we got to the visitor center. Near the visitor center we encountered a large group of elderly people who were from all over the US. They were taking a short loop trip near the visitor center. We quickly made it to the visitor center and then back to our car. At that point, we needed to return the bear canisters we had “rented”, so we needed to go get the other car since we had left the “covers” for the canisters in that car. It was a bit out of our way, but we made the trip and returned the canisters without incident. While there, we asked about the condition of the Bald Hills Road all the way down to Martins Ferry and Weitchpec – the ranger said it was passable but thought it was a scary road – we just needed to go slow. We decided to try it – we have lots of experience driving narrow, windy gravel roads. It turned out fine. I’m not sure what she thought was so bad about the road – we’ve driven roads that are a LOT worse than that one was.
Anyway, on the way down, we decided to take a look at a couple of other items. Due to my feet, I wasn’t up to explore the old Lyons Ranch (which would have been about a 5 mile hike) – I don’t think we had time enough for that either. But we decided we could go see the Dolason Barn – part of the Dolason Prairie trail that we didn’t end up taking. Plus we got to look at the lookout on Schoolhouse Peak.
Here are some photos of the Dolason Barn – the Dolason family raised sheep on this property for several generations:
And this is a photo of some of the hillside Dolason Prairie:
Although the signs said the barn was only .75 miles from the trailhead, it was more like 1.25 miles – not terrible, but we were kind of in a hurry, wanting to find a campsite for the night before it got dark. There was only one car at this trailhead and we encountered the person partway down the hill. When we got back to the car, ours were the only cars left in the lot. Not a very highly used trail for sure. It is tough in that you go downhill on the way in, having to make up all the elevation on the way out. Maybe that is why it doesn’t seem too popular. It was interesting to see the barn and the prairies though.
Once back at the car, we continued down the road to the Schoolhouse lookout. We weren’t sure what to expect, but found a gated, locked road which led up to an active lookout. We walked up the road and when we got to the lookout the guy manning the lookout popped out on the catwalk and asked if we wanted to come up – of course we said yes! He came down and then led us up the stairs up to the lookout. It was apparently built in the 40’s and then partially burned at some point and then rebuilt/renovated. It appeared to be mostly steel, but looked a lot more modern that the lookouts I’ve seen. It had a big propane tank, a big water tank for fire fighting, and a non potable water tank for washing dishes, showers and the toilet (it must have had a complete septic system too). It was pretty neat to see. The cupola looked a lot like what I’ve seen in many photos – one side had the “kitchen” with a sink, refrigerator and stove and then the other side with a bed. And of course the Osborne Fire Finder in the middle:
We spent a few minutes talking with him (I wish we had gotten his name) – it was great. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of a view due to all the smoke from nearby fires. But getting to see the inside of a real lookout was pretty special. Here is what it looked like from the outside:
We Left the lookout and then continued down Bald Hills road, which was very windy and did go on for a while, but it really wasn’t that bad. At some point it turned back to pavement and was pretty good all the way down to Martins Ferry. We were expecting to find some place to eat dinner before we found our campsite for the night – we found one place – the “Burger Barn”, but when we got there, it had either closed for the day, or was not open at all – we couldn’t tell. We didn’t really see ANY other place to eat, so we stopped at the local gas station/convenience store and got some sort of dinner – it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible.
We headed north on highway 96, which took us into the Six Rivers national forest. We found what appeared to be an old abandoned campground, although all the signage was still in place – it was a little odd, but since we just wanted a place to sleep for the night, it worked out fine. We camped at the Aikens Creek Campground – which does appear on the FS Website, but there are no services (no water, no bathrooms) – that was OK with us. I ended up sleeping in the car – hoping the car seat would be a little better on my back than my pad had been – it was slightly better, but not a lot better.
Day 5 – Dispersed camping (Aikens Creek Campground) to Home
We woke up early on Sunday and then headed out. The plan was to find a restaurant for breakfast as close as possible. We were really out on the fringe, for we saw no restaurant at all until we got to Ashland, which was almost 150 miles away. So, we ended up eating a very late breakfast. We stopped at the Waffle Barn in Ashland – had a great breakfast and then got back on the road.
There was a lot of smoke all over the place, but it seemed like Medford was maybe the worst – it looked like smog it was so thick:
We stopped in Roseburg for gas and then headed the rest of the way home. We ran into some pretty bad traffic in Albany and ended up getting off I-5 at Brooks – it sounded like there were multiple accidents on I-5 – we had already been delayed at least a half hour and we all wanted to get home.
This trip wasn’t quite as flashy or spectacular as some trips we’ve done, but the huge Redwoods continue to amaze me – I never tire of looking at them. It was great to sleep among the Redwoods and to see a lot of the variety of the northern California back country.
Location of Hike: Milepost 3 and Rimrock Trails
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: A few sprinkles, overcast and a few sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 5:00 PM
Hike Distance: 7.6 miles
It rained a bit on the way to the trailhead, but by the time we got there, the rain had stopped. Interestingly enough, back in January, I hiked this trail. It was oddly warm in January, and there was very little snow anywhere. The bad news was that the beginning of the trail was rather difficult to get to due to a tree that came down recently. Today, the good news was that someone had cleaned that all up, and the ramp leading up to the trail from the road was all clear!
We headed up the trail, and had a couple short periods of light rain, but they didn’t last long. The trail gains a fair amount of elevation relatively quickly, so it was tough going – but we didn’t encounter any snow on the lower portion of the trail. At the first rockslide, we found that while we could see a bit, the views weren’t great – lots of clouds:
We continued up the trail, doing minor trail maintenance – soon, we arrived at the junction with the Rimrock trail at about 4200′. This was the first real snow we saw. We stopped and had lunch:
While eating lunch, Thor played around in the snow, and Kirk and I talked about what our next objective was – we figured it was around 2 miles to the overlook, and decided we should have enough time (and hopefully energy) to do it. We headed out, down the trail heading east. The snow quickly began to get deeper. It wasn’t too hard at first without snowshoes, but soon it was easier to put them on – it is still harder to snowshoe than to hike, but it is easier than postholing.
For the most part, we followed the trail, but I think there were short sections where we missed it. The trail is very well blazed and that helped us to know we were on the actual trail.
Snowshoeing is very hard work as you have to lift your legs up a lot higher than you do when hiking. You also have to make your own trail in the snow which takes a lot more effort. After several rest breaks, we finally got to the overlook trail junction, and were surprised to see how deep the snow was:
Compare that to a picture taken when there was no snow:
After a short time of amazement at the snow depth, we then proceeded up the overlook trail, which is about a half mile to the viewpoint. Shortly after the junction, Kirk noticed this blaze that had almost disappeared into the snow – pretty amazing:
The snow continued to get deeper as we headed up to the overlook:
And right before the entrance to the overlook, the snow had really large drifts – Guessing they were 6 feet or more:
We made it up and out to the point, which was clear of snow (amazingly enough). The views from the point were not terrible, but none of the mountains were visible:
There was still a lot of snow on the north facing slopes too:
And there was a LOT of snow at the overlook:
While were out on the point, we could see dark clouds all around us. The weather forecast said there was supposed to be thunder storms about 2pm, which was right about the time we were there. We saw some dark clouds moving towards us, so we decided we should get back in the trees before it started raining. Just as we were getting ready to leave, the rain came in – in the form of snow! It wasn’t heavy, but it was definitely snowing. We decided it was a good time to head back down the hill. Once we were back in the trees we didn’t feel or see any of the rain/snow.
We made very good time going down the overlook trail (they way up seemed like the longest half mile I’ve ever done), and soon were back on the main Rimrock trail. As we were heading down, eagle eyed Kirk spotted one of these old insulators – it was so low due to the snow pack that we could almost touch it:
We continued down and soon came to the junction with the MP3 trail where we had lunch. We took off our snowshoes at this point and then continued down the trail. We made really good time on the way down – it is a lot easier going down than up!
As we were heading down, I noticed this beautiful scene – old trail thru an old moss covered rockslide:
I’ve seen it many times, but for some reason today it really moved me. What a beautiful scene.
We made it back to the truck about 5pm, all very tired from the days adventure. Just about the time we got there, it started raining. We were most fortunate with the day’s weather.
On the way down the 4635 road we spotted three deer that ran across the road!
We decided to stop at Fearless for a burger and a beer – a wonderful way to end a great day of adventuring in the woods!
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: overcast with a few sun breaks
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles
We got to the trailhead a little after 9 and got the dogs out of the truck and got ready to head out. They were raring to go, but since there is a fair amount of traffic on the pipeline road, we wanted to keep them on leash so they didn’t get run over. Kirk took this photo of Ollie, Thor and I getting ready at the trailhead:
We headed up the trail in reasonably warm temperatures. A sharp contrast to this same trip Thor and I did just 3 weeks ago when it was below freezing and there was a couple of inches of snow on the trail at the start (and got deeper as we headed up).
We soon got to the base of the unique hillside meadow where “The grotto” is – this is a tiny waterfall from a small creek that flows down from the meadow. It seems like I always have to take a picture of this – it is a unique place:
We headed thru the hillside meadow and continued up. This trail gains a fair amount of elevation – the grade is almost always going up. It starts about 1650′ and tops out at about 4100′ in about 3.5 miles. It is a lot of elevation but it never feels too bad, except for a few short spots where the grade gets rather steep.
Enough complaining about the elevation gain – back to the trip. We continued up, crossing the old 4635-020 spur and then shortly the 130 spur. When we were here 3 weeks ago, this road crossing had about two feet of snow on it. Today it was bare except for a tiny bit of snow on the edge of the road. This is about where the snow began on this trip:
We continued across the road, and up the hill. The snow started to slowly accumulate on the trail, but it was still easy to walk on. The snow today was pretty wet. Three weeks ago it was all very fluffy and dry. We soon made it to the rockslide below the 4635 crossing – there was a pretty decent view today:
It was in this rockslide that Thor complained about getting thru the rocks. I had to help him navigate thru some of the larger rocks (it must have had some slide at some point because most of it was easy walking – just a short section where the tread had been disturbed):
Shortly, we got to the 4635 Road crossing, where there was about a foot of snow on the road:
The dogs played in the snow for a bit and then we decided to continue on up. Kirk captured a Video of Ollie and Thor playing in the snow (did I mention I forgot to bring my phone on this trip?):
We were only about 2 hours in at this point and I thought we might be able to get up to the lake/water at the start of the Cache Meadow trail.
We continued up and the snow was not deep at all in the woods, but we soon got to another cut area where the snow really started piling up. We were able to follow the trail for a while, but the snow just kept getting deeper and deeper. We got to what appeared to be an old road of some sort and it looked like that was the shortest way to the 4635-140 spur, so we headed off that way – we later determined that was the point where we got off the trail – but it probably didn’t really matter as the snow was so deep it was tough going either way – especially without snowshoes.
We finally got up to the 4635-140 Road – a little west of the Cache Meadow trailhead:
Kirk decided to bury his hiking poles to see how deep the snow was on the 4635-140 road – we guessed it was well over three feet deep:
We went over into the larger trees and decided to have lunch on a downed log. It was just too much snow without snowshoes to go any farther. I was thinking of going up the road to see if we could find the trailhead, but breaking trail in this deep snow was just too tiring. So we ate lunch and decided to head back down the same way we came – which was a bit easier since we had already made a trail. We were sinking about a foot deep in the snow:
We made really good time on the way down and soon made it out of the snow again. We cleaned up a few areas and this area in particular where a lot of green was littering the trail, obscuring it. Kirk took an “after” photo of it with Ollie posing in the foreground (didn’t get a before photo unfortunately):
We continued down the trail, making excellent time – it is much easier going downhill! We got back to the truck about 2:30, just in time for some sprinkles to start. I think we timed this trip just about right. It was interesting because a few times during the day we actually saw some short sun breaks. Mostly the day was overcast, and except for the areas with the deep snow, it was actually pretty warm – probably in the mid 50’s. When we got higher into the deep snow, it was definitely colder.
A very good day in the woods.
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Robert, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:00 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 10.1 miles
We ended up starting a little earlier than normal, which was good, because the days are short so we would have limited daylight hours. We made it to the trailhead a little before 9am and quickly headed out. It was pretty cold – the roads were frosty and nothing was dripping – it was all frozen. We headed down the calico road trail/road and at the Rimrock creek crossing, Kirk and Robert noticed this really interesting “hair” fungus – I’ve never seen it before:
We took some photos and then headed down the old quad track back down to the old 54 road. The beginning of the trail is in decent shape – not too many trees down, but there are sections that are getting VERY brushy. We didn’t do any brushing on the way in really, because we were trying to make time. The new cedar and fir trees that are now growing on the old road are really starting to encroach on the trail track. I’m hopeful that as those grow up and shade the old roadbed that it will be easier to maintain, but I guess time will tell how it all plays out.
We continued south on the trail and made really good time – we got to the first bridge about 10:30. We stopped there, drank some water and took a few photos. Here is an un-named creek coming in just north of the first bridge:
We then continued south to the first real challenge of the day – the third creek crossing – I knew this might be a challenge since we’ve had all the snowmelt and runoff, but it was wider and deeper/faster than I’ve ever seen it:
We headed upstream and found a way to cross without getting wet. It was rather challenging navigating on the south side of the creek, and we found this interesting “cave” while going back to the “trail”:
We made it back to the trail and continued south, fighting our way thru the brush and eventually making it to the second bridge about noon. We ate lunch there and pondered on what to do.
I got this really cool shot looking south from Second bridge towards the Fish/Wash creek confluence – the sun and mist was really neat looking, although as usual, the camera doesn’t pick up the beauty of it very well:
After eating and enjoying the view for a bit, we needed to decide how to proceed. We were a ways from the trailhead and when we calculated our return time, we figured we only had 30 minutes or so before we needed to head back (or hike in the dark, which none of us wanted to do). We decided to see how far up Wash Creek we could get – We figured we wouldn’t have time to get to Pick Creek today. We didn’t get very far before we hit the Music Creek crossing of old road 54:
The water there was running even higher and faster than third creek. We decided that this would need to be our turnaround point since it would take quite some time to cross this raging creek safely.
I made a short video of the raging Music Creek:
While we were looking around, I found this neat “chute” just north of where Music Creek empties into Fish Creek:
And a short video of this “chute”:
This was the closest we got to the confluence – Kirk found a good little viewpoint of the confluence. You can see Fish and Wash Creeks in the background with Music Creek in the foreground:
And another short video of this shot:
We then turned around and headed back. Since Kirk had the loppers and I had the saw, we did a little more lopping on the way back, cutting back the worst of the brush – although it needs a LOT more work to make it easily passable.
One thing I had skipped taking a photo of on the way in was this weird area of blowdown – probably a section 50′ wide and a couple hundred feet long – all the trees were all snapped off. We were thinking it was probably some sort of micro climate wind gust that knocked them all down:
At the Third creek crossing we put away the loppers and saw and checked the time. We figured we were cutting it pretty close so we decided to stop doing any more lopping on the way back. We ended up crossing Third creek in a different spot than we did coming in. Robert and I made it just getting our feet slightly wet, but Kirk ended up getting pretty wet. He slipped on a rock and was up to his knees in water. But we all made it safely across the creek. After that crossing, we tried to hasten our pace to get back to the van by dark. We made it just before sunset I think – good timing.
A great way to start 2018!
Location of Hike: Switch Creek Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 6.8 miles
It had been something like 5 years since I’d been on the trail, so I had to try and remember some of the more obscure parts. Fortunately, I had a track from my last visit that helped us to stay (mostly) on the trail. We headed up from the parking area on road 46 where it was somewhat windy – down by the reservoir it was REALLY windy, but all up and down the Clackamas Gorge it was windy. The wind made the air temperature feel even colder – it was below freezing and there was frozen frost on road 46 in quite a few places, so driving was a bit tricky.
After getting ready (quickly due to the cold temps), we headed up the old spur road which is the beginning of the trail. It is still reasonably easy to follow, however the small trees are growing in in spots. We shortly got to the creek crossing and picked up the trail on the other side. That was not very easy, since there were quite a few rather large logs that had fallen, many right in the tread. We made our way thru that mess, and a better trail emerged after that (at least for a while). It wasn’t too long after the creek crossing where we ran across the first grisly/gross/interesting find of the day – a dead blacktail deer – and a pretty large one at that – Zack said it was a “4×5” – a 4 point buck with a smaller point near the head which was the “5”. He said that was a REALLY large deer for the Clackamas area. Something had eaten a large portion of it, but it was still pretty fresh. We couldn’t tell if this was a bad shot by a hunter, or if it was a cougar kill. Warning – gross picture ahead:
After checking out that find for a bit, we continued up the steep hillside – sometimes VERY steep – losing the trail for a bit here and there – but someone has flagged most of it reasonably well – so we were able to re-find the trail easily. When you get near the top of the hill, you intersect a better, more established trail. This trail takes you up to the 4640 road. At the trail junction, eagle eyed Kirk found an insulator (the old map shows this trail heading back up to Oak Grove Work Center with the phone line):
We shortly got to the newly decommissioned 4640-157 spur – the one that took you to a hunter camp at the top of the hill. The section out to the 4640 road is very short and soon we were on the 4640 road, attempting to follow the road and a bit of cross country to head east:
After doing a short cross country route thru an old gravel pit, we soon crossed Switch Creek again:
And then headed up to a rather swampy little lake area where we had lunch. There were a few of these “birdhouses” – but I’m not sure what is supposed to nest in them. The hole is HUGE:
After eating lunch in the sun on the north side of the swamp/lake, we made another cross country route – pretty much directly east to the 163 spur road, where we passed another swampy/lake area and then attempted to find the old trail that headed east. We walked up the ridge, and thought we were in the right area, but ended up going too far north and came back down and finally found the old tread. It was on a VERY steep, unstable hillside, but it had good views to the south in a couple of spots. This was looking southeast towards Burnt Granite with Olallie Butte just to the left of it – Olallie was all white, although it didn’t show up too well in the photo:
We headed up a little higher, following the trail relatively easily, with a few spots that had kind of fallen away. This is what some of the better trail looked like up higher:
At some point, we talked about what our turnaround time should be, and we decided it should be 2:00 (since the days are pretty short). We got to a particularly indistinct area on the trail, and we weren’t quite sure where it went. At that point, it was 1:57, so we made that our turnaround spot. We headed back the way we came – I got another shot looking south/southeast with a cool shot of the fog/clouds hanging over the hills:
We went back the same way we came except for one section where we walked back the road instead of going cross country – it was all downhill and we figured it would be faster. Looking at our route, I don’t think it cut much distance off anyway. We pretty quickly got back down the hill and got to the van a little before 4:00. It was starting to get chilly again, so it was good we got there when we did.
We finished the day with dinner and a beer at Fearless. An awesome winter day in the woods! Oh, and we never put on our snowshoes – we got to almost 4000′ but the snow was never deeper than 3-4″. so it turned out we didn’t need them after all!
Location of Hike: South Fork Mountain Trail
Weather during Hike: Varied - Foggy to Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:50 AM End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 5.12 miles
Originally, we were going to hike the Memaloose trail (from the bottom). Kirk had a better idea – hike it from the top down – we were almost already there, so we hiked up an old segment of the South Fork Mountain trail up to the old lookout site and then down to the lake and back. To top it all off, I realized I had forgotten my phone – fortunately, Kirk had his, so he was the track recorder and photographer for this trip.
On the way in, the sun came out and we got this great view from one of the old clearcuts along the 4540 road – looking east to Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead:
After our snowy escapades, we turned around and headed back to the 017 spur, where we parked and headed up (the snow was deeper than it looks in this photo):
Once up at the landing at the end of the 017 Spur, we started up the real trail:
On the way up, we got a peek of where Mt Hood was hiding in the clouds:
We got up to the old lookout pretty quickly and looked around a bit. We found the old foundations of the lookout and then headed down the “un-maintained” trail to Memaloose Lake – although I think it is strange there is a 515 trail sign on the “un-maintained” portion of the trail:
For an un-maintained trail, it was pretty well maintained. We didn’t have ANY trouble following it except for one very short section in a rooty/rocky section. One interesting thing was that we found a bunch of these orange flags on this portion of the trail – they were all placed VERY low and had “SOL” written on them – looks like they were placed this year:
We made quick time down the trail and shortly got to the beginning of the “un-maintained” section with this old sign that is clearly showing its age – I wonder how much longer it will survive?
We quickly made it to Memaloose lake and looked around the campsites there. The dogs were expending even more energy at the lake:
We ate some lunch and walked around a bit and then headed down the trail to the Memaloose trailhead. Memaloose Creek was flowing fast and furious – the crossing wasn’t bad, but you had to choose your steps carefully to stay dry (although Thor just wanted to play in the water):
A little farther down the trail, I recalled this tree that was down in 2014:
Now it is all cut out and easy to traverse:
A little ways further down the trail, we encountered a couple heading up the trail. We were a bit surprised to see someone else there – it is a LONG drive to the trailhead now. The dogs barked at them, so we leashed them up and let them pass. They asked if it was worth the trip up to the top, and we said yes, but we didn’t see them again the rest of the day. I’m thinking that we passed them when we took the alternate route up the lake.
After leashing up the dogs, we shortly made it down to the trailhead and walked around a bit on the road – Memaloose creek was flowing heavy under the road – ALL the creeks were flowing quickly due to all the snowmelt and rain we’ve had. After exploring the trailhead a bit, we headed back up to the lake:
A little ways up the trail, Kirk noticed these interesting trees – we figured they must have been from when they cut the hillside north of here:
A little farther, Kirk noticed an old sign – I never noticed it before – wonder what it said?:
As we headed up the trail, there was a junction that we noticed on the way down – we decided to see where it went – we think it was the old alignment of the trail:
And sure enough, it put us out a little bit north of the current trail alignment. You can see on the track where it put us out at the lake just north of where we came in.
Since we were a little farther north on the lakeshore, we explored some of the campsites up the east side of the lake and found this poem tacked to a tree near the lake – an “in memory of” poem:
We then headed back up towards South Fork Mountain, and Kirk noticed this odd artifact. We never did decide what this really was – fire pit or old outhouse? Or something else?
We continued up the switchbacks towards South Fork Mountain. Just below the point where you attain the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, we saw this beautiful sunbeam coming thru the trees. The pictures are pretty good, but don’t do it justice:
Once up on the ridge, Kirk found a great rocky outcropping just below the summit that had great views to the south. We got this great view of Mt Jefferson from there:
As we stood there enjoying the views, we realized that it was getting pretty cold. The sun was still up, but the temperature was dropping quickly. We made it down to the truck and quickly got in and fired up the heater which felt good. The truck had frost on it and the puddles on the road were starting to ice over, so it was definitely below freezing when we made it back. We left the chains on the truck until we got thru all of the deep snow and then stopped and took them off.
On the way back, we encountered a half dozen or more vehicles that were all gathering Christmas trees. They all seemed to be having a good time.
Although we didn’t achieve our initial objective, it was still an excellent adventure in the woods exploring some beautiful old forest, and some beautiful old abandoned trail.
Location of Hike: Plaza and Salmon Mountain Trails
Trail Number: 783, 787
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:20 PM End Time: 5:05 PM
Hike Distance: 10.25 miles
We headed up a little earlier than usual, and made our way down the pothole laden 4610 road to the east end of the Old Baldy trail. The Plaza trail actually starts here – you take off from the trailhead and in about 50 feet the Plaza trail heads east for a bit (to the old Plaza Guard station) and Old Baldy heads west.
We parked, got ready and headed out. I remembered to bring Thor’s backpack so he could carry his own water, etc. Here he is all ready to start the day:
We headed out, heading pretty much east until we got to the old Plaza Guard station location. About the only thing noticeable now is the old fireplace:
We looked around a bit and then headed up the trail. At this point the trail turns north, heading up to Sheepshead Rock and beyond. We got to Sheepshead Rock pretty quickly, and found a side trail that headed up to the small, rocky area on top of the rock. We got probably the best views of the day from this point, however I neglected to take a photo of the rock itself. It was a pretty unique looking rock. Here is a picture of Mt Hood from the top of Sheepshead rock:
And here is a 360 Photo from the top of Sheepshead Rock that Kirk took (mine got messed up somehow).
After soaking in the views for a bit, we headed back down and then continued north until we got to the junction with the Salmon Mountain trail (the marker sign has obviously seen better days):
And on the way up we saw a half dozen or so old phone line insulators along the trail that went up to the old lookout:
Shortly after the junction, we headed offtrail to get to the plane crash site which occurred in 1966. Here is part of the debris field of the crash – the debris field was actually much larger than I thought:
We explored the debris field a bit and then realized it might not have been a great idea to let the dogs run around – there was LOTS of gnarled metal on the ground – we were concerned that one of the dogs was going to cut their paws. We walked back out of the main debris field to make sure the dogs didn’t get hurt, and then headed back up the hill to the trail. It was still pretty early, and it didn’t look like it was too far to the lookout, so we continued east up the trail. Partway up, we saw these remains – we couldn’t figure out what it could have been. It was kind of small for an outhouse – we thought maybe the phone line terminated here, but we saw insulators farther up the trail, so what it was remains a mystery – some sort of box probably about 30″-36″ square:
Here is kind of typical tread on the Salmon Mountain trail-the trail guide says the tread disappears, but it seemed to be pretty good the whole way – but maybe I’m just used to hiking abandoned trails and this wasn’t as bad as those are:
And a bit farther up the trail, we found a ribbon from the recent hiker search in the area (just last week-thankfully he was found alive and well):
After some odd junctions on the trail, we finally made it up to the old lookout site on Salmon Mountain:
We found out that the trail location on the map is wrong. The trail actually goes below the summit, over to the east, and then switchbacks to the west to get to the summit. Apparently there is a cliff on the east side that is pretty much impassable. It was rather small up on top, and only had two footings there. Kirk took this photo of me and the dogs at the lookout (I was sitting on one of the footings):
We ate lunch at the lookout site and enjoyed the sunshine and the views for a while. After a while, we decided we should head back and then went back down the way we came. When we got to the switchback at the bottom of the hill (where it switchbacked back west up to the lookout), Kirk wanted to see if there were views on the second peak – the switchback was kind of in a saddle between the two peaks. There was a faint trail that headed up, so we followed it up to the high point, but there was really no views, just a small meadowy place where the faint trail seemed to kind of die. So, we headed back and then headed down the trail. We still had a long ways to go back and by this time it was almost 3:00.
On the way out, I had forgotten how up and down this trail was – or maybe I was just tired. It seemed like there was a LOT more UP on the way back than I remember.
We got back to the trailhead a little after 5:00 and found another vehicle parked there – we were guessing they must have been hiking the Old Baldy trail. We packed up and headed out.
On the way out, driving the 4614 road, a lone hunter was along side the road with a deer. He flagged us down and asked if we could help him load it into the back of his minivan. We did, although Kirk got some blood on him while we were loading it. It was kind of an interesting way to end the day!
We capped off an almost perfect day of hiking with dinner at Fearless.
Location of Hike: Old Buck Lake Trail
Trail Number: 701
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Hot
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:25 AM End Time: 1:00 PM
Hike Distance: 5 miles
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos on this trip. The forecast was for it to be almost 100 degrees and we started early to try and beat the worst of the heat. We left home about 7:45am and got to the trailhead a little after 9. We had a bit of a surprise – Road 5810, which takes you to Buck Lake was closed due to logging activities. Even though nothing was happening today, the road was still closed completely, right after you got onto 5810. So, we looked for an alternate route. We decided to head up the road we bailed out on last time – the 58-160 spur – and kind of start where we left off last time. We weren’t exactly sure how the day would progress – we thought maybe we would go back to Buck Lake if we had time.
We quickly found what looked to be something like tread. I think it was what we were following last year, however it looked very different since there was no snow on the ground. We continued north thru the clearcut, following (at times) what looked like it could be tread, and other times just taking the easiest route. We got thru the first clearcut and spread out, looking for signs of tread and/or blazes. We found intermittent sections of tread – in some spots it wasn’t too bad – well blazed and somewhat distinct tread. But it never lasted too long. Either the blazes and/or tread dried up, or we hit another clearcut, where any signs of tread completely disappeared. I think we went thru 4 or 5 cut areas. A good shot of one of the good sections:
We continued north, looking for tread and blazes in the uncut areas, and just tried to get thru the cut areas as best we could – usually going along the east edge of the cut – it usually seemed there was a somewhat open area there. In one of the cut areas, we got this cool shot of a hazy Mt Hood (I thought it would be worse due to all the fires):
It was beginning to get rather warm (especially in the cut areas) and the dogs were getting hot so we stopped in the shade and all drank some water. Kirk snapped this great picture of Thor and Olle cooling off in the shade – they really have fun together:
After heading north and not finding a lot of recognizable tread, we knew we were getting close to the Anvil Lake trail. We spotted a flag, and found some tread. And then another flag, and some more tread. We didn’t backtrack to find the trail, but we did find out where the trail appears to have met the Anvil Lake trail – right at the post with the Blackwolf Meadow sign. This is the Anvil Lake trail as it heads thru Blackwolf Meadows:
We stopped in the shade there and decided what to do. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we came, so we decided to head back down the Anvil Lake trail to the 160 spur and walk back to the truck that way. It looked to be about 2 miles or so back to the truck, so that seemed like a good option, as it was starting to get really hot. We wanted to get done by noon or 1 and it was already noon. We made good time back to the truck and then packed up and headed out.
On the way out, we had been talking about Cot Creek (I’m not exactly sure why), but I thought we could drive up to see the old collapsed bridge. It wasn’t too far out of our way, so we headed up. Interestingly enough, the 4635-120 spur road that heads up to the bridge has had a lot of roadwork done on it. New gravel, grading, and a bunch of trees cut off the edges of the road. Looks like the are prepping for doing some more thinning work up that road.
Here is a photo of the old Washed out cot creek bridge as we saw it today:
Contrast this to 2008 – it has grown in quite a lot since then:
A wonderful day in the woods – it was good to get out and escape most of the heat. Even though we didn’t find a lot of that old trail up high, it was still neat to try and find it.
Location of Hike: Oneonta Gorge and Oneonta Creek Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Cass, Jeff, Torren and Kirk
Start Time: 8:15 AM End Time: 11:50 AM
Hike Distance: 4.5 miles
We started down the creek, not having to get wet initially, but quickly came to the “Big logjam”:
Someone had rigged up a rope on one section, and there was already a line to get past this – even at 8:30am. We shortly made it past the logjam and started up the canyon:
It was amazing to see the number and variety of people attempting this “hike” (I put hike in quotes because it is a very short trip – the biggest obstacles are the logjam and the deep water – otherwise it is only about a half mile round trip to the falls). We saw young people, old people, babies, kids of all ages – all successfully navigating these obstacles.
After walking up the river, we got to the first deep spot – it was about thigh deep on this day (other days I guess it can get up to your chest):
We got to one other deep spot (which I didn’t take a photo of) that was slightly deeper, but it was about crotch deep for me. Very soon, the falls at end of gorge appeared:
Kirk and Torren kind of dared each other and ended up swimming at the base of the falls – the water was COLD! I ended up putting my jacket on because the air temperature was pretty cool due to the early morning, coupled with the cold water was making me very chilly. My jacket kept me warm enough to not shiver anymore.
The waterfall was not terribly energetic due to the low water flow (normal for this time of year), but it was a very soothing and beautiful waterfall – especially given the dramatic canyon it sits in. I took a short video of the falls:
We spent a few minutes enjoying the waterfall and then headed back out. It was kind of interesting that there was a young couple who were flying a drone near the waterfall. I assume they were taking video of the waterfall. You can see them here (including the drone) on this shot looking back north thru the canyon:
The trip back out was pretty uneventful, but the gorge was getting more crowded – much more crowded – there were a LOT of people headed in while we were headed out.
We went back to the van and dried off and changed shoes for the hike up to Triple Falls. I was surprised the whole trip in and out of the gorge only took us about an hour – I didn’t feel like we rushed things, but it is not very far. We headed out on the Oneonta trail and soon got to an overlook of Triple Falls (a little over a mile up the trail):
It was a beautiful waterfall. We encountered quite a few people coming down as we were coming up, including a huge group of girls – we weren’t sure what group they were with, but it had to be a group of 30 or more. And there were several other groups as well. I’m not used to seeing so many people on my hikes!
After taking in the view and getting a few pictures, we headed back to the trail and shortly came to a bridge over Oneonta creek above triple falls – I got this photo of the creek just above the falls:
We crossed the bridge and explored the other side a bit and then decided we needed to turn around due to time. We turned around and headed back down – getting back to the van a little before noon. By that point, the road and parking along the old highway had become crazytown – people everywhere. We headed back the old highway and when we got to Multnomah falls, the parking areas were full and there was probably a half to a mile long backup on the eastbound lane. All people waiting to get to Multnomah falls I guess. It was really a madhouse. Originally we were going to stop for ice cream at Multnomah falls, but due to the crowds, we decided to stop in Troutdale at Dairy Queen. It was a good call!
The ice cream was a great way to cap off a short, but very unique hike. I don’t do a lot of hiking in the gorge, but this was worth the crowds – I’m just glad we went early to avoid most of them.
Edit – Later – this was a uniquely sad hike in that about a week after we did this hike the Eagle Creek Fire started and this whole area burned significantly – I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this area before it burned
Location of Hike: Pettit Lake - Sawtooth Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Mixed - Hot to cool with a little mist
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Hike Distance: 23.5 miles
Sarah picked out the location this year, which was somewhat close to where Carly is working for the summer – the Grand Tetons. The plan was somewhat loose, since we weren’t really sure exactly what we would encounter. This was the rough plan for the backpack trip:
- Day 1 – Pettit Lake to Farley, Edith or Imogene Lake (depending on how the day went)
- Day 2 – Hike to Alice Lake (needed a relatively short day since we were traveling to the Grand Tetons after we were done)
- Day 3 – Alice Lake out to Pettit Lake and then drive to the Campground where Carly was working
We left home about 7am on Saturday and headed to the Pettit Lake trailhead in Idaho. We were not sure if we would be able to find a campsite at the campground there, but if not, we figured we could do some dispersed camping nearby. The plan was for Carly to meet us there – she worked until 3pm so she was going to be there late. Since there was no cell service at the campground, it was a bit iffy on whether we had all our communication correct. We got to the campground early evening and found it full, so we looked for a good dispersed spot. We found a pretty good spot near the creek and called it good. This was our campsite the first night – I climbed up a small hill to get a better look at things and see if I could get a cell signal to text Carly – but had no luck.
I waited on the road in to the campground (so she would see me), and fortunately, Carly showed up a little after 9pm. I was somewhat relieved that we had successfully met up and we could now begin our 2017 trip.
We went to bed in our camp, had a VERY cold night, kind of slept in a bit due to the cold night, then woke up to frosty tents! We were surprised since it was so hot the day before. Fortunately, it warmed up pretty quickly, so we cooked breakfast, packed up and then drove to the trailhead. Shortly, we were on our way! This was where we started our adventure:
We headed down the trail, shortly taking the uphill junction to the trail that would eventually take us to Farley Lake (I couldn’t find trail names or numbers). After the junction with the trail coming in from Yellow Belly Lake (what a name!), we crossed a small creek. I was the only one who got their feet wet – I didn’t like the log crossing – but the cool water felt good on my feet. While I was putting my boots back on, a packtrain came along and crossed the creek – I think Kirk counted 12 horses:
After letting the packtrain go past us, and me getting my boots back on, we continued up the trail. Soon, we got our first real glimpse of the mountains and a flower filled meadow:
We continued up the trail – it was pretty hot by this time and the trail is pretty exposed – we were all getting really hot and trying to stay as hydrated as we could.
As we got closer to Edith Lake, the trail crossed the creek 3 times on the way up the hill – this was one crossing point:
After the third crossing we finally arrived at Edith Lake:
When we got there we encountered a rather large group – we found out later it was a group of “Father/Child” campers – they had been doing a “Father/Child” backpack trip annually for the last 5 years or so. It was interesting that we were both doing the same thing, although their children were much younger. We set up camp up on the hill above Edith Lake. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad here. Carly, Sarah and I kind of cleaned up at the lake, while Kirk went for a brief swim (the water was really COLD).
We made dinner and then pretty much just went to bed. We were all pretty tired due to the heat. I got up early the next morning and captured the sunrise from our camp on Monday morning:
And here is Edith Lake from our campsite in the morning light – we would be headed up to the pass in the upper middle of the photo. It is hard to see the ridge.
We made breakfast, cleaned and packed up and headed out (and up). We climbed above Edith Lake and started climbing up to the pass – we passed thru this beautiful meadow:
And as the trees thinned out, we saw many of these old, fire damaged trees – I thought they were really neat looking:
As we continued up, we got into more snow, having to find the trail across large snowbanks. Most of the time it was pretty easy since there was already footprints leading the way. Here we are looking back down the valley we came up the day before – Farley and Yellow Belly Lakes below (Edith Lake is not visible):
When we got up to the pass, we climbed up a side ridge/peak (un-named – 9568)to get a good view of the area. The climb wasn’t bad at all – we dropped our packs at the pass and headed up the ridge. The view was pretty spectacular. From on top of the ridge, you could see all 3 lakes – Yellow Belly, Farley and Edith below:
And Toxaway Lake on the other side – we would be shortly heading down to it:
While exploring the peak, Carly heard some noise and saw two deer up on the peak!!! She spooked them and they ran down – but we were all surprised they were up that high. No one got any photos of them, and she was the only one who saw them unfortunately. After enjoying the views for a bit on the peak, we started down – the wind was picking up and we started to get a little light mist. We were concerned it was going to really start raining. Fortunately, that was about all we got – a few very light drops of rain and light mist.
We continued down the long slow, descent to Toxaway Lake (the trails were really well graded), and we walked thru a variety of beautiful wildflower meadows:
When we got down to the trail junction at Toxaway, we saw a couple of guys having a break near the campsite area. We stopped for a few minutes and then continued down around the Southeast corner of the lake and ran into the bottom of an avalanche that occurred last winter:
On top of the avalanche area we got a good view up the hill to where we could be going later. It was a really neat smooth rock hillside where the snowmelt was coming down. We ended up having lunch here and resting a bit. There was another family with small children (you can see them near the water in the above photo) that was ahead of us who we would see off and on up the trail for a bit.
After lunch, we continued up the hill and ran into more avalanche damage up the hill. This damage completely obliterated the trail for a bit and was difficult to figure out where to go:
We successfully navigated the avalanche damage and shortly got to the first of 3 small un-named lakes before the pass:
We continued up (and up and up) – this is almost to the pass – looking back from where we came:
And we finally get to the pass with its 20′ wall of snow – I should have taken a photo of the other side of it. It was pretty impressive (the trail heads off on the left side, hugging the cliff to begin):
Once we were over the pass, you get a good view of the Twin and Alice Lakes below:
We headed down the trail, encountering a few snow fields and quite a few people (including families with small children) coming up. It didn’t take too long for us to reach the shoreline at Twin Lakes:
We went out on the land spit between the two lakes and explored a bit, enjoying the beautiful location – nestled between the mountains. After exploring around the Twin Lakes a bit, we continued on our journey down to Alice lake. On the way, there was this “right turn” waterfall which was really cool:
And finally, we came to our objective for the day – Alice Lake with El Capitan towering over it:
We started looking for a good campsite, and finally found one, although the mosquitoes were TERRIBLE – you could HEAR them buzzing in the swarms. They were close to the worst I’ve experienced (I think Serene Lake and Cache Meadow many years ago was worse):
After we got camp setup, we explored a bit more – here is a cool island in Alice Lake:
As usual, we made dinner, cleaned up and pretty much went to bed – partly due to being tired, but partly due to the mosquitoes. We planned to try and get an early start so we could get on the road to the Grand Tetons (it is at least a 6 hour drive – over 300 miles). We got up the next morning and quickly made breakfast and broke camp. I think we were on the trail by a little after 8. On our way out, we got this great view of Alice lake with El Capitan looming over it:
And then the rest of the mountains surrounding the southeast side of Alice Lake:
Once we got past Alice Lake and its little lakes below it, we saw our final objective for this trip – headed down the valley and back to Pettit Lake:
On the way down the hill, we ran into more avalanche damaged areas and had to find our way around the area where the trail was obliterated. At one point, we got slightly separated and I ended up crossing a creek, only to have to come back over when I heard Kirk yelling at me from up on the rockslide-luckily I heard him over the roar of the creek!. I had gone down to explore what looked like a possible trail (I think it was an old alignment of the trail that was no longer used). We ended up going up into a rockfield and around all the damage and eventually re-joined the trail.
After that experience, shortly after we re-joined the trail, we stopped at a rockslide that was next to the creek. We saw a Pika there (this isn’t a great photo since he was hard to see, but he was pretty cute):
And continued down the hill towards Pettit Lake. I think we counted like 5 creek crossings on the way down. Most were pretty easy, but the last one was rather difficult. There was a family there trying to get across. Carly ended up crossing on a sketchy log, I ended up putting my crocs on and getting wet – Kirk and Sarah crossed on a pair of logs a bit upstream (which was really the best option). After making that last crossing we were almost to the last mile hike to the trailhead:
We finally got there (it seemed like a REALLY long mile). We did a little cleaning up in the bathroom in preparation for our trip to the Grand Tetons, and then headed out – I think it was about 11:30 when we left the trailhead. On to phase 3 of the trip!
On the drive to the Grand Tetons, we went thru the Craters of the Moon park – I snapped this quick photo from the car – we didn’t stop since we had a long ways to go, but it was pretty interesting. Someday it would be nice to stop and investigate it.
We had lunch in Hailey, Idaho at the “Power House” (great burgers and an interesting place – a combination pub/restaurant/bike shop), and then drove to the Signal Mountain Campground in the Grand Tetons where Carly is working this summer. Fortunately, we had a campsite waiting for us. We setup camp and then started our next phase of this trip.
This backpacking trip was tough, but very interesting, and areas that I’d not seen before. It was great to spend several days with Carly. We had a great time and saw some beautiful scenery. I can’t wait for whatever trip we plan for next year.
Location of Hike: Grand Tetons - Mormon Row and Laurel Lake
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Start Time: 3:50 PM End Time: 5:50 PM
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles
We started at the visitor center and enjoyed the exhibits and displays and watched a short movie on the Grand Tetons. From there, we drove around to Mormon Row, which is an abandoned row of homesteads. There were several homesteads and buildings along this road, but this is a photo of the Thomas Murphy Homestead:
After walking around the Mormon homesteads for a bit, we got back in the car and went to see the Cunningham Cabin. He was another early settler:
We then decided to go up to the top of Signal Mountain – you can drive to the top and get a great view of the whole valley. This is Jackson Lake from the top of Signal Mountain:
By this time it was almost time for Carly to get off work, so we headed back to camp to get ready for our last short hike up to Laurel Lake. As we were headed back to camp, we ran into a “Bear Jam” – a Bear had been chased out of the campground and was along the road. People had stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures. The bear seemed completely uninterested in all the attention it was getting.
We got changed and met Carly and then headed out to the String Lake trailhead. This “trail” split off from the String Lake trail and then headed (literally) straight up the hillside to Laurel Lake. There were a few very short switchbacks (more like a snake trail than switchbacks) and a lot of the trail was very brushy, but it was pretty easy to follow – you can tell a fair number of people hike this unofficial trail. This is a photo looking down the trail – the hillside is probably 45 degrees or more the whole way – you can see the official trail down near the lake:
We made good time and it didn’t take too long to get up to the lake since the ascent was pretty aggressive. We gained about 850 feet in short order. We found the lake and it was a beautiful small lake in a bowl:
We enjoyed the lake for a bit and then headed back to the car and then on to Leek’s Marina for some great pizza. A great way to end our stay in the Grand Tetons.
Location of Hike: Grand Tetons - Delta, Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes
Weather during Hike: Ranged from Sunny to Misty
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Carly
Start Time: 10:45 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 11.5 miles
We started out and headed up the Lupine Meadows trail, which then joined the Amphitheater Lake trail. On switchback number 6, there was a pretty rough side trail (goat path, really), that led you up to Delta Lake. It went thru two rock fields and in some places straight up the hill. It was a challenging route. Here is one portion of one of the rock fields:
And a photo looking up from below on the descent – this hill was probably at least 60 degrees – maybe steeper:
Once we got up to Delta Lake (we would see later in the day how it got its name), we hiked around the north side of the lake to a very large rock in the water. We had lunch on this rock and enjoyed this view of the Grand Teton:
After having lunch and enjoying the view for a bit, we headed back down to the junction with the Amphitheater Lake trail. On the way down, we saw these pouches on a tree and a small placard explaining what they were. They are trying to save the Whitebark pine trees from the mountain pine beetle, and the pouches are “pheromone pouches” which must repel the beetles.
We continued down the trail to the junction with the real trail and at this point, Carly went downhill since she had to go to work. We continued up the hill to Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. On the way up, we talked with a man who said we should continue past Amphitheater lake up to the ridge above the lake – he said it was quite a view and worth the climb.
Shortly after Carly left us, we saw a deer right off the trail. He didn’t seem to be too concerned about our presence. He just kept munching away at the brush as we walked up the trail:
A little later, we started to feel a little drizzle. This continued for a while and got heavier. Unfortunately, I did not bring rain gear on this hike since I only had my little teeny day pack. I did bring my OmniHeat jacket, which isn’t waterproof, but it kept me warm while it rained. The rain let up somewhat, but continued for a few hours.
Shortly, we came to Surprise Lake:
We tried to shelter under some trees at Surprise Lake, but still got wet there. After spending a few minutes checking things out, we went back to the trail and headed up to aptly named Amphitheater Lake:
Since it was still raining, we didn’t waste much time and headed up the north side of the lake on a somewhat legible user trail. We headed up to a small pass between the Amphitheater lake basin and the Delta Lake basin. Although we couldn’t see Delta Lake from there, it was quite a view:
There was also quite a “chute” between the ridge and where we were standing – it went all the way down to the Delta basin-about 1000′ below:
After checking this out for a few minutes, Sarah and I were ready to head back down, but Kirk wanted to explore a bit higher. We were tired, but waited for Kirk to explore up higher. I’m so glad he did, because he found a really cool little platform where we could see Delta Lake (the lake we visited in the morning):
You could see how this lake got its name – seeing the delta feeding it and the sediment going into the lake. It was really interesting to see the lake from 1000′ above like that – you couldn’t even see the brown part of the lake from below!
After enjoying the view of Delta lake from above, we headed back down to Amphitheater lake. When we were coming up, Kirk thought he saw some sort of climbers trail on the south side of the lake up high. When we went back down, there were two climbers heading up (they are pretty small but they are in the upper snowbank in the middle of the photo):
That was really interesting to see. We were thinking they might try and summit one of the mountains.
After watching the climbers for a bit, we continued down the trail. Shortly after that point, the rain mostly stopped, so we took off our rain gear and continued down the hill. The trip down was pretty quick (compared to going up). We got back to the trailhead about 3:30 and headed back to camp – a wonderful days adventure in a BEAUTIFUL place.
Location of Hike: Bissell, Old Baldy and White Iris Trails
Trail Number: 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Charles, Zack, Robert, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:25 PM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.5 miles
I had been thinking of hiking MP3 up to the Rimrock trail and trying to get out to the overlook or maybe going up 4635 and the Cripple Creek up to Cache meadow. Charles had the great idea of doing a shuttle hike using the old Bissell Trail, Old Baldy and the White Iris trail. I was hoping that the Iris would be in bloom, but due to the late spring, it had unfortunately not bloomed yet.
He also said those of us who were “adventurous” could go down and explore the un-named lake below Old Baldy. That all sounded intriguing to me, so we all planned to head out early on Saturday morning. The plan was to leave one car at the White Iris Trailhead, then drive up to the Bissell Trailhead (about 2 miles up the road), and then hike the Bissell trail up to a point where we could head cross country over to the un-named lake below Old Baldy. After exploring the lake, we were going to go up to Old Baldy, and then head down the Old Baldy trail to its junction with the White Iris Trail and take that back to the 4615 road where we could retrieve the other car.
The day went off mostly as planned with the exception of the beginning of the White Iris trail. We ran into some serious snow on the Old Baldy trail, and were unable to continue following it, so we ended up going cross country in the general direction of the White Iris trail, hoping to find it. We eventually did, and followed it the rest of the way down.
OK, on to the play by play and photos of the day.
We made quick work of the Bissell trail, and although the uphil to get to the un-named lake below Old Baldy was physically difficult, it didn’t take too long. Once up the hill, we stopped at the top to eat lunch and rest a bit before heading downhill to the lake. There was this weird hanging snag next to where we ate lunch:
The only thing holding it up was the top branch on the snag next to it. Very odd, although it looks like it has been hanging there for quite some time, so it must be pretty solid.
After eating lunch, we headed down the steep slope to the lake. Just before the lake, Zack found this really cool cave-no sign of bears, however:
Continuing down the hill (it had gotten less steep by now), we found the un-named lake below Old Baldy:
But there was still LOTS of snow and ice at the lake – it was still mostly frozen over!:
We explored around the lake, and while doing so, Thor ended up kind of falling into the lake. I think he ran out on to the ice and it broke. It didn’t seem to bother him much, but he didn’t stay in the water too long. It had to be VERY COLD in that lake!
We ended up walking all the way around the lake, exploring the outlet and the other side of the lake. Once we had finished exploring, we headed back uphill. We opted to go a different way up, which was a bit less steep (although it was still pretty steep). In a few minutes, after much huffing and puffing, we made it around the east side of Old Baldy and found the trail up to the top. Kirk, Robert and I headed up and spent a few minutes on top while Zack and Charles waited on the trail below. Thor was enjoying himself on top of Old Baldy (there isn’t much of a view on top of Old Baldy – it isn’t very “bald” anymore):
After a few minutes on top, we headed back down (we heard Charles yelling for us down below). We continued south on the Old Baldy trail encountering very little snow – this was the largest patch of snow we saw (other than down by the lake) – until we got near the White Iris Junction:
We headed down the trail and soon found a beautiful viewpoint with views of many of the mountains to the north – Mt Hood and Wildcat Mountain from the viewpoint on Old Baldy trail:
After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we packed up and headed down the trail. We made good time until the trail crossed over the ridge onto a north facing slope and the snow got REALLY deep, REALLY fast (like from nothing to 3 or 4 feet of snow). We weren’t exactly sure where the junction was with the White Iris trail, but knew the map was wrong. Since the snow was making it really difficult to follow the trail, and it was also making it hard to walk, we decided to head downhill in the general direction of the White Iris trail and eventually found it. We soon got out of the snow in the woods, however there was still a LOT of snow at the 4614 road crossing on the White Iris trail:
We picked up the trail on the other side of the road and we had no problem finding and keeping the trail all the way back down to 4615. It was a little warm in the cut area going down the hill, since we were in the full sunshine. Fortunately, we were going downhill, and the exposed area wasn’t too long. Thor had apparently had enough though – about half way down the hill, he stopped in the shade behind a tree and laid down. I gave him some water and let him rest a bit and he was then ready to finish the trip. I think he was getting hot in the sun. Black fur makes it easy to get REALLY warm in the sun!
We did a fair amount of trail maintenance on this trip as well, doing a bit of lopping and cutting or moving quite a few trees off the trail.
A beautiful day in the woods with good friends. Per tradition, We stopped at Fearless for a great end to the day!
Location of Hike: Dickey Creek Trail
Trail Number: 553
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Robert, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:30 PM End Time: 5:30 PM
Hike Distance: 6.8 miles
Anyway, Dickey Creek is low enough to be accessible earlier in the year, so I thought it would be a good trail to hike. The trail has been extended by about a half mile in the last few years – the last half mile of the spur road to the old trailhead has been decommissioned and turned into trail. The “trail” past the old trailhead is an old spur road too, so the first 3/4 to a mile of this trail is walking old roads – but they are in good shape for the most part.
When we got to the trailhead, there was a vehicle there – we met a lone backpacker on his way out. While we were getting ready, a couple pulled in and asked about the trail. They had intended to go to Pansy lake but apparently couldn’t get there due to snow. We thought we heard them at one point, but never saw them on the trail all day long. When I got back home, I checked the elevation for the road to Pansy lake and it didn’t appear to get to 4000′, so if that is true, higher trailheads will be inaccessible much longer this spring due to the heavy snowpack.
We headed down the trail and shortly arrived at the old trailhead and kept heading down an even older spur road (I’m guessing this trail might have been built after they logged this area), and pretty quickly we were at the dreaded “rotten log bridge” – normally, I walk across the big log (it has always felt very stable and strong to me), even though the trail walks around it. Thor did not want to walk across the log, so we went around. (on the way back I broke one of the sticks across the water and fell in – oops!)
We continued down and got to the steep descent into the old growth groves and the part that follows the creek. The steep descent has gotten a lot better as they have added steps in some places, but it is still very steep and there is a lot of ground movement on that hill – some of the steps have even moved since they were put in a few years ago. We were able to successfully navigate the steep downhill part and soon came to one of my favorite parts of the trail – the old growth groves (this old photo was taken on a 2005 trip):
Continuing down, the trail crosses several small side creeks like this one (all of them un-named):
There was a fair amount of blowdown from the winter – we cleared a couple that we were able to on the way up, but decided to press on and get to the creek crossing so we could eat lunch. Here is the camp at the Dickey Creek crossing – our turnaournd point:
And the new log “bridge” at Dickey Creek crossing – this has come down very recently it appears.
After eating lunch we all sat and enjoyed the creek – each in their own way. I enjoyed the sounds of the river and the beautiful blue sky:
Kirk decided to cross on another log upstream and Ollie was having separation anxiety when Kirk was on the other side of the creek. Ollie ended up crossing over to the other side of the creek on the new log and then they both came back on the same log a few minutes later:
I recorded a short movie of Dickey Creek (you will hear Thor bark partway thru – he was tied up and not too happy about it):
After a while of enjoying the symphony of the babbling creek, we decided we should head back up. The intention was to clear up some of the blowdown we had come over on the way down. We only had loppers and a small handsaw, but we did a fair amount of trail maintenance. A couple of examples – Before
After – the larger log was too big to cut, and the lower one made a good step to get over the upper log so we left it
On the way back up we did clear quite a few downed trees (I lost track of how many). If they were too big to cut or move off the trail, we trimmed all the branches off to make them easier to get over or under. I’m guessing there are a half dozen or so trees left on the trail, but all were trimmed up. We definitely left the trail in a lot better shape than we found it!
On the way back up, we stopped again at one of the overlooks and I noticed how beautifully clear the water in Dickey Creek is:
And another random photo of Thor playing in one of the creek crossings – he really loves the water – and the snow:
Here is a photo of teeny tiny growth rings – this log was in the boggy area, and I remember having to step over it last time I was on this trail – it was really hard to get over – I was glad to see it had been cut:
Lastly, Robert captured this great photo of some really interesting fungus (I’m not sure where he saw this):
We made it thru all the blowdown, and then made the slow trek back up the steep section. We got back to the van around 5:30. Pretty tired, but pleased with a good day of hiking with good friends.
We stopped at Fearless for dinner – great way to cap off a great day!
Location of Hike: East Fork Quinault Trail
Weather during Hike: mostly cool and misty/rainy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Sarah
Hike Distance: 43.5 miles
This was my annual backpacking trip. Unfortunately, Carly was not able to join this year, so Kirk, Sarah and I went to explore the Enchanted Valley in the Olympic National Park. The trip took us up the long East Fork Quinault river valley.
This was the plan:
- Day 1 – Graves creek to O’Neil Creek – ~9 miles
- Day 2 – O’Neil creek to Enchanted Valley – ~ 6.5 miles
- Day 3 – Enchanted Valley to Honeymoon Meadows – ~6.5 miles
- Day 4 – Honeymoon Meadows to Pyrites creek – ~ 10 miles
- Day 5 – Pyrites creek to Graves creek then home – ~ 12 miles
Our itinerary changed a bit during the trip. More on that later.
The first thing I have to say about this trip is that it was absolutely the wettest backpacking I’ve ever done. Technically, it rained every day of the trip. The humidity was so high that it was almost impossible to dry anything out, even though we had a campfire on 2 of our nights. That was not terribly enjoyable, but being in a rain forest, it is to be expected.
Secondly, I found myself continually saying “wow” during this trip. The number of HUGE trees on this trip is incredible. Everywhere you look there were big trees and HUGE trees. Looking at those huge trees never got old.
Thirdly (and definitely not any less importantly), we got to see 2 bears – one up close and personal (20-25′ away), and a big herd of elk as well as a host of other small animals and birds. The wildlife on this trip was really cool.
Now, on to the details.
Day 1 – Graves creek to O’Neil Creek – 9.4 miles
Kirk picked me up about 7am for the long drive to the trailhead (about 4 1/2 hours according to google). We had kind of factored that into the plan so had a relatively short day planned. We had to go to the ranger station at Lake Quinault, register, and we got 3 bear canisters (required in the valley now – you can’t hang your food anymore). The ranger went over all sorts of rules, regulations and told us about the big washout about 7 miles up the trail. He also made kind of an odd comment – that we had “flexibility in our scheduling” – meaning we weren’t REQUIRED to camp in the places on our plan/permit. I just thought it was an odd comment since so many things can change when you are backpacking so your plans need to potentially adjust to the conditions. Maybe he was just assuring us that it was OK to deviate from what we had told them.
Anyway, we got all that done, paid our fees, loaded up our bear canisters and decided to have a “last supper” in civilization. There was a general store with a small cafe in it that sounded perfect. It was quite interesting – we had to wait a while until they cleaned the grill from breakfast – then it took a while to get our orders and finally our food. It was good – it was just kind of slow – they had a sign that say “we can’t promise fast food, but we can promise good food”. I think they lived up to that promise.
After our “last supper”, we headed back to the van and on to the trailhead. Last winter was really rough in this area, and it washed out the road about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead so we had to park on the road and hike up the road to the real trailhead. We knew about this beforehand, so had planned it into the schedule. We got packed up and headed up the road, making good time since it was pretty easy hiking. Shortly, we got to the real trailhead. We stopped there to use the bathroom (the last “real” bathroom we would have for the next 5 days), and then headed up the trail. The trail starts by crossing Graves creek on a nice bridge (which I didn’t get a picture of). It then continues up what appears to be an old road (it is REALLY wide).
Shortly, we saw an old water tank next to the trail which was obviously not being used anymore. We were thinking it might have been used for water at the Graves creek campground – there was something similar/newer in the parking lot of the trailhead.
A little farther up the trail we got to the junction with the Graves creek trail – a more primitive trail. There was also a really nice sign showing mileage to our various destinations we had planned:
A little farther up the trail we found a very old picnic table (probably used when this was still a road):
Continuing on, we got to our first Quinault River crossing – the “Pony bridge”:
We enjoyed the views from the bridge in this slot canyon and the proceed down the trail. It continues thru the rainforest and shortly crosses Fire Creek:
Shortly after Fire Creek we found the sign for the O’Neil Creek campsite – it is quite a bit below the trail right next to the river. We found a good spot and setup camp for our first night:
We explored the “jungle” that was this camp – it was nestled in a grove of mostly salmonberry and it was over our heads. They have carved a path thru it, but it is still pretty thick. We found the “bear wire” that was there for hanging food:
We made dinner, cleaned up and were all tired so we went to bed.
Day 2 – O’Neil creek to Enchanted Valley – 7 miles
After we went to bed on day 1 it started raining – Pretty much all night. Fortunately, it stopped by morning, but everything was wet by then. So we had to pack up wet tents. We headed back up to the trail and continued thru the magnificent old growth rain forest:
We knew the big washout was not far. We should have known we were in for trouble when we saw this flagging at the start of the re-route:
We were guessing the bone was to keep the flagging visible. It was kind of weird to see, though.
The re-route was really a user boot path thru the area. We had to cross a lot of pretty large downed logs:
Before finally crossing the river on a huge log to bypass the washout:
We then crossed another huge log a bit upstream to get back to the trail – the washout section was about 1/4 mile total. Winter was not kind to this section of trail. Fixing it will be a huge effort.
After successfully traversing the big washout, we continued down the trail, passing huge trees that had been previously cut, as well as some fresh ones:
We then successfully crossed no name creek (yes, that is really its name) and kept hiking thru these giant trees:
And more giant blowdown:
We then started into the beginning of the valley – it is a LONG valley:
And we came across another one of these side channel washouts (I’m not really sure what to call them). This one was kind of unique though, in that it had these big huge cedar trees below which were interesting. We weren’t sure if they were multiple trees that had grown together or if it was one tree that grew multiple stems. They were certainly massive though (as pretty much everything in this valley is).
the trail kind of flattened out and we hike a flat section for a while. We came to this “forest art” (as Sarah called it) – a HUGE cedar tree that had uprooted a long time ago – pretty cool:
And a little bit farther down the trail we found an old phone line insulator – this was not he only one we found, but it is the only one I took a photo of:
Continuing down the valley we found the spot where the trail crews had cut up logs for various projects:
And then this really strange “gate”:
That gate was kind of the beginning of the “real” valley – where the chalet was. Once thru that gate, the trail opened up quickly and we got our first glance at the chalet off in the distance. But before we could get to the chalet, we had to cross the river again – this time at a narrow section. They had this cool, kind of scary bridge to cross:
It was about 80-100′ long and 30-40′ above the river. It was kind of odd it only had one handrail given it was so high up. But we all successfully navigated the bridge and shortly arrived at the Chalet:
Since it was raining we decided to get some cover under the porch of the chalet and figure out where we wanted to camp that night – either in the valley or farther up (to make the trip to Honeymoon Meadows shorter). We scouted the sites around the meadow and found a good one under the trees – it had a fire pit and was pretty sheltered from the rain. Since it had been raining/misting most of the day, we decided that would be a great place to camp. We were hoping we could make a fire to maybe dry a few things out too. We also had firmed up our plans to stay here for 2 nights and just do a day hike up to Anderson Pass instead of trying to camp up at Honeymoon Meadows. That turned out to be a very good idea in retrospect. The going continued to get rougher and the weather continued to get worse.
Once we got camp setup (I did not take a photo of that campsite unfortunately), we started exploring the valley around the chalet a bit. Although it was foggy, you could see waterfalls coming down the west side of the canyon like this one (this was the most prominent one):
We also went up and explored the waterfall on the east side – above the chalet. It appears as though this used to be the source of water for the chalet, although the regular “gulley washers” have destroyed whatever dam or setup they had to capture the water. The line also got exposed part way down and is broken in two. The waterfall was very pretty though:
Before dinner I headed down the meadow a bit further and got a little better look at the lower portions of the waterfall:
As well as another above a snowfield:
Around dinner time, a ragged hiker arrived in camp and asked if he could borrow a pan to boil some water. Apparently he had forgotten to purchase a pan and had lots of dehydrated food which is of little value without boiling water. My jetboil really has to be used on my stove, but Kirk offered up his pan. The man was thankful and said he would eat and then was headed out. I’m not exactly sure what transpired, but he ate, walked around a bit and then setup his tent. He ended up spending the night. Apparently he hadn’t been feeling well, and he decided to stay in our camp for the night and get a good rest and head out in the morning.
After my brief explorations, we cooked dinner, started a fire and attempted to dry a few things out. We were semi-successful and ended up going to bed somewhat early.
Day 3 – Day hike to Anderson Pass and Siberia Camp – 10.6 miles
We got up about the same time (7:00), got breakfast ready, cleaned up and then headed out north up the valley thru the giants:
A bit farther up the trail was the high point of the trip for me. We stumbled upon a large herd of elk in a meadow below the trail:
The elk heard us and got up and started heading uphill out of the meadow. While that was happening, I heard rustling in the bushes beside us, and then I saw a black head. Shortly, he rose up to see what was going on – it was a BEAR – not 20 feet or so from us:
It was kind of scary and kind of exciting all at the same time. He didn’t seem interested in us in the least. Once he saw what was going on, he sat back down and continued to eat the huckleberries in front of him. Once the elk had exited the meadow, we moved down the trail, keeping watch behind us for the bear. He just kept on eating.
With that excitement behind us, just 3/4 mile or so from camp, we continued north. Looking up at the west canyon wall, there were more waterfalls – someone told us this place has the nickname of “valley of 10,000 waterfalls”. I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, but there certainly are a LOT of waterfalls here:
We also got just a hint of blue sky – Kirk got excited, but it was not to stay too long:
We continued on, the brief blue sky turning to mist and then turning to light rain. A bit farther along we got a good look at the carnage of the alluvial plain of the river:
This is a VERY active river, changing channels frequently.
When we got to the white creek crossing, we found the bridge had been tipped over – a temporary log had been put in place to cross, which was good because the creek was flowing fast:
And there was a beautiful waterfall both above:
And below the crossing – this waterfall was interesting because it made an almost 90 degree turn right before going over the edge. There was a rock face that turned the water – it is kind of hard to see in this photo, unfortunately:
We continued up the trail, gaining elevation as we went on our way to Anderson Pass. On a clear day, the views from this portion of the trail must be incredible. But today, we got lots of clouds:
We shortly cane to another one of the many side creek crossings, but this one was particularly interesting. When we got to it, it was flowing pretty well, with muddy brown water:
On the way back, it was barely a trickle:
We continued up the trail and got a pretty good view of the beginnings of the Quinault River – it flows from the lake below Anderson Glacier. you can see it about mid photo below:
We soon made it to Anderson Pass – thru the rain and wind:
We were tired and wet, but our friend back in camp had told us about an old shelter that was just over the pass. We thought if it wasn’t too far we would go explore it before turning around. We all decided that Honeymoon meadows and/or the Anderson Glacier was not in our future. They were just too far. We looked out over the valley and saw a meadow and then I glimpsed the shelter just down the hill. It was not too far, so we headed down to find it. On the way, we got this great view of Mount LaCrosse:
And then shortly to this old shelter which we were later informed was called “Camp Siberia”:
We stopped in the shelter for a bit to dry off and eat something and have a little water. The shelter has had some work done to it recently and there was more wood stacked outside, so it appears as though it will be getting more work done soon. It is amazing it is still standing – a cool artifact from a bygone era.
We knew we had over 5 miles to get back to camp and it was already after 2:00, so we headed back up the hill to Anderson Pass. On the way back I saw all these wildflowers that I had not noticed on the way down:
We got back up to Anderson pass and the small tarn/lake there:
We continued down the trail, back the way we came. Along the way, I saw this view of what I think is that beginning of the Quinault river. It is a different view coming down the trail than going up:
We continued down, making good time since it was mostly downhill. Getting closer to camp, we saw a couple of hikers and then saw a sign pointing to the largest recorded Western Hemlock. We followed a short trail down to the river and found it – it was certainly a very large hemlock:
After enjoying brief moment of sun in the river channel, we headed back to camp. On the way back, the same herd of elk we saw in the morning was in the meadow near our camp. We passed by them on the trail, although this time they did not move since they were off the trail a bit. They watched us intently as we passed by. They were pretty close – this is a shot from next to Sarah’s tent:
We made dinner, cleaned up and then made another fire – in the hope we could dry things out a bit. It seemed like we were having some success, but alas things got wet again so easily.
After dinner, I noticed the cool cliffs behind the chalet:
We enjoyed the warmth and dryness of the fire. Probably around 8:30 or 9, Kirk saw a bear out in the meadow lumbering around. It was too dark to get a picture, but I’m thinking it was probably the same one we had seen earlier. He just kind of wandered around sniffing things until he wandered off into the woods below the waterfall. We stayed up and enjoyed the fire until around 10 and then went to bed.
Day 4 – Enchanted Valley to no name camp near Pony bridge – 9.8 miles
Day 4 was a relatively uneventful day. The goal was to get back so we could have a shorter day on the last day so it wouldn’t be so long of a day (with the 4+ hour drive home). We were thinking of trying to get to the campsites at Pony Bridge, but we would see how things went. I woke up with a huge blister on my big toe of my left foot. Having my feet wet all day long was making it hard on them. Kirk had a safety pin, so I sterilized it and then popped it and bandaged it up as best I could. I was hoping it would do OK.
We made breakfast, cleaned up and then packed up camp, getting on the trail around 9. We got back to the “scary bridge” and noticed it had a Columbia Helicopters sticker on it, so we assumed they were the ones who flew it in. It was definitely quite a job to install this beast:
We went over the bridge, and headed back down the valley, getting our last glimpse of the chalet:
We continued thru the weird horse gate and down the trail. Although this was supposed to be mostly downhill, due to the river and the terrain, this trail has a lot of ups and downs in it. A ways down the trail we found a great bear print in the mud (notice how wet my boots are!):
It didn’t look like a huge bear, but it was cool to see.
As we went down the trail, we met hikers. As we got closer to Pony Bridge, we met a couple of guys who weren’t sure there was any room at Pony Bridge (that is where they were camped). My feet were bothering me and slowing me down as well. Kirk had been looking for an “unofficial” campsite next to the river. He noticed a side trail at one point with no obvious campsite, but headed down there to investigate. It was a ways off the trail, but he found what we think was a camp that the trail crews use. We found stuff stashed behind big logs, including 4 big aluminum bear boxes (we were guessing they must have brought them in via horse or mule at some point). It was a great campsite right on the river with a good access point for water. Even better, we had it all to ourselves! We stopped, setup camp and then it started raining – harder than it had been. There was a relatively dry spot under the tree where the campsite was. You can see a kind of dry spot where Kirk is sitting:
Soon, the dry spot was getting dripped on. We were thinking about doing a fire, but since the fire wasn’t protected like the last campsite we had, and it was raining harder, we decided not to. It was too bad too, because Kirk had carried a couple of pieces of pitchy wood a couple of miles in anticipation of a fire.
I made the following short video – you can hear the rain (you can’t really see it):
We made dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed early because of the rain.
Day 5 – Noname camp to Graves creek then home – 6.5 miles
We awoke to a foreign sight on the morning of Day 5 (Sunday morning) – Sunshine! Real sunshine! It was the first real sunshine we had the entire trip. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach the camp to dry our tents before we had to leave. But it lifted our spirits. I think we were all tired of being wet and stinky and were ready for a good lunch, followed by a warm, dry ride in a comfortable seat and then a hot shower and sleeping in our own beds again.
We made breakfast, cleaned up and then packed up camp. We got going a bit earlier than previous days and then headed back to the trail. Right where our side trail met the main trail, we met two guys on their way in. We chatted a bit and found out that one of them was the guy who moved the chalet in 2014! He was a driving force behind getting it saved from destruction. They were headed in to check it out. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting for a few minutes, we said goodbye and headed down the trail. Nothing much exciting happened – I think we were all focused on getting home. But a bit down the trail, we encountered 6 happy guys. One of them touched each of us on the shoulder and said something like “have a great day, man”. They were all very happy and smiling – it was a bit weird, and I wondered if they might have had some “assistance” getting happy, but they were harmless. Just kind of an interesting sight along the trail.
Nothing much else happened along the way – we just pounded out the miles. I stopped and got a photo of the Graves creek Ranger station, which is probably no longer being used due to the road being washed out, but is a cool old building:
We continued down the road, and shortly before the washout, came to this neat roadside waterfall:
We made it back to the van about 11:45. We quickly loaded up and headed out. Our goal was to drop off our bear canisters, get cleaned up a bit (Sarah and I had clean clothes in the van) and then head up to a pizza place up the road for lunch. Then head home.
The pizza tasted really good! And it was nice to sit on a seat that wasn’t hard plastic (my bear canister). We made it home by about 5:30, so it wasn’t a late night like we originally thought it would be.
This trip was another difficult trip – for many reasons, but it has to be one of my top trips due to the elk and bear sightings – plus the natural beauty that is everywhere on this trail.
Location of Hike: Lower Milepost 3 Trail and Oak Grove Work Center
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Don, Brian, Elizabeth, Jane
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 1.3 miles
The agenda for this day was to do two things:
1- Explore below the 4635 road where the MP3 trailhead is, to try and find the trail down to Oak Grove
2 – Meet some of Rondy’s family at Oak Grove to get a tour of the buildings and hear about what it was like to live there 50 years ago.
We parked on car at Oak Grove and then drove up to the MP3 trailhead to start our explorations – we fanned out in the woods, and it bout 15 minutes, Kirk had found a phone line insulator:
Unfortunately, that was the only one we found, but at least it showed us where the tread was. Once we found that we worked back and forth from that point, flagging and doing some lopping ot make the route more apparent. Much of the route was overgrown with vine maple. Here is one section of tread (it looked much better in person):
We continued down the trail, flagging as we went until we got to a newer cut area where it kind of disappeared. We ended up finding the spur road that shows on the map – we had thought that maybe the spur road took out the trail since it headed in exactly the right direction. We followed it down until we were pretty much due north of Oak Grove and we saw a “corridor” thru the woods – we headed down that way, wondering if we might find some tread. On the way, we found these bird bones and Skull (kind of a weird find):
We ended up finding what seemed like tread in this area and it led down to 4630. We were running out of time, so we will have to come back and scope out the 3 areas that were kind of fuzzy – right below the road – the section before the spur road (180 spur) and then the last section above 4630.
We made it down to the Oak Grove work center and ate lunch. Shortly after we were done, Elizabeth came walking down the road, followed shortly by her husband and mom. A few minutes later, Brian came and joined us. We chatted for a bit and did introductions and then started looking at all the old buildings. We had viewed them over a year ago, but really didn’t have any context for any of the buildings. We had made guesses (and some of them were correct), but now we know what each building was for, and also the location of a couple of other buildings that are no longer there:
Unfortunately, there has been even more vandalism – now there is graffiti in at least a couple of the buildings. In Rondy’s old house, the chimney has been “tagged” and in the warehouse building, the walls are completely covered in graffiti now. It is very sad what is becoming of this place – it holds such history.
I thought I had photos of all the houses and buildings from our prior trip, but I only took a couple of photos – I will have to take more photos at some other time to preserve what is left of these buildings.
We also found out that the the meadow to the east was where the horses and mules grazed while they were there. They were taken somewhere lower in the winter, but spring, summer and fall they were there. Actually, most of the summer they were probably out on the trail, supplying the lookouts. In addition, we identified which of the 2 shop buildings was the sign shop (where all the cool signs were made) and which was just a shop.
After touring all the buildings, we drove back up the road to locate the location of the old Collawash Ranger Station. It was where I kind of thought it was – pretty much at the junction of the 4630 and 4631 roads – there is an open area in the woods where people now camp – that is where it used to be – just west of Silvertip (which used to be a logging camp). Once the Rippplebrook Ranger station was built, the Oak Grove and Collawash Ranger stations were combined in Ripplebrook and both of the others closed. At some point both buildings were destroyed.
After locating that, we went back to our car and drove back up to get the Van and come home. A stop at Fearless made for a great end to a great day out in the woods with great people.
A couple of closing photos:
Wintertime view of Oak Grove looking east (from 1959):
Lastly the beautiful view from Oak Grove – looking east (taken today):
Location of Hike: South Fork Clackamas River - Old Waterworks
Weather during Hike: overcast, rainy and some sun
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Zack
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 4.75 miles
Photos will be coming soon.
This trip was to explore some of the burned areas up road 45 that were burned as part of the 36 pit fire a couple of years ago. The road has not re-opened, so we walked across the bridge and walked up the road. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to look for on this trip – one option was to explore portions of the old abandoned Memaloose trail, which still existed above (and below) road 45 before the fire.
We crossed the Memaloose bridge and headed up the road, looking at the fire damage on the hillside above the road. We also noticed that all the culverts on the road had been replaced. A new benchmark at the BLM property boundary appears to have been installed as well. I looked for the place where the Memaloose trail took off above the road, however nothing looked familiar to me – I had only been on it one time. We ended up walking up to the old borrow pit and looking around for trail there. We think Kirk found some trail on the ridge at the back side of the borrow pit.
Since we were not having much luck with that trail, we decided to go down and explore the old waterworks. We hadn’t been there in several years and wanted to see what things looked like after the fire. So, we headed across the road, down the old decommissioned road to the “trailhead” – and down the hill to Memaloose creek.
The route has been well traveled since we were last there, and someone has tied ropes down the steep traverse down to Memaloose creek. There are also some new slides which have made things a bit more challenging, but still not too bad. We opted not to go down to see Memaloose falls, and continued down the old road to the bridge at the confluence of Memaloose and the South Fork. It is amazing how much more you can see now that things have burned out. Zack noticed some very interesting rock formations on the east side of the South Fork at the confluence. You could never see things like that before. We also noticed a very long rock retaining wall at the confluence – where all the valves were – we had seen teh valves before, but never the extent of this rock wall – Kirk thinks there might have been some sort of shed roof over it at some point.
We continued up river to the big tunnels and the tall falls. Now that a lot of brush has been cleared, you can get a good look at the falls from various locations – before the only way to see the whole falls was to go down to river level. We got to the “bridge of death” and made our way around the bypass “trail” and then headed up thru the long tunnels. We popped out up on top – there wasn’t as much burn damage up there as I would have thought, though. It had started raining, and it was a good point for lunch, so we went back into the tunnel to eat lunch.
After eating lunch, we headed back down river. As we headed down, the sun actually came out! It was nice for the rain to stop – the sun felt good.
The fireline appears to have been right on that old road most of the way – above the road it was burned, but below it was mostly unburned – there were some big trees downhill from the road that were untouched. We made it back to the area of all the buildings and started looking for the old stove that I had seen someone post. Zack found it – it appears to have been essentially a dump site for this little encampment. There were a couple of old lawn mowers, the old cookstove, a couple of old doors from old cars (model A’s?) and just a bunch of junk. After looking at that for a bit, we headed over to the South Fork to see if we could find a tree to cross on – otherwise we would be heading back the way we came. Fortunately for us, there was a relatively new cedar tree that had come down over the river – Zack shimmied across and cut off the branches on the top so it was a relatively easy way to cross the river. We made it over to the east side and then started looking for the Memaloose trail that headed back up to the 45 road. Shortly we found some flagging and found the tread – still rather faint, but followable. This hillside was burned pretty heavily and there will be a LOT of snags coming down in the future years. As we made our way up the hill, you could see new brush growing in the tread. This area is very open now, so it getting lots of sunlight.
We made it back up to the road, and then headed back down to the truck. A great day in the woods with a couple of good friends. We stopped at Fearless for dinner and met up with some other friends.
Location of Hike: Fanton Trail
Trail Number: 505
Weather during Hike: Sunny, cold and windy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah, Daniel, Emily
Start Time: 11:20 AM End Time: 4:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.6 miles
Most of the “regular” (higher elevation) trails would be out, since they would be under snow. After much discussion, we decided to try and hike the Fanton trail. We weren’t sure if we could get all the way to the lower trailhead, but we thought the road got plowed to within a couple of miles of the trailhead, so worst case, we could drive to that point and then hike in. Well, it was quite a bit different than we had planned…..The road was clear up to the snowplow turnaround, so we kept going – it went up a hill that was VERY icy, so we put on chains and kept going for a bit. Kirk’s van was having a bit of trouble with the packed snow, so we parked it and piled everyone into the bed of my truck and headed up. What was amazing was how many people were up there – this road gets a LOT of traffic in the winter.
We easily made it to the 4614/4613 junction and I’m sure could have made it to the lower trailhead, but we decided to head up the 4614 road a bit farther to see how far we could go – maybe we could make it all the way up to Squaw Mountain? That would be kind of a neat day! We continued up the road, which got increasingly deep with snow. We finally found an old decommissioned side spur – the trail went right next to it. It was about 2 miles from the junction with 4613. That seemed like the perfect place to park and start our hike. We bundled up, put on our snowshoes and headed out.
Amazingly, the trail was pretty easy to follow, even with the 2-4′ of snow on the ground. We lost it in a couple of places, but for the most part, it was obvious where it went.
We headed east on the trail, and shortly came to the first Landing:
The view looking south from the first landing – it was a winter wonderland!
And here is a photo of most of our intrepid crew (Sarah was adjusting her snowshoes):
We enjoyed the view from the landing and then continued east on the trail. Here is a picture of our broken trail in this clearcut below the landing:
We continued down the trail, alternating people to take the lead – since breaking trail in this snow – even with snowshoes is REALLY hard work. A little while down the trail, we came across this broken snag that is going to fall fall really soon – it was cracking, creaking and groaning when the wind blew:
I thought it might come down by the time we returned, but it must be stuck up high pretty good, as it was still there on the return trip.
We continued down the trail until we got to the next trail access – on an old gated spur off of 4614. There was a nice sunny spot that didn’t seem too windy, so this is where we had lunch:
The only vehicle that had been up 4614 that far was a snowmobile – I’m glad we stopped where we did. We definitely could not have made it this far on the road.
After lunch, we continued east to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The snow continued to get deeper and more powdery:
I was expecting to see a trail junction with the Old Baldy trail, however we just kept paralleling the ridge. At some point, I realized we must have joined the Old Baldy trail. On the way back down, we found the Trail junction:
It was not apparent due to the snow and the fact it was a Y junction, not a T junction.
It was about at this point we realized we would not have enough time to get up to Squaw/Tumala Mountain. It was getting late, and we wanted to get down off the hill, out of the snow before dark. So, we headed uphill to find a viewpoint so we could see Mt Hood and the mountains north of us. We finally found a few spots where you could glimpse views of the mountains – it was BEAUTIFUL (although rather chilly with the wind).
View of Mt Hood from above Old Baldy Trail:
View of Mt Adams from a slightly different viewpoint above Old Baldy Trail:
After enjoying the views for a bit, we headed back down the the trail to start the trek back to the truck. It was almost 2:30 so we needed to make good time back to the truck – it had taken us 3 hours to get here. We were hoping the trip back would be considerably faster since it was mostly downhill, and the trail had already been broken, so it should be faster and easier.
A couple of interesting points on the way back. There was this REALLY deep canyon of snow on the trail – probably close to 4′ deep – I’m thinking that water came down thru here to melt the snow – there was a small little creek/spring crossing the trail:
And a bit farther down the trail, there was this beautiful un-named creek that was partially frozen:
We did make really good time on the way back down, and got to the truck a little after 4:00, but it was already starting to get dark. We quickly took off our snowshoes and piled back into the truck for the trip back down. We had a little bit of excitement on the way back down – we met 3 trucks on the road – it wasn’t really wide enough for 2 rigs to pass each other, and one of them got stuck – the other 2 backed down and he had a winch, so would be able to get himself out easily. We wound our way back down the hill slowly.
Once we got down out of the really deep snow, we started encountering LOTS of vehicles – this area must be party central at night. Trucks, SUVs, ATVs were all up there around fire pits, and more were coming up. We must have met at least 20 vehicles on the way down.
Once out of the snow and ice, we stopped to take off our chains and then headed back down the hill and out to Estacada for a well deserved post hike dinner at Fearless.
Truly a “bluebird” day in the mountains – traversing lots of untouched snow with beautiful views.
Location of Hike: Devils Dome Loop - Psayten Wilderness - Washington
Weather during Hike: Sunny that turned into cloudy and cooler
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Carly
Hike Distance: 41 miles - 33 miles by foot, 8 miles by water taxi (boat)
So, the plan for the trip was to go pick up Carly in Chelan (she was working on Stehekin all summer) off the ferry on Thursday, camp somewhere near the trailhead, and then head out early on Friday for our 4 day adventure. Due to the length of the trip, we opted to take the water taxi to cut off about 8 or 9 miles off the loop – from all the reports I saw, we didn’t miss too much – no real views, just kind of hiking around the lake and then over Hidden Hand Pass, which didn’t sound all that scenic. Night 1 was to camp at Devils Park (with a shelter), night 2 at Devils Pass, night 3 at Devils Creek/Junction along Ross Lake and then on day 4 take the water taxi around and then complete the loop and then drive home (a very long drive). This area is almost to Canada – we were less than 10 miles from the Canadian border (the top of Ross Lake is in Canada)!
We were a few minutes late picking Carly up from the ferry (a small miscalculation in how long it would take to get there), but we ended up only being about 10 minutes late – my luck was that the ferry was right on time! Anyway, we picked her up, went into Chelan, had dinner, got gas and then went out to find our campground for the night. Originally, I wanted to camp at Loup Loup campground, but we found out that it was closed due to the fires. We ended up staying at JR campground which was nearby – it was starting to get dark and we just wanted a place to sleep for the night.
One interesting thing that happened – we were setting up camp, and not one, but THREE rangers came into the campground – they had reports of a “huge bonfire”. They asked us if we saw anything and we had not – turns out it was probably a white gas stove that had gotten a bit out of control when it was starting up – someone saw that and reported it. While the rangers were there I asked for a good breakfast place for Friday morning and also about the permits I was told we needed at Ross Lake – there was a ranger station in Winthrop. He told me about a great breakfast place a “combination restaurant and sewing place”. It sounded interesting, so we decided to try it – if we could find it.
The following morning, we packed up camp and tried the rangers suggestion – probably wouldn’t have stopped there had he not said anything, but the breakfast was really good – the sewing stuff was quilting supplies. After breakfast, we headed down to the ranger station for our permit, which I understood to be similar to the wilderness permits – you basically fill out the tag and go. This took quite a bit longer than that. It took over a half hour to get all the correct info and get the permit. Once that was done, we headed down highway 20 to the Canyon Creek trailhead to start our adventure – a little later than we had planned.
We got there about 10:30 and headed out shortly after. Here is Carly hamming it up for the camera in the parking lot:
Shortly after starting, we got to the bridge across Granite Creek:
And a little farther, this old cabin on Canyon creek:
We then headed up the unrelenting switchbacks to gain the 4000 feet of elevation we needed to gain to get to McMillan Park. Most of the day was just grunting up the hill, stopping for rest breaks and stopping to fill up our water bottles. Part way up the hill, out of nowhere, I got stung by a bee on my arm! That was kind of a bummer, but fortunately, that was the only sting of the trip.
Shortly before one of the creek crossings, we ran across the first of our “mountain chickens” (grouse). There were actually 2, however one was down off the trail. When Carly came thru, they were both on the trail. I “chased” this guy down the trail aways before he finally jumped off the trail.
After what seemed like an eternity of hiking up, we finally arrived in McMillan Park and had completed the majority of our elevation gain for the day. There were beautiful fall colors on display in McMillan Park:
We continued thru McMillan Park and ascended our final elevation gain until we reached the shelter at Devils Park:
This is where we camped on night 1. The shelter is in reasonably good shape for something that is close to 80 years old. It is missing some of its roof shingles, but still seems pretty much intact. Although there were annoying bugs (gnats, flies and the occasional bee), interestingly enough they didn’t appear to like to go into the shelter. We couldn’t figure out why, but it was nice to be able to get away from them in the shelter – it also had nice benches for sitting.
The evening of day 1 was uneventful – cook dinner, clean up, hang our food and then we went to bed. A couple of interesting things happened overnight. First, I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night – I unzipped the tent and heard a flurry of thumps – I had startled some large hooved animal that was probably grazing in the meadow. I never got a look at it, but from the noise it made, I’m guessing it must have been an Elk (or maybe 2). It sounded too big to be a deer. We found lots of signs of elk in the meadow.
The second thing was Carly wanted me to wake her up to take night sky photos – we set an alarm for 1:00am and it went off but I couldn’t wake her up. Oddly enough, she woke up herself around 3:00am and took some cool photos of the night sky:
We woke up on day 2, cooked breakfast, packed up and headed down the trail. The trail continues thru the meadows, and then starts another long ascent up the south end of Jackita ridge. Today was the day the big views really started. Crater Mountain and Jack Mountain would be our almost constant companions for the next 2 days:
Needless to say, Carly was well ahead of us almost the entire trip – she had spent all summer in Stehekin doing hikes and backpacking trips, so she was in pretty good shape – plus she was 30 years younger than us! We continued north on the trail, and we got to a ridge where we found Carly’s backpack and a side trail that went up to the top of an un-named peak along Jackita ridge. We saw Carly at the top of the peak:
We waited for her to come down and then continued down these horrible switchbacks – sometimes heading almost straight down the hill:
We finally got down these switchbacks safely, and continued our descent – this was the theme of this trail – almost always going up or down – very few level stretches, and a lot of the up and down was not well graded – it went straight up or straight down. We stopped for lunch near an un-named creek (maybe the South Fork Devils Creek?) and then continued ascending to a ridge, which then plunged down to the North Fork of Devils creek. We followed this creek up the hillside, heading east until we got to our “final” elevation where the trail headed pretty much north. There was a neat waterfall and campsite near the top of the creek:
The trail from here pretty much kept to the same elevation and was very pleasant walking, although we were very tired after 2 days of aggressive elevation gain (in 2 days, we had done about 15 miles of trail and 7300 feet of elevation gain – all with full packs).
A short descent put us at Devils pass:
And once there, we saw more “mountain chickens” (grouse):
And a cool old sign – this sign must be REALLY old – it appears as though the post has rotted away:
We setup camp and headed down to the spring shown on the map – we were a bit worried it would be dry since we were late in the season and it has been such a dry year. I filled up with extra water at the last opportunity just in case we didn’t find any. Kirk was able to coax a bit of water out of the spring, even though it was flowing slowly. I had enough water from the last fillup, so didn’t try to use the spring. One thing we didn’t find was the “pipe” out of the spring that I had seen mentioned. Maybe it was on the upper trail or something, but we never found it.
After we got home, I found out that if we had followed this water trail to the end, we would have found the old, now collapsed Devils Pass Shelter. We only followed the trail to the spring. We thought the Devils Pass shelter would have been at the pass. Oh well….I don’t think we missed much.
We cooked dinner, hung our food and caught the sunset and some Alpenglow from the pass:
Alpenglow – not sure what peak this is – maybe one of the un-named peaks northeast of Devils Pass:
Sunset from Devils Pass:
We went to bed early again (with the sun) – tired from another day of hard hiking.
We woke up on day 3 to clouds – we weren’t sure if we were going to get rain or not, but we would make the best of whatever Mother Nature threw at us. Kirk had gotten up early and climbed the ridge that was northwest of the pass – this was him coming down – he said the views weren’t great due to the clouds:
We cooked breakfast, cleaned up and broke down camp. We tried to get a little bit of an earlier start since we had a longer day ahead of us (~12 miles). By the end of the day we would be down at Ross Lake.
We headed down the trail, and shortly saw this tree that looks like a bear had been scratching on:
As we continued along the trail, we were a bit concerned due to the threatening clouds:
But we continued – we were prepared for whatever happened. The trail in this part was pretty well graded for the most part. This one section was particularly interesting, following a bowl around with a very nice grade – made for easy walking:
The trail continued until we could start to see the beginnings of Devils Dome, the highest point on our trip. At this point, the wind had picked up and was intermittently chilly:
But we were getting some more fantastic views – looking North up the Middle Creek drainage:
And the seemingly never ending “up” of these trails:
Until we finally got to Devils Dome – just shy of 7000′ (6982′) – Carly on top of Devil’s dome (near the campsite):
When reading trip reports, some people found this area to be the high point of their trip – It wasn’t for me – I was just COLD – it was very windy up there. For me, it was interesting, but not a high point of the trip. Maybe if the weather had been less severe up there it would have changed my mind. I know some people camp up there due to the great views. It is VERY exposed, so it would be prone to being very windy. Not my preferred spot for a campsite.
After crossing Devils Dome, we started our long (5000′) descent to Ross Lake and got ready to say goodbye to Crater and Jack Mountain.
At one point while heading down, Kirk noticed an ice cave on Jack Mountain (zoomed in):
And shortly, we came to my favorite viewpoint of the trip – this rocky outcropping:
Unfortunately, none of the photos capture the dramatic view on this outcropping – it drops very precipitously down to Devils creek and then Jack Mountain is right there. Incredible views:
We stayed there for a few minutes, resting and grabbing a snack, enjoying the view. From there, we continued down the trail and decided to take a short side trip to the Bear Skull shelter where we had lunch:
We ate lunch, explored the area a bit, filled up our water in the small creek and then headed back to the trail to continue our descent to Ross Lake. On the way, we got our first peek at Ross Lake:
It was shortly after this point that we started our heavy descent, and had to say goodbye to Crater and Jack Mountain – we would be entering the trees and would not seem them again, except for a few glimpses here and there.
On the way down the narrow, steep, brushy trail, we found an interesting artifact – a tree with a very old mile marker plate on it, and also with old telephone wire on it:
This meant we had around 3 miles to go to Ross Lake – our destination for the night. I’m not sure the 3 miles was to the point where we were camping, but it was still an interesting artifact. We were eager to jump in the lake to wash the “funk” off (that was a term another trip report used, and was pretty accurate).
We finally made it to the hikers camp above Ross Lake – the signage was somewhat confusing, but we finally figured it out. We got there around 3:30, setup camp and then Kirk and I went down to the lake (a half mile hike) to jump in and get cleaned up a bit. It was pretty chilly, but it felt REALLY good to wash all the “funk” off and feel somewhat clean. We had been sweating a LOT – my shirts even had salt stains on them when they dried!!! After Kirk and I cleaned up, Carly went down to clean up.
Ross lake is a beautiful lake – smaller than Lake Chelan, but still very large – about 20 miles long:
This was the view from our camp above the lake:
While we were at the boaters camp (right on the lake where the dock was where we would get picked up the following morning), I looked around the campsites – I ended up finding an iPhone 6! After we got home, I was able to reunite it with its owner – surprisingly enough, he lived in Portland! Small world!
Sunday night was pretty uneventful – cooking dinner, enjoying the views of the lake, cleaning up and hanging our food. After dinner, Kirk decided to take a jaunt down the lakeside trail to see where that trail crossed Devils Creek – it is a cool suspension bridge (this photo was taken on the boat ride the following morning):
Carly and I went to bed with the sun again (although it was probably a little earlier due to the clouds making it get dark sooner). Kirk got back to camp a little after dark. I wanted to go with him, but my feet were really tired and needed a rest for our final day of hiking.
The plan for day 4 was to get up early, eat breakfast and be down at the dock by 8:45 since our ride was supposed to be there at 9:00. We wanted to be a little early just in case they were early. We were going to leave camp at about 8:30 to give us time to get down there – but at about 8:15 we heard a boat coming up the lake – I had already packed up, so I raced down the trail to the campsite – Carly and Kirk finished packing up and joined me a few minutes later. Fortunately, that boat was not our boat, but our boat did end up being early, so it was good I went down when I did. We got on the boat about 8:45 and he took us down to Ruby Arm, which has a trail that meets up with the lakeshore trail and heads along Ruby creek back to the trailhead where we started our adventure.
Some photos of the boat trip:
One of the fires from this summer is still smoldering a bit up the hillside:
Once we got off the boat, we made the ascent back up to the trail. At this point, it looked like a road it was so wide:
After seeing artifacts along the trail, we figured this portion of the trail must have been an old road. We found culverts, old telephone wire and other artifacts, and the corridor just looked like it used to be a road. This portion of the trip was pretty uneventful – not a whole lot to see other than Ruby creek, which was very pretty. We got to the midway point where there is a bridge over Ruby creek that connects to highway 20:
From this point on, the trail kind of disintegrated into a narrow, brushy trail that was difficult to follow in spots. We all successfully negotiated this part of the trail and soon came to our last thing to see on this trip – Beebe’s cabin – this was the Granite Creek guard station for over 30 years according to a plaque nearby, although it has now completely collapsed:
Shortly after this building, you get to the bridge across Canyon Creek, meeting the trail we started out on 4 days ago, and then shortly thereafter you get to the Granite creek bridge and then to the car.
We were all relieved to make it back to the car in one piece – tired and sore, but otherwise unharmed.
We all had a change of clothes for the trip home, so we cleaned up a bit, then headed back to Winthrop for some real lunch and then the long drive home.
Winthrop, Washington (highway 20 goes right thru it) is a very interesting place – the main street (actually the whole town) is built to look like an old west town:
If it weren’t so far away, I’d love to come back here and poke around more.
We ate lunch at a local restaurant and then started the long trip home. We stopped in Yakima for gas and dinner and then continued home. To put one final “adventure” on the trip, just outside of Hood River, the front tire on the passenger side started making a weird noise – we stopped at a rest area to take a look and the inner part of the tire failed and we had to put the donut spare on. Fortunately it happened relatively close to home. I had to drive slower on the way home, but we made it home safely – about 11:30pm – a very long day.
This trip was incredible – awesome views and scenery – but it was probably the toughest backpack trip I’ve ever done.
One last thing – we saw almost no one the whole trip – we saw one person on the first day, no one on the second day, and 4 people (2 up the trail from Ross Lake, and 2 people at Ross lake – horse campers). That was it. Probably due to being late in the season, but it made for a true wilderness experience.
A truly memorable backpacking experience.
Location of Hike: South Sister Summit Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Sarah and Daniel
Hike Distance: 13.1 miles
We ended up leaving quite a bit later than we planned – something like 2:30pm. That put us at the trailhead around 6:30-6:45. The days are getting shorter now, so we were kind of racing the sun to get to the lake before it got dark.
Our view of Broken Top on the way into Moraine Lake:
We barely made it to Moraine lake before it got dark, but then we had to find the “posts” where the designated campsites are. Fortunately, Kirk had been here before and had some idea where they were. After a bit of searching, he found one, and we setup camp in the dark, followed by cooking dinner in the dark. We then went to bed – the goal was to start off relatively early to beat the crowds. I have to say, it was kind of a strange experience wandering around in the dark woods looking for a post.
We got up (mostly) with the sun, ate breakfast and broke down our camp. We hiked over to meet the climbers trail and stashed our packs in the trees for the day. We then headed up the 5+ miles to the top of South Sister.
Here is a view of Moraine Lake with our objective (South Sister) in the background:
The trail at the start is like small road – nothing like I’m used to hiking – and South Sister is always in view to the north:
We made our way up – the trail isn’t too steep at this point, although the air continues to get thinner and the soil is pretty loose in places. After a couple of hours, and a few rest stops, we made it to this lake below the Lewis glacier:
Kirk filled up with some water, we rested a bit and then started the hardest part of the climb. You can see the route in the picture above – we go to the left on the ridge and work our way up. It seems like it continues to get steeper. And there were a lot of people on the mountain this day:
Most of the way up, we got a good view of this interesting formation – not sure what it is, but I found it very intriguing:
After numerous rest breaks, we finally made it to the crater rim where we had lunch – a view from the crater rim:
This was where all the hard work made it all worth it. The views were spectacular:
The snow in the crater at the top – looking across to the true summit:
The best view from below the true summit – looking north to Middle and North Sister, 3 Finger Jack, Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood in the distance.
We mostly walked around the crater rim, although we bypassed the jagged SW part and ended up walking thru the crater. This is where the Teardrop pool would be most years – I guess the lack of snow this year dried it up.
After exploring around the top of the mountain for a while, we started our way back down, which was almost as hard as going up since the ground is so loose. You have to watch your footing going down. We made pretty good time down the hill, stopping a few times to rest and drink some water. We found our packs we had stashed in the trees and got back to the van about 5:30. We stopped in Bend for dinner and then headed home.
It was a quick trip but a really good one – interesting. Now I can say I have climbed a “glaciated peak” – I guess I can join the Mazamas!
Location of Hike: MP3 and Rimrock Trails
Trail Number: 704 and 705
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Emily, Carly and Zack
Start Time: 10:25 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 7.75 miles
Kirk had asked if I wanted to go hiking too, and when his daughter heard my daughter was going, she wanted to go too! So, it was 4 of us. Then, Zack texted me in the morning asking about some other trail, and I told him where we were going and said he was welcome to join us if he wanted. We weren’t sure if he would be coming or not. It turned out to be quite a party!
We headed out about 9am and make good time to the trailhead. Took us a few minutes to find the MP3 trailhead (it isn’t marked), and then we went on our way. On the way up, we did quite a bit of lopping in some of the tougher sections. Even though the MP3 trail is abandoned, it is in pretty good shape. In its heyday, I think the trail got a lot of use from pack trains coming from Oak Grove Ranger Station down below.
On the way up, Kirk noticed a big tree – kind of behind another big tree – a REALLY big tree:
And a little further up the trail, we ran across this reminder of prior maintenance on the MP3 trail – probably the last time it had any significant maintenance:
As we were doing some lopping, Zack came up the trail and joined us. It was a great surprise! After chatting, we continued up the trail, clearing brushy areas and navigating around the few pieces of blowdown. Once we got close to the junction with the Rimrock trail, we ran into the somewhat messy area – there is a fair amount of blowdown near the junction. We stopped and had lunch at the junction and then proceeded up the Rimrock trail to the overlook junction. The Rimrock trail had quite a lot of blowdown on it:
And right next to the trail, we came across this rack from a deer – looks like it has been out here for a while – quite green and gnawed on:
We were very surprised at how little snow there was. This was the most snow we ran across the whole trip – at the most there was maybe 12″ of snow on the ground – but you can see other spots were completely bare:
We continued going up, and soon got to the overlook area where there was still almost no snow – the overlook is just over 5000′. It is shocking that there is essentially no snow at 5000′ on the last day of January. We headed out to the point, where you get great views in almost all directions – this is looking south at Mt Jefferson:
We stayed up on the point for a while, enjoying the wonderful views and taking pictures. Since it was starting to get late, and we wanted to make one more stop before it got dark, we decided to head down the hill. We made GREAT time coming down, and got back to the vehicles about 4:30 – just enough time to stop at the old Oak Grove Work Center to look at some of the old houses and buildings. This was the precursor to the Ripplebrook complex and it is where the MP3 trail actually started (not sure if it is still accessible down lower or not). It has a few houses, a shop, a bunk house and other miscellaneous buildings and a big old barn. The barn was getting a new metal roof, so they must be planning on doing something with it. Here is a picture of one of the houses:
Although the houses have been heavily vandalized and have a LOT of mouse/squirrel/rodent activity in them, they have some really neat architectural details inside. Here is a view of a really neat fireplace in one of the houses:
We walked around to the various buildings and then made our way up to the old barn. By this time it was starting to get dark, so we headed back to the vehicles and home. We stopped at Fearless for dinner. A great way to end a great day of hiking!
Location of Hike: Enchantments Backpack Trip
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm - blue skies all week!
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Emily and Sarah
Hike Distance: 20 miles
Once we had our permit secured, we then needed to plan our adventure. We were going to have two novice backpackers, and none of us are in outstanding shape, so we had to plan accordingly. We wanted to plan short enough days that were realistic in order to make sure we were able to complete the loop. The entire loop is about 18-19 miles, with LOTS of elevation gain and loss. Actually, doing it counter-clockwise like we did we ended up losing more elevation than we gained (the hike was a shuttle with the starting trailhead about 2000′ higher than the ending trailhead).
The plan was this:
- Day 1 – Stuart Creek trailhead to Colchuck lake – ~5 miles and > 2000′ of elevation
- Day 2 – Colchuck Lake to Leprechaun lake – ~5 miles and 2200′ of elevation (all of it in less than a mile – Aasgard pass)/li>
- Day 3 – Before packing up, backtrack to Prusik pass and out to Shield, Earle and Mesa Lakes, then pack up and head to Upper Snow Lake – ~6.5 miles and a loss of about 1500′ of elevation/li>
- Day 4 – Upper Snow Lake to Snow Creek Trailhead – ~6.5 miles and a loss of about 4000′ of elevation/li>
We deviated slightly from our planned itinerary – we didn’t go all the way to Leprechaun Lake on Tuesday – we stopped just past Sprite Lake which seemed like a good place to camp. We also didn’t go all the way down to Shield, Earle and Mesa lakes on Wednesday – we stopped at Prusik Pass and enjoyed the view.
OK, on to the report. We left home on Sunday afternoon, had our “last supper” in Leavenworth and camped near the trailhead at eightmile creek campground. We got up on Tuesday morning and left my truck at the lower trailhead and then drove the van up to the upper trailhead to start our adventure. We got to the the trailhead about 9:00 and were on our way before 9:30am, heading up the Stuart Lake trailhead.
We headed up the well groomed trail through relatively small timber until we got to the first crossing of Mountaineer Creek:
We continued on to our second crossing of Mountaineer Creek, which was quite different from the first:
We got to the junction of the Snow Lakes trail, and headed up towards Colchuck Lake. After a bit, we got our first glimpse of what was to come:
After climbing in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, we finally got our first view of Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak:
We also got our first look at what would become rather annoying over the next couple of days – Mountain Goats:
Although that one was the only one we saw at Colchuck Lake, they would be constant companions once we entered the upper lakes basin. The weird part of them is that they crave salt, and want to lick up people’s pee to get the salt from it. It is really kind of gross, but that is what they do. They were not really aggressive, but they certainly were acclimated to humans and were not afraid of us.
We proceeded around Colchuck Lake, looking for a good campsite for the night. About halfway around, we found what we thought was a good place. It had nice access to the lake (a big rock was just under the water which made for great wading), and enough space for our three tents. It also allowed us to ponder our big challenge for the next day – Aasgard pass – 2200′ of elevation gain in .7 miles:
There was supposed to be a trail up that face, but we couldn’t see anything visible. It was going to be an interesting day on Tuesday. While we were pondering our fate on Tuesday, Kirk decided to go for a refreshing swim in Colchuck Lake:
We went to bed early with a plan to get an early start to try and beat the sun on the rocks up the pass. We woke up at 5:30 and were hiking by 7:15. We started around the lake and our first obstacle was the boulder field at the south end of the lake:
We worked our way through the boulder field(s), and finally got to the bottom of the ascent and started our journey up (it was even steeper than it looks):
We continued our climb, which kept getting steeper and steeper, and the “trail” getting more difficult to follow. They put rock cairns along the way, but it was still difficult to figure out where we were supposed to go. We got up right beside Dragontail Peak, and it had a whole new look to it, although it was still very impressive:
We got up a little higher and ran into a marmot, looking for food – he didn’t seem too interested or bothered by us:
We kept climbing, and climbing and climbing until we finally reached the pass – one last look down at Colchuck Lake:
We were now entering the upper lakes basin – the “good stuff”. All the alpine lakes and really interesting areas – along with the Mountain Goats.
Kind of a mix of moonscape, snow fields, lakes and strangely stunted trees. The scale of everything was way off. The rocks and peaks were HUGE and just popped out of the ground while all the vegetation was really tiny. Ground cover was sparse and short – trees – where there were any were gnarled and short.
After successfully summitting Aasgard Pass, we decided it was time to take a break for lunch. We were looking for some shady spot (it was getting really hot in the sun) and ended up stopping at Tranquil Lake, taking shade against some rocks. It wasn’t much shade, but it was the best we could find.
We also got our first real taste of the goats – Mama and her twins:
After we had lunch, used the “facilities” (there was a toilet on the other side of the lake), we headed down to the next lakes in the chain. Once you summit Aasgard pass, you are on essentially a downhill path – each lake feeds the lake(s) below it, so each lake is lower than the previous lake. When I was looking at the maps, I didn’t really realize this fact, since it is rather subtle. We made our way down to the next un-named lake:
We also got our first glimpse of mountain peaks that would remain with us for the next 2 days – Prusik Peak and McClellan Peak:
We continued across this barren plateau – There was still some snow left from the winter that we had to navigate through – we would encounter that on several different occasions over the next couple of days:
We went to an overlook and saw Crystal Lake – a very beautiful lake down in a bowl:
We then continued on down the trail to Inspiration Lake:
And then headed around the North end of Perfection Lake, seeing all the meadows there:
We also got a great view of Little Annapurna from the North end of Perfection Lake:
And a great view of a really cool waterfall on the West side of Perfection Lake:
We went just a little bit past this and found a campsite near a toilet (to try and escape the goats) with plenty of space for our tents – it was just past Sprite Lake. This photo was taken just above our campsite showing where Perfection Lake emptied into Sprite Lake:
We couldn’t escape the goats, however – they were constantly patrolling the campsite. They were so stealthy – you would look around and not see any, and then all of a sudden they would just appear – a few of the group that patrolled our site:
We successfully avoided the goats on Tuesday night, made dinner, and went to bed early again (we were pretty tired). We woke up on Wednesday, intending to do our side trips before our backpack to Snow Lake, however two of our party were too tired to do the side trip. So we did a shortened trip up to Prusik Pass to take in the views:
And to see Shield Lake, which was on the other side of the ridge:
It was also neat to see a preview of our upcoming lakes – Leprechaun and Viviane:
As well as being able to see where we were camped on Tuesday night:
And getting a more up close view of Prusik Peak:
And a great panorama from the pass:
Moving down the trail towards Leprechaun Lake we found this neat waterfall that drained into Leprechaun Lake:
We negotiated the trail around Leprechaun Lake and got this great view of it below McClellan Peak:
Proceeding, we got to Lake Viviane, with Prusik Peak in the background:
And a view of our destination for Wednesday night – Snow Lakes – WAY down in the valley:
The beginning of this descent started a series of climbing down rock faces – this particular one wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked – everything was dry so it wasn’t slick, but you sure didn’t want to slip off this rock:
We then crossed the outlet of Lake Viviane:
And then continued to make our way down the rock face, following the “trail”:
Until we finally got to Snow Lake:
Where we found a great campsite for the night – near a HUGE boulder:
We setup camp and then played in the water for a while. Later that afternoon, a helicopter buzzed both lakes, and sounded like Nada Lake (the lake below us), left, and then came back a few minutes later and hovered right next to the dam between the lakes:
I always thought it was illegal for helicopters to enter wilderness areas – at first I thought it was for the nearby fire – expecting to see a water bucket or something. Still don’t know what they were doing, but it was really weird.
We made dinner, played some cards and then went to bed. This was to be our last night in the wilderness. I had kind of mixed emotions – while I really enjoyed the trip, I was ready for a nice hot shower and a comfy bed (and flush toilets with no goats!).
The next morning we got up, made breakfast and then broke down camp for the last time. We wanted to get another early start, since the lower part of the trail went through a fire area and would be really hot later in the day. So we headed across the dam, down the hill, ready to start our 4000′ descent to the trailhead:
Soon we came to Nada Lake – much lower than Snow Lakes, but very long and narrow:
After a while, we crossed Snow Creek:
We eventually made it to the final set of switchbacks which would take us to the lower trailhead (if you look really hard you can see the parking lot below):
Continuing down the hill through the burned section, we sampled a few thimble berries. We finally came to the final bridge – the one that crossed Icicle Creek (more of a river!):
We all made it back down to the truck without incident. It was a pretty hot day already. Kirk and I drove my truck up to the upper trailhead to get his van. Once back at the lower trailhead, we headed into town to look for a good, hearty lunch. We found a place and had a feast (as Carly called it). Once done with lunch, we started the long journey home. 5 hours later, we were home again safely.
A truly epic trip – while the mileage wasn’t huge, the condition of the trail and the difficulty of it were incredible. It was quite a challenge, even for experienced hikers/backpackers, and everyone rose to the challenge and successfully completed it. I had a great time visiting a truly special area. While it does remind me of the Wallowas, it has its own special charm – and it requires a great deal of work to be able to see it in person. I hope to see it again some day.
Location of Hike: South Fork Water Pipeline
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Zack
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 3:40 PM
Hike Distance: 3 miles
The day started at the location of the old “Oregon City Water Patrol Station” (that is how it is labeled on the maps). The house is no longer there, however there is a nice big pullout and lots of parking there. Kirk brought his canoe and the plan was to canoe across the river over to the landing on the other side and then follow the pipeline trail north as far as we could.
The trip across the river went easier than expected – the current in the middle of the river was relatively fast, but it was pretty narrow – on the far side of the river was an eddy that was actually moving upstream! Anyway, we quickly made it across the river, got the canoe out of the water and then proceeded to find the pipeline grade. Doing this trip in the winter is really the best option for two reasons: 1 – there is LOTS of woody brush (salmonberry, blackberry, various grasses) that would be tough to navigate in the summer. 2 – There is a fair amount of poison oak along the pipeline grade – in the winter it is dormant, so it a lot easier to move past without getting itchy.
We wandered around a bit, and finally found the pipeline grade and started our trip north. I had forgotten how rough this “trail” was – and I think it has gotten worse since I was here last. We struggled with the downed trees and brush and it seemed the farther north we went, the worse it got. I finally had enough of it, and pulled out my little pruning saw and started cutting some branches. Zack had just given me new loppers, but I didn’t bring them, thinking I would not need them – that was a mistake. The pruning saw helped a lot, but loppers would have made it easier. Kirk soon took over the pruning saw, and I got out my hand pruners. There is a LOT more clearing that needs to be done on that trail, but we made a bit of an improvement. Here is some of what we had to go around (and there was a lot worse that I didn’t take photos of:
Here is Zack and Kirk clearing a particularly rough spot:
Once we got past the “cliffy” parts of it, just north of the bend where we started, the going improved a bit, but it was still rather brushy:
Although you couldn’t see the pipeline itself most of the way, these coax cables were visible almost the entire route – they made it pretty easy to follow the route of the pipeline:
Sometimes they were buried in the duff, sometimes they were stretched in mid air (like guard rails almost) – this photo also shows a big downed log that was cut at some point long ago – it wasn’t cut all the way through, but a notch was made in it – it was cut so long ago the notch was now at ground level:
A little farther up the trail, we found this item – Kirk thought it was a device to bleed off air from the pipeline, which kind of makes sense since it seemed to be at a high point along the pipe:
We continued north, following the river – the route improved a bit, and we even got to some rock slide areas where the grade was very good (if you look closely, you can see the coax cables in the lower left of the image):
Around one of these rock slides, an interesting/scary thing happened: When Kirk moved a log off the trail and threw it downhill, the rocks started giving way – a mini slide occurred. We were waiting for it to take out the trail, but it didn’t (thankfully). It did slide a LOT of rock downhill however.
Continuing north along the grade, we finally found the tunnels we had heard about. The tunnels did not start at the cliff face directly north of the bend in the river, they started a lot farther north. Here is the entrance to the first of four tunnels:
They were not very large – and seemed to get smaller the farther north we got. The first one was big enough to stand up in, but just barely
This was a very weird sight inside the first 3 tunnels. Groups of daddy long legs spiders and crickets, all grouped together. We had no idea what was going on there, but it was really weird looking:
At the entrance to the second tunnel, Kirk found an old insulator laying on the floor of the tunnel – it was kind of a weird place to find one:
All of the tunnels were in the cliff behind an “island” in the river. I’m not sure it is actually an island, but it does have a slough going alongside the cliff on the north side, and looks kind of like an island. This is the view from between two of the tunnels looking out at the flat area between the cliffs and the river:
Inside the 3rd tunnel, we had to walk on top of the pipe – there was up to a foot of water in the tunnel and it made for difficult going:
When we got to the other end, we found out why – a landslide had blocked up part of the tunnel exit and there was water dripping down into the tunnel from runoff. I”m sure during wetter parts of the year, this tunnel has a lot more water in it. Here is the exit of the tunnel – that straight thing is not a piece of the pipeline, but a tree that had fallen downhill – you can’t even see the pipeline, just the small tunnel exit:
The last tunnel had what looked like a piece of petrified wood in the ceiling of it:
And it also has a curve in it:
At the end of the 4th tunnel, the pipe takes a hard turn and goes straight down to the water – it is kind of hard to see in this photo because the pipe is covered in moss and ferns, but it goes downhill at probably a 60-70 degree angle until right above the water and then turns north right above the waterline:
On the way back someone noticed this interesting “glaze” on the wall of one of the tunnels:
It reminded me of stuff I remember seeing in the Oregon Caves. When looking it up, they referred to this as calcite deposits. It looks like it is soft, but it feels just like rock (although smooth).
After exiting the 4th tunnel, and realizing we were pretty much at the end of our route, since the pipeline went down to the water and seemed to head at waterline for a while, we decided to head up to the top of the hill and see what we could see – we got up there and saw a very difficult bushwhack. We decided this would be our turnaround point, so we stopped for lunch.
Heading back was pretty uneventful, and considerably faster than the trip in, since we had done all that clearing on the way in. We enjoyed some of the many cliffs on the way back:
We made good time back, and since we were a little early, we decided to go explore a little ways up the “Gipper” trail – it heads up and over the hill over to Hillockburn. I have been on that trail a couple of times and it offers some really nice views (this picture was taken on a trip in 2012):
After exploring up the Gipper trail a bit, we headed back down, back to the canoe, and made our way back across the river without incident. Kirk had to go home to a family dinner, but Zack and I headed to Fearless for a beer and some sweet potato fries. On our way back, we stopped to look at the point we got to, in order to see where the pipeline went. While we were looking we saw an AWESOME sight – A Bald Eagle flew up from the river into a tree! As we made our way down river, the eagle followed us for a bit. They are absolutely beautiful creatures, and it was amazing to see in the wild. An amazing way to spend an incredible winter day in the Clackamas. It felt more like a fall day!
Location of Hike: Rho Creek Trail
Trail Number: 569
Weather during Hike: Mostly Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk
Start Time: 10:55 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 8 miles
We got a lazy start, since it was New Years Day, but got up to the trailhead by a little after 10:30. The driving was a bit tricky, since there was lots of ice on road 46, and also LOTS of rocks that had come down from cliffs – some rather large rocks that required driving around.
Anyway, we headed up the trail – I had forgotten how much elevation this trail gains. The beginning of the trail climbs rather quickly. It is graded well, but you are gaining elevation rather fast. In a short while, we came to the Tumble Creek crossing:
Tumble/Rho creek is beautiful:
After crossing Tumble Creek, we headed up a couple of switchbacks, gaining more elevation before coming to the upper clearcut. It was here where I made an incorrect turn in 2006 (the last time I was on this trail). I turned right (NW) and headed along the edge of the clearcut. I should have continued mostly straight along the other edge of the clearcut, which is where the trail follows. We proceeded up the trail to the 4672 road, which was almost snow free – amazing for a road at 4000′ elevation on the first of January:
We continued across the 4672 road and headed uphill. After some more uphill, the trail levels out and the forest changes to smaller trees and more open:
After following this for a while, we got to a post that used to have a sign on it. We weren’t sure what it was marking. The notes I had sounded like this was a trail junction, and “turning left” would take us to the Guard station, which we wanted to find. We followed a very rough, faint trail for a while – it kind of came and went. We thought the guard station was near the meadow, so we continued on to the swampy area – it is actually called a meadow – Rhododendron Meadow. Maybe later in the year it is drier – today it was icy, otherwise it would have been hard to walk across.
We didn’t see any sign of the guard station site, but we were a bit confused about where exactly it was. We were running out of time for the day, so we decided to head around the meadow and find the trail that we came in on. We found the trail and started heading back, and lo and behold, we stumbled across the old collapsed guard station!
On the way back down, right above the 4672 road, we caught this nice glimpse of Mt Hood:
About half way back to the start, we saw something we missed on the way in – a post – it definitely said something at one time, but what did it say? It certainly didn’t look like a trail junction, so what could it have been for? I’ll probably never know (edit: I later learned that this post IS an old trail junction – the trail has long been abandoned and is pretty faint):
We were kind of in a hurry on the way back, racing to get back to the truck before dark (the days are very short this time of year), but I couldn’t help but take a photo of this section of the trail:
I can’t really say this is “typical” since this trail goes through so many different areas. But it is a very pleasant area. This trail is a very under appreciated trail. I will be back again sooner than 7 years next time.
We capped off the day with a burger and pint at Fearless. What a great way to kick off the new year!