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: Bull of the Woods Trail
Trail Number: 550
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM
End Time: 2:40 PM
Hike Distance: 6.7 miles
I hadn’t been up to the lookout in probably 5 years now, so I decided this was a worthy destination for the day. We headed out at the normal time and I was surprised at how much thinning was going on up the 6340 road. I hiked the Dickey Creek trail back in May and it was all uncut. Today, this is what the junction with the 6340/140 spur road looked like:
It was looking a bit rough, but in a few years time, that forest is going to look much better – it was really thick in there.
We made pretty good time up to the trailhead, stopping along the 6340 road for a nice view of the Pansy Drainage:
We got to the trailhead about 10:00 and I was surprised to see two vehicles there. It looked like they had come in the night before. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone on a Tuesday in October! There was a bit of snow at the trailhead – interestingly enough there seemed to be more snow down lower than there was up higher:
We got ready and headed up the trail. The beginning goes thru a cut area with some new blowdown, but shortly you get into timber and the trail is very pleasant to hike. Part way up, there is a good viewpoint north. The mountains were all out today – the views were spectacular. They are hard to see in the photo, but were easy to see in person. 4 mountains all in a row – Mt St Helens, Mt Ranier, Mt Adams and Mt Hood:
In a couple of hours, we got to the lookout. I had Thor on his leash, but he was dragging it most of the way. We got near to the lookout and he got ahead of me – I started hearing voices and thought “Oh no! he is going to go bug someone!”. Sure enough, I rounded the corner and there were three people with backpacks – one of them, a young woman was sitting on the ground and Thor was licking her, saying hi. I apologized and she said she loved dogs so I guess all was well. We chatted for a little bit and then they headed off down towards Pansy lake to complete their trip. Thor and I sat by the lookout and had some lunch.
After lunch, we headed up onto the catwalk around the lookout (Thor wasn’t so sure about that, but he went up there). The views were incredible – much better than most of the summer when we had lots of smoke. Looking south to Olallie Butte, Mt Jefferson, Three Sisters and Broken Top – they were all out:
And I got this cool photo of Mt Hood from the lookout – looking north:
The lookout is faring OK, but is suffering from neglect. There is a broken window on the lookout – it has been broken for a few years – but at least someone has tried to limit the damage – they put boards behind the open window:
After enjoying the views for a bit, we headed back down the stairs. I got kind of the iconic photo of the the lookout:
I was really surprised at how warm it was – especially at the lookout – it wasn’t very windy at all and the sun felt really good – but not hot. I was in short sleeves and very comfortable.
We headed back down the trail, back the way we came. We enjoyed all the viewpoints on the way back down. I noticed a few things on the way down that I had not noticed on the way up. Like this wilderness sign propped up against a downed tree – I guess when this tree went down it broke the sign:
As we got closer to the trailhead, the snow increased, but it was melting quickly. In a few days, I think most of it will be gone. We made it back to the truck a little after 2:30 and then headed back down the mountain and home.
What a beautiful fall day of hiking! The weather really was almost perfect – not too hot, not too cold, not too windy. And visibility was excellent.
Location of Hike: Pechuck Lookout
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Robert and Thor
Start Time: 10:40 AM
End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5 miles
On the way home, I wanted to try and see the Pechuck Lookout, but my directions to it were not very good, and I later found out that it still requires a pretty long hike to see. I’ll go back and do that hike another time, possibly from the Rooster Rock trail.
I didn’t even remember that! Pretty funny…. But that is a big reason why I do these reports – to help me remember these trips. Sometimes it is interesting to know how may times or the last time I hiked a particular trail. At least I think it interesting. (Wow! It has been 8 years since I did this trail!)
Anyway, back to the trip – We found the trailhead pretty easily – the road was in good shape (could have easily driven a car) and there is a relatively large parking area – there was one car there we we got there, so we knew we were going to have company on the trail at some point. (more on that later). The description says it makes a pretty aggressive ascent initially, and it was pretty accurate. It gets a little better farther up, but the grade on the first part of the trail is pretty steep. It gets to switchbacks farther up which make it a bit better. As we were headed up, Thor found the first snow on an old jeep road at about 3900′ and had to play in it. I don’t know what it is about snow, but he LOVES the snow:
We continued up, finally attaining the ridge and meeting the trail that goes up to the lookout. From there, we followed the ridge down a bit and then back up to an old road where there was an old signboard – of course all the wilderness “permits” were gone – the sign was in pretty bad shape – but it was interesting to see:
This was the road before just the last push up to the lookout. I’m sure this road is gated and/or closed – The crossing was in kind of a saddle. It had 2-3″ of snow on it and Thor ended up frapping in the snow.
After letting Thor expend some energy, we continued across the road, up the trail. I think we could have gone up the road too, but the trail looked like a more direct route. Looks like there are several trails/routes up to the lookout from this point. On the way up, in a short series of switchbacks, we got this incredible view of Table Rock:
Shortly after this view, we encountered a couple who had a small dog (“Ninja”) who was off leash (like Thor was at the time) and ran over and they got into quite a tussle. I got Thor and put him on the leash and they picked up Ninja and we continued up. It was kind of funny – I wasn’t sure if they were fighting or playing, but that little dog was pretty brave – he couldn’t have been more than 10 pounds or so and he didn’t hesitate to run right up to Thor.
After that, we continued up and very shortly arrived at the Pechuck lookout with 2-3″ of snow on the ground which was melting quickly:
We went into the lookout and found a backpack and some gear – we were assuming it was from the couple we just passed. We explored the inside of the lookout and then went up the ladder into the cupola. There aren’t a lot of views left (the trees have grown up considerably), but this is the view from the cupola looking north to Table Rock:
After a few minutes looking around and figuring out how the shutters fit the windows, we headed back down the ladder. After I got home I realized I didn’t take any photos of the inside of the lower part of the lookout. Oops! It has a concrete floor and a table and a “bed” – It was really just a low, flat table, but I’m sure it was intended to be used as a bed. There were a variety of things inside the lookout, including a fire extinguisher and some other tools, along with many notes from the caretakers about reporting any problems or damage to the BLM.
We headed back outside and ate lunch. We got a weak cell signal and Robert said he thought there was a geocache up there so he tried to find the page for it. He did, and ended up finding the geocache about 300′ east of the lookout under a rocky outcropping. After finding the geocache, we packed up and headed back down the hill. Right before the road crossing, we met another backpacker headed up to the lookout to spend the night. We chatted with him for a bit and then headed down. While we were headed back up the ridge, we met “Ninja” again, but this time both dogs were on leash, so the encounter was not quite as “lively” as the last one.
We continued up the ridge to the junction and then headed down the connector trail to the trailhead. Thor was getting tired – he stopped 3 or 4 times on the trail. We found out that evening that I think he overdid it somehow – he was limping on one of his back legs. He did that on another recent trip – but the next morning he was fine.
We made it down to the truck about 3:30 and found 5 vehicles at the trailhead – we were guessing that one of the groups had gone over to Rooster Rock – one guy was just getting out of his car and wanted to go explore – it was pretty late to be starting this hike this time of year, but he was going to see what he could see.
On the way home Robert showed me the remains of the “Looney” cabin (I guess it was the Looney family cabin at some point in time) and the “Molalla Eye” on the drive back down the corridor.
It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall day. I’d like to go up and explore Rooster Rock at some point.
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: Corral Springs Trail
Trail Number: 507
Weather during Hike: Misty at first then sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM
End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.75 miles
When we got to the abandoned Lookout Springs campground (where the trailhead starts), there was a family camped there. Thor, being Thor wanted to meet them and ran over to them. He made a new friend with their son, who seemed to really like him. The dad asked me about Huxley Lake – how far, how hard, etc. I told him what I remembered from the last time I went down there and told them about the weird side trail to the lake (which tripped me up on my first attempt). When we returned from our hike, they were still in the camp and I asked if they had gone to the lake they said no. Oh well – at least they didn’t get lost.
OK, back to the hike – The beginning of this trail has some nice trees in it and the trail is pretty flat. It goes thru some beautiful old growth forest – a sample of the upper section:
And then after about a mile, it starts the brutal descent into the Roaring River canyon. Shortly, you get a great view of Indian Ridge which is across the canyon (this is near the big rockslide):
At this point, the trail changes quite a bit – it gets steeper, and the trees are much smaller and there are a lot more rhodies. A little farther, I noticed a bunch of White Iris on the trail, which is really interesting because you don’t see that very often:
As you get closer to the river, the trail gets steeper and more faint. Fortunately, there is good flagging where the trail gets really faint. And as you get closer to the river, the trees get larger as well. The lower part of the trail is somewhat like the upper part, except for an abundance of salal (which is the primary reason the trail gets so faint). We eventually arrived at the Roaring River, which wasn’t too Roaring this time of year:
We ate lunch at the campsite (which obviously hasn’t been used for a while):
Once we were done with lunch, we crossed the Roaring River (I took my boots off and waded and Thor swam) and looked for any sign of tread on the other side – we were trying to find the junction with the old 511 trail. The brush over there was brutal, and there are HUGE logs down EVERYWHERE, so moving around over there was pretty tough. A photo of the rootball of one of the downed trees (hiking pole for scale):
So many downed trees:
We did find one possible short section of something that kind of looked like tread, but it was only about 10 feet long. We found no blazes at all. We spent about 30 minutes over there looking for anything, and found nothing. I’m guessing that the maps are correct and at some point Corral Springs got re-routed farther north (its current location) from its original routing. I’m guessing any tread or blazes (if they exist) would be wherever that alignment was. Since we couldn’t really find more 511 tread across the river, I think that end of the 511 is probably gone.
We crossed back over the river – this time I thought I could rock hop, but it turned out that I missed a rock – I ended up getting wet on the far side. But it wasn’t too bad. We headed back up the steep trail, doing some brushing on the way (it allowed me to rest a bit on the long trip back uphill).
This was a burned out stump I noticed on the way back up which I thought was kind of neat:
And I really liked this little area on the way back up – an interesting combination of dying old trees and new trees taking their place:
We made it back up in pretty good time and then headed home. A very nice day in the woods – great way to spend a birthday!
Location of Hike: Plaza Lake Trail
Weather during Hike: Foggy to Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Robert and Thor
Start Time: 9:30 AM
End Time: 1:50 PM
Hike Distance: 2.0 miles
We started out earlier than normal, leaving the house a bit before 8:00. We got to the Plaza Lake trailhead about 9:30 and headed down the hill. The drive in on the 4610 road was bad – it keeps getting worse and worse. We ended up coming in from 4614/4613 which saves 7 or 8 miles of 4610 road driving, but those last 10-12 miles on 4610 are just horrible. LOTS of potholes and the road is continuing to have worse washout damage each year.
The trail down to Plaza Lake is pretty short (about a half mile or so), on a really good tread, and really well graded. Here is a segment of trail up higher where the trees are smaller. The trees get quite a bit larger as you head down the hill:
For a lightly used trail, it was actually in really good shape. Tread was great, and not too brushy most of the way. Partway down the trail, there is a large rockslide that the trail edges up to – kind of some cool rock formations up the slide:
I wish I had taken photos of some of the large trees on the way down. There are some REALLY huge trees down this trail! – Some of the largest I’ve seen in the Clackamas drainage. Very shortly we got down to beautiful Plaza Lake:
The lake is pretty brushy around it, but we found a small opening to get to the lake. We rested there for a bit. Here is picture of Thor being Thor – I had a hard time getting a good picture of him. I think Robert got a really good closeup shot of him, though:
Thor was restless, and ended up finding the continuation of the trail, which continued around the lake. It was really brushy right where he found it which is why we didn’t see it at first. I took him and we followed the trail to what seemed like the end, at the outlet of the lake. We came back and ate a few snacks, drank some water, and then headed back up.
Soon, we were back at the truck and we loaded up and headed farther up the 4610 road-the road gets continually worse as you get closer to the slide. The plan was to get to the big slide area and find Charles. We finally found the slide area and made our way down, finding Charles on the old Clackamas Lake trail. We visited for a bit, and since our time was getting short, decided that we would head west on the old Clackamas Lake trail for a bit and then head back up.
While we were on the trail, we encountered this very colorful garter snake:
Once Thor saw it, he started barking at it. He has gotten garter snakes in the back yard, but they were much smaller than this one!
Time was getting short, so we quickly headed back to the truck and then back down the horrible 4610 road and home. Fortunately, we got home a bit early, so things worked out very nicely.
Although this was a pretty short day, both in terms of distance and in terms of time, it was nice to see a few places I had not seen before.
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: 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: MP3 and Rimrock Trails
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Dave and Bodie (in spirit)
Start Time: 10:15 AM
End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 7.8 miles
Originally, I had planned to do the hike myself, but Dave and I had been emailing back and forth and he was interested in the MP3 trail, so I thought I could show him the trail and hike it up to Rimrock and then out to the overlook.
The weather was almost perfect. It was sunny and reasonably warm for a later October day but it was somewhat windy up on the overlook which was a bit chilly.
We met at the church and I drove up to the trailhead. We had great conversation on the way about all sorts of trails in the Clackamas district. Soon we got to the trailhead and shortly headed up the trail. We soon got to the first rockslide which had a neat view of the clouds still stuck in the valley:
We continued up the trail and eventually got to the junction with the Rimrock trail. We headed up Rimrock to the overlook where we had lunch.
After lunch, it was time to say my final goodbye to Bodie. I went out on the overlook, said goodbye and scattered his ashes to the wind. It was sad to say goodbye to a great hiking partner, but he had a good life, and 14 1/2 years is a good run for a dog. All good things must come to an end. Here was his ashes final resting spot:
After performing that sad task, I enjoyed the view of Mt Jefferson for a bit:
We were both getting cold so we quickly headed back downhill, trying to get the blood flowing. Near the overlook, I spied this thing I never noticed before, even though I’ve been up there numerous times:
After looking at the 1/4 section benchmark, we quickly headed downhill again. We made pretty good time going down, stopping a couple of times for water and also to soak up the sunshine in one of the rock fields. We got back to the truck about 3:45 and headed home.
A great (and also sad) day out in the woods.
Location of Hike: Rimrock Trail
Trail Number: 704
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Start Time: 12:00 PM
End Time: 3:25 PM
Hike Distance: 5.6 miles
I got a late start to my hike, being lazy and sleeping in. So I didn’t get to the trailhead until about 11:30 – when I got out of the truck, I smelled something smoky. When I looked around, there was a campsite across the road from the trailhead and the fire pit was smoking. I went over to investigate and it appears as though they let their fire get out of control and burn really hot and then when they left, they did not douse the fire with water. It ended up smoldering for who knows how long, getting to 2 feet or so outside of the fire ring:
I didn’t have my shovel or extra water, so I used a stick to try and dig it up and pour water on it – when I poured water on it it was still REALLY hot. I even hiked down the trail to the swampy area near the start to see if I could get more water, but was pretty much just mud this time of year. By the time I got done, it seemed OK so I headed out on my hike.
I was now out of water (2 water bottles – about 72 oz of water), so I needed to try and find some water. Fortunately, I had read about a spring along the trail – I had wanted to investigate it anyway, but now it was more important. I actually needed the water! I would have been OK without it, but it would be nice to have a little bit of water at least. Fortunately, I was able to easily find the spring – it had a reasonable trail to it and was flagged:
I was able to pull about 32 oz of water to filter from it, enough to fill one of my bottles, which was fine for this trip. Thank goodness!
After filling my bottle, I headed back to the main trail and up to the overlook. It was a reasonably clear day so the views were pretty good:
Here is a short video of the panorama:
I spent about an hour up there, eating lunch, enjoying the view and “living in the moment”. It was very pleasant up there with a slight breeze blowing. While I was eating, a bald eagle flew about 20 feet over my head! The large birds seem to like this area since there must be good thermals due to the steep cliffs.
While I was up looking at the wonderful panorama, I noticed this smoke plume to the West/Southwest:
It looks like a forest fire to me, but maybe it is something else. Hopefully so.
Since I needed to get back, after about an hour, I headed back down the trail, making EXCELLENT time back to the truck. One thing that always amazes me about this trail is its corridor. You can tell this trail was heavily used back in the day – the corridor is 6-8 feet wide all the way. Plenty of space for wide pack animals.
I got back to the truck a little before 3:30 and checked on the fire again. It appeared to have stopped smoldering, which is good. Out of caution, I stopped at the Ripplebrook store and reported it. They called some fire line and I explained the situation and they said they would send out a crew to investigate. Since rain was on the way, it most likely would have been OK, but you never know. Better to be safe than sorry.
It felt a little odd hiking all by myself. I can’t remember the last time I hiked all by myself. Usually I have Bodie or I’m with one of my friends. I decided not to take Bodie because I thought the distance would be too much for him. I guess this is just preparation for the near future when he is gone.
It was a short, but very pleasant day out in the woods with a few interesting experiences thrown in.
Location of Hike: Beullers Bluff Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Gail, Abby, Raina
Start Time: 10:00 AM
End Time: 11:00 AM
Hike Distance: 1.5 miles
The map does not show the entire route – I accidentally forgot to turn on the tracking at the top of the hill, so I missed the very last part of the trail to the top. You can see the bluff to the northwest of the end of the track.
It was supposed to be a short but steep hike up to a small bluff with a great view of the lake and valley. The trail is on private property but Carly had spoken to the land owner and he was OK with her hiking the trail, so we decided to make it a short trip the last morning we were there. We ate breakfast and then rented bikes in Stehekin and headed the mile or so up the road to the trailhead. We headed up the very well maintained trail – while it is not too long, it does get rather steep in spots.
Part way up, we got a hint of the view that was to come:
After huffing and puffing a bit we finally made it to the top. The views were pretty amazing. Looking south over lake Chelan:
Looking north up the Stehekin River valley:
And then, there was Tupshin peak across the valley which loomed even larger:
Up on top of the bluff there was a cool little chair to enjoy the view. Carly and Raina (Carly’s friend who joined up) decided to take advantage:
Old cabin remains:
And some sort of weird water trough or something:
Where I found this interesting guy hanging out:
After enjoying the view for a bit, we headed back down hill to our bikes. We rode up to the bakery to get some lunch for our ferry ride home and then headed back to Stehekin.
This was a great way to cap off a nice visit with Carly. Stehekin is a beautiful area to explore.
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: Milepost 3 Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 10:30 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 3.4 miles
On the drive up, I was surprised I didn’t see more cars on the road going in. There were a few, but not many – more coming out than in. On the way in on the 4635 road, I got to see 3 or 4 deer (at least one fawn) cross the road – they bounded out of the woods and disappeared so fast I didn’t get a good look at them, but it was cool to see. More on the deer later…
We made it to the trailhead, parked and headed up. Since the last time I was here, someone has put up several pieces of flagging at the trailhead. It is hard to miss now.
We started up the trail, and I figured I’d do a little bit of maintenance-I ended up doing a lot more than I had planned. I didn’t think I was going to do much, so I didn’t bring my gloves, but I ended up doing quite a bit of brushing and removing oregon grape from the tread. It ended up doing quite a number on my hands, including a big blister on my index finger. Oh well, it will heal.
There was very little blowdown on the first part of the trail – mostly just branches and brush which I was trying to clean up. A half mile or so up the trail was a section where there were two very large trees that had come down a long time ago and both had been cut. One of them had slipped down the hill, so the cut had closed up:
I almost thought we were going to have to turn around, but after a bit, I finally got Bodie to let me help him jump over the log. There was an area that was much easier to get over since it had kind of a step, but he still needed help. At one point, he was trying to find a different way around and he kind of got stuck – his coordination and strength keeps declining due to his brain tumor. I went over help him, but he finally figured out how to get himself out of the situation he was in. Once over that log, the rest of the downed logs were pretty easy.
We continued up the trail, doing brushing, removing limbs and branches and removing oregon grape from the tread in particularly faint areas. Shortly, we came across this cougar scat:
It looks like cougar scat to me, and it looked like he had eaten something very close (a big pile of hair) and then done his business right on the trail. I guess he was warning others!
A little farther, we got our first snow – at about 3500 feet – it was intermittent:
A bit farther down the trail, we found this deer trail, going straight up and down the hill – there was lots of sign of deer on the trail (3 or 4 piles of deer pellets):
Continuing up the trail, we got to the upper rockslide where we had lunch. There is a nice view from here:
After lunch, we continued up and shortly got to the junction with the Rimrock trail:
We poked around a bit and it was already 2:00 (I had spent quite a bit of time on the way up doing maintenance), so we turned around and headed back down. On the way back down, I found this antler shed right in the middle of the trail – my first one! (I forgot to take a photo of it on the trail):
On the way back down, I noticed this interesting activity in this old cut log – something is very actively eating it. There was a pile of fresh sawdust on the ground under it:
Made it back to the truck about 3:00 and headed home. An absolutely wonderful, peaceful day in the woods on a beautiful old trail.
Location of Hike: Hillockburn Trail
Trail Number: 516
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 9:40 AM
End Time: 11:40 PM
Hike Distance: 3.1 miles
Anyway, we got to the trailhead about 9:30 and headed down shortly after. There were no shooters at the shooting gallery up the road, however we did see evidence of shooting down the trail. In retrospect I probably should have parked my truck in front of the trailhead to try and tell any potential shooters that someone was down the trail.
Three trees appear to have been killed by shooters – the one just recently came down – ugh.
We headed down the trail a short ways only to find that they didn’t stop at the beginning of the trail:
We headed down the trail, making quick time of it. Shortly we were into the larger trees and before we knew it, we were right above the river, looking down at the Beautiful old growth grove:
And one there, we had to get a close look at the South Fork (what a beautiful river):
Here is a short Video of the river in motion – so peaceful:
And this is the campsite near the river that we were going to sit for a while and enjoy the surroundings (until Bodie had different ideas):
After about 10 minutes, Bodie just couldn’t sit still, so we turned around and headed back up. On the way back up, I noticed (thru the trees) a new clearcut area to the North – NNE. When I got home, it looks like this might be above Big Cliff or in that general area. I’m guessing it is fire damage they are logging off. I’ve heard helicopters up the Clackamas a couple times and I’m wondering if that is the area they were logging with helicopters. I tried to get a photo thru the trees, but nothing came out.
We continued up the hill and pretty soon started hearing gunshots. I was worried – I was hoping that no one was shooting down the trail again. I figured I could figure it out as we got closer. Fortunately, they were shooting up the road a bit, so we were fine. We got back to the truck and since it was still so early, I decided to go up looking for the snow level. I headed up 45 and then took off up 4540. Here is where we turned around on 4540 (about 3/4 mile from Helen Lake at about 3600′):
After turning around, I thought I’d see how far I could get up the 45 road. Although I didn’t take a photo, we ended up getting to within about a mile and a half of the Memaloose Lake trailhead. I think we were at almost 3800′.
We turned around and headed back – on the way, I saw the the gate on the 45-220 spur was open. When I was up there in 2013 checking out the Silvacultural area, that gate was locked. I thought I’d go explore a bit. We drove down the road to the old Silvacultural area and then the spur road down to where I went looking for the end of the old Memaloose trail in 2013. Got to the end of the road – not much to see really:
After that we turned around and headed home. While it was a short day out, it was really nice. It was great to get out, enjoy some beautiful weather and some big old trees.
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: Eagle Creek Trail
Trail Number: 501
Weather during Hike: overcast and rainy at times
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 10:00 AM
End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 10.8 miles
I didn’t get many pictures of the trail, since I’ve been there before. I did get this one from my favorite veiewpoint of Eagle Creek – about 4 miles down the trail or so:
This trail is beautiful once you get down to the creek – some pristine old growth forest. The trail follows the creek, and this day it was running pretty high, fast and loud. We made great time down the trail – before I knew it we had done 3.5 miles! We were getting close to the spot where Zack had marked the junction, so we slowed down a bit to be able to look at all the potential junctions. We soon found this junction (which was more apparent in person):
And here is a close up of one of the trees at this junction, which used to have a sign:
From here on is where this hike got really interesting. We wandered up what looked like old tread, finding a cut log and a blaze. Shortly, we found these very old, but obviously milled boards (covered in very thick moss):
These were obviously man made, not natural, so we wandered around trying to see if we could find more, or maybe what they were part of. We thought maybe they were part of a bridge across the nearby unnamed creek, but could not find a clear crossing point. We continued poking around and then I came across this old sign laying on the ground!
This area was kind of strange looking, like had been a lot of disturbances in the area. Like a camp, maybe. Lots of open, flat ground. We continued searching the area, and then found the first of a set of posts:
We were postulating that these might have been “hitching posts” to tie horses to – they obviously had some sort of cross brace on them at one point in time. We ended up finding 5 sets of them in the area.
We wandered over to a very open area, and I spotted this unusual item – an old watering trough:
The next find was really weird – Zack was commenting that “you’d think we would see some sort of fire pit around here” – I looked down and saw a heavily moss covered fire pit! We removed the moss and found a concrete fire pit underneath:
Looking around the area of the firepit, I found several more milled pieces of wood, a few of which were notched:
These looked to be remnants of a picnic table – the notches were at an angle that would match what you’d see on a picnic table and there were some longer boards like you would have for the top.
We continued searching the area for a while, looking for more artifacts, but other than some more cut logs, didn’t really find anything else – but what we found was quite enough! We headed back down to the trail to find a spot for lunch. We stopped at a spot next to the creek and ate our (late) lunch. We then headed back down the trail to the truck. We made really good time on the way back, just as we had on the way in. The weather alternated between almost sunny, drizzly and rainy as it had all day long. I was a bit worried we would not make it back out by dark, but we got back to the truck before 4.
We headed back to Estacada for a celebratory strong scotch ale at Fearless and then headed home. For an unexpected hike, this was an AWESOME day! Thanks, Zack for pulling me out of the house!
Location of Hike: Eagle Creek Trail
Trail Number: 440
Weather during Hike: overcast
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 8:45 AM
End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 13 miles
The words of the day for me were wow, amazing, thundering and wet. I kept saying “wow” due to the scenery, and the “amazing” trail that was literally blasted out of the side of a cliff. The waterfalls were absolutely thundering due to all the water – some you could actually feel. Wet was just what it sounded like – this is a pretty wet trail, and when we’ve had as much rain as we have had recently, the cliffside areas were dripping heavily.
We got to the parking lot about 8:45:
There were not many cars – most of them appeared to be from a work party that was there to do some work on the trail. We had heard there was a slide near the beginning of the trail and assumed there was downed logs due to the recent wind storms. We headed down the trail, following the work party – they quickly let us pass since we were trying to make good time in order to get back before dark – this was going to be a long day of hiking.
Our goal was to get up past Tunnel Falls, and then return and (hopefully) take our time on the way back. After hiking for a little while, we shortly approached Punchbowl falls:
As with all the waterfalls, it was thundering and running fast. After enjoying it for a bit, we headed down the trail, soon coming to the bridge at Tish creek, which has been heavily damaged due to a recent downed tree:
The bridge is uncrossable, but we were able to hike down and across the creek to continue our journey.
We continued down the trail, making good time and trying to get over the numerous blowdowns on the trail – like this:
Parts of the day were kind of a blur, since we were moving quickly, and I wasn’t familiar with all the waterfalls and trail geography. I’m not sure where this was taken, but this is a picture of one of the slot canyons on this trail – pretty dramatic – you can see the trail in the upper left of the photo – where it was carved out of the side of the hill:
And is a photo from the top of one of the waterfalls (I can’t remember which one – there were so many!):
This was one of my favorite waterfalls – it had a neat bowl near the bottom which was very unique (I found out later this is called Loowit Falls):
We soon got to High Bridge, which is very dramatic (and a bit scary if you are afraid of heights):
In fact, this whole trail is probably not good for someone who is afraid of heights. There are long sections of trail that are pretty narrow, with near vertical drops down to the creek. If you were to slip, you would be done for, since there is nothing to catch you on the way down. Dramatic, but a little bit scary, and requiring careful navigation. There are cables attached to the rock face, but on a busy day this must be pretty terrifying to hike.
The second to last waterfall we saw was by far my favorite – Tunnel Falls. It reminds me of the Waterfall on the South Fork of the Clackamas river. It is about 120′ high, and has a tunnel behind it!
The surrounding cliffs are very dramatic as well:
And here is a picture of the tunnel behind the falls – it isn’t very long, but it is very dramatic walking through it, especially on a day like today when the water was flowing fast:
Lastly, here are a couple of videos I took of the falls and approaching the tunnel. They don’t do it justice, but the waterfall was absolutely thundering. You could feel it in your bones.
After looking in awe at Tunnel falls for a while, we continued down the trail to our last waterfall (I think it is called Twister Falls) – here is a photo of the top of the waterfall:
We the continued a little bit farther until we found a good spot to have lunch:
We were amazed at how high the water had been recently! We fashioned a makeshift bench out of the wood, and ate lunch. We marveled at the trail, the canyon, the waterfalls, and the water flow. We started getting cold, so we packed up and headed down the trail. We finally warmed back up on the way down, successfully navigating the several creek crossings (one of which was a bit sketchy). We made good time – much better time than we had expected – we did the side trails down the the viewpoint for Metlakao Falls, and also the lower Punchbowl falls. We headed back and met quite a few people on the way in as we headed out – it seemed strange to be starting a hike that late in the day – when it was going to be getting dark soon. But maybe they weren’t going very far.
We got back to the car at 2:45 and headed home. A great day on a very spectacular and unique trail. I now understand why it is so popular.
Location of Hike: Dickey Creek Trail
Trail Number: 553
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 11:45 AM
End Time: 3:15 PM
Hike Distance: 6.5 miles
I haven’t hiked this trail since the moved the trailhead back about a half mile – they decommissioned the old road and turned it into a trail. Here is the new trailhead:
I was surprised to see another vehicle there when we arrived. As we were getting ready, another truck came down the 164 spur, which also surprised me. After getting ready, we headed down the old road, soon getting to the old trailhead (which also continued down an old road that was converted to trail – the first mile or so of this trail is old roads). After heading down the road and crossing a creek (there are still remnants of an old bridge there), we got to the “bad section” – this is a section that drops very quickly, and the tread was never built well. It heads straight down hill – no switchbacks and the ground is very unstable. When Carly and I did this several years ago, we literally slid down the hill on the way down and climbed and slipped up the hill on the way back. It was very difficult. Since I’ve been on this trail, this section has improved somewhat. They have installed steps on several areas of the steep sections:
There are still a few sections that could use steps, but it is much improved over what it was. We continued down the trail, thru the old cut area until we got into uncut timber. This is a beautiful section of trail – probably my favorite on this trail. Big old trees, lots of moss. We stopped to eat a bit and while sitting there, I noticed this beautiful ray of sunshine coming thru the trees:
And I had to take a picture of Bodie – he was having a good time:
After eating a little bit and drinking some water, we continued down the trail. It was rather cool, and when we got to an overlook of Dickey Creek, we saw these frosty trees:
Continuing down the trail, we shortly headed into a very brushy, low, swampy area where this very large tree had come down. It will be tough to remove this, and it is pretty tough to get over.
And this is the “Alder Swamp” area – it is very similar to the “real’ alder swamp off the Collowash, but this one is smaller and apparently un-named.
While hiking the north side of this swamp, I tripped over a root that was in the middle of the trail. I took a pretty good fall, and bumped my knee – I almost thought I was going to have to turn around, but I ended up “walking it off”. We continued down the trail until I saw this Section Line Tree right next to the trail. I can’t believe I never noticed it before:
Somewhere in this area, we met a backpacker and stopped to talk with him for a few minutes. He had camped at Big Slide lake the night before. I asked if there was any snow there and he said not really, but he could see snow up on the peaks around the lake. I think my decision to not try a higher elevation hike was probably smart. We parted ways and continued down the trail. We had to get back home relatively early, so we were kind of racing to get to our objective – the creek crossing at Dickey creek. We managed to get there just about at our turnaround time:
One thing I did notice – the trail continues on the north/west side of the creek – I saw a definite blaze past the current crossing point. I wonder if the trail used to cross farther up creek? Something to research.
We quickly ate a bit more, drank some water and then headed back – the goal was to get back to the truck by 3:00. We missed it by 15 minutes, but still got home in plenty of time. When we got back to the truck, the backpacker we met was at his truck packing up. He went a little slower than we did on the way back I think. That climb back up the hill is not easy, especially with a backpack. Glad to see he made it out OK.
A WONDERFUL day in the woods – the weather was SPECTACULAR! It was too good to waste and not hike.
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: Pansy Lake and Motherlode Trails
Trail Number: 551 and 558
Weather during Hike: A little bit of everything - wind, misty, overcast and sun spots
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 10:15 AM
End Time: 5:15 PM
Hike Distance: 9.3 miles
Zack and I talked about a few options, and decided to hike up to Pansy Lake to see if we could find the old mines up there, as well as some other artifacts from long ago. Zack also had an off trail lake he wanted to explore to see if there were any fish in it. He said it had been stocked with fish in 2011.
We arrived at the trailhead a little before 10:00 and were surprised to see several other cars there – 2 of them were leaving as we got there, and 2 guys headed in just ahead of us. We figured we would see them later in the day. We also figured that some people were probably camped at Pansy Lake – that was an incorrect assumption – no one was camped at Pansy.
We headed up the trail and soon got to Pansy Lake – hiking past all the campsites on the north end of the lake – We got intermittent wind gusts in that section – some pretty strong. I was surprised how strong they were in there – I was thinking the lake would be much more protected. We were on guard for falling trees, though! Once past the campsites, we kind of kept going west, and followed the map over to a spot marked “prospect” (which I suspected was the mine). That turned out to be a good assumption, as we found the old mine:
And after exploring a bit, we found an old generator near the mine:
There was also supposed to be remnants of a horse corral and other signs of an old encampment. We were not able to find much, but we think this might have been the old watering hole:
We wandered around looking for a kind of open area, and ended up finding a trail on the north side of this watering hole. It was blazed and pretty well defined, but very steep – we were wondering if it might have been an old Indian trail:
It deserves more exploration sometime in the future, as well as some research to see if we can find this trail on some old maps. After wandering around for a while, we headed back to Pansy Lake:
Headed up to the saddle where the Motherlode trail joins. Shortly, we entered the burned area (from the BOTW fire a few years ago):
On the way down the Motherlode trail, just before the dry Motherlode creek crossing, there was this very interesting double blaze – I have not see one like this before where both blazes are side by side:
We continued down the trail until we got to what seemed like a good route up to the un-named lake. We fought our way thru the dense rhodie brush until we got up to the burned area. Once, there, travel was a little easier due to less brush, but it got pretty steep in places. One thing I noticed – what I called the “Forest of a thousand bent trees” – It seemed like every small tree in the burned area was bent over like this – I don’t know what causes this, but it was interesting to see:
We finally made it up to the bowl where this un-named lake was above the Motherlode trail:
Zack got out his fishing pole and tried some catch and release fishing. He got a strike on his first cast, and then nothing for a while – he worked his way around the lake and eventually ended up catching (and releasing) 3 fish – one of them a really nice one.
We were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time to get back, so we started back downhill a little after 3:00. It was easier going downhill and quickly met the Motherlode trail and headed back up the hill. We didn’t really stop on the way back up except to cut a few of the “bent” trees that were hanging over the trail. We made really good time, and ended up getting back to the truck a little after 5:00. We were thinking it would take us 3 hours to get out and it only took us slightly over 2 hours!
We only saw 4 other people on the trail all day – the 2 who headed out before us (we figured they took the loop up the BOTW lookout), and what looked like a mother/daughter coming up Motherlode – they were coming from Twin Lakes.
It was a great trip, although a bit farther than we had anticipated. We got very little rain, and only periodic short spurts of wind – a lot better than I thought it would be! We even got some short sun spots! On the way back down from the saddle, we started getting a little mist, but we really only felt it in the open areas. When we got back to Estacada, it was really raining. Either the hills didn’t get as much rain as the valley, or we lucked out and missed the brunt of the rain. We stopped in Estacada at Fearless for a burger and a beer.
All in all, a great day.
Location of Hike: Elk Lake Creek Trail
Trail Number: 559
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 12:00 PM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 5 miles
We set out much later than I usually get out – I had to work until 3am, so I slept in a bit. We headed out about 10:30 and got to the trailhead around noon. Surprisingly, there were 3 cars at the trailhead, so I put Bodie on his leash. We headed down the trail and shortly entered the burned area:
It is beginning to recover – there are seedlings EVERYHWERE, and there is some amazing resilience evident – these trees are blackened WAY up but are still alive and healthy:
A little farther down the trail is the nice short waterfall on Elk Lake creek and the beautiful green pool below it:
Here is a short video of the waterfall:
The creek crossing at Pine Cone creek is the start of official wilderness – this sign has seen better days, but it still standing after the fire:
We crossed the creek and continued thru the fire area, finally heading out of the fire area into unburned forest:
A little farther down the trail is this great campsite, right next to the trail at a point where the trail is right next to the creek. It would be a very peaceful place to camp:
In this campsite was this interesting tree – Many people have carved their initials into this tree – it looks like it started by some survey crew – it is so old the bark has covered some if it – something MR NOR something survey crew 6 something – maybe in 1971?:
A little farther down the trail we explored an old side trail – it does appear on the maps, but the trail is overgrown in spots and has a lot of blowdown on it. If you follow it all the way down to the creek there is an old campsite spot that obviously hasn’t been used in a long time:
We explored down by the creek and then headed back up to the trail and continued down to the Knob Rock creek crossing:
And then very quickly arrived at the Welcome Creek crossing:
This is a picture of the mini waterfall on Welcome Creek:
As we continued down the trail I found an old phone line insulator – After I saw this one I made a conscious effort to find more of them and ended up finding over 30 of them along the trail! Some were just the loop (the ceramic insulator part had broken off), but probably at least half of them were still complete.
We continued down the trail to the spot where the trail makes its first crossing of Elk Lake creek. I thought this would be a good lunch and turnaround spot. The creek is very shallow here and it is very peaceful.
Just upstream of the crossing is a tiny waterfall. I took a short video of the waterfall and the creek:
We are lunch and enjoyed the creek for a few minutes and then headed back. I could tell Bodie was getting tired but he did very well. The trip back was pretty uneventful except for meeting a family who was heading in to backpack somewhere. They had a dog which is always a challenge with Bodie – it went fine – they passed us and continued down the trail.
We got back to the truck about 3:00 and headed home. On the drive home I tried to look for the short side trail down to the old “Oh Boy” camp, but couldn’t find the flagging. I think this road has been brushed out and the flagging got clobbered. They have done a fair amount of thinning up the 63 road and there is the Jazz timber sale happening up the 6370 road (didn’t see any clearcutting up 6380, but I believe there is some in the Jazz sale). Once I got home I checked old notes about where it was – next time I’m in the area, I’ll see if I can find it. It is 1.6 – 1.7 miles from the 6370/6380 split.
It was a nice, peaceful day in the woods. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to enjoy these beautiful places.
Location of Hike: Whetstone Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 546 (and 3369)
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 11:00 AM
End Time: 1:30 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles
After looking at some trails, I decided on the Whetstone mountain trail. I have not hiked this trail in almost 9 years – at least not from this trailhead. I did hike to the lookout with Carly several years ago.
The goal was to just make it up to the lookout and return to the truck. Figured ~ 4.5 miles or so based on the trail sheets. Turned out to be just over 4 miles round trip. Perfect day for the dog.
Ended up leaving the house a bit late – slept in and really didn’t decide to go until later in the morning. Left around 9:30, so got to the trailhead about 11. The first thing that happened was I forgot where the trailhead was! The sheet says it is at the end of road 7020 – well, that isn’t quite correct – it is at the end of the 7020-020 spur road, which is right near the end of the 7020 road. Anyway, after a bit of searching, I found it:
We then proceeded down the trail thru a recent clearcut where we found this empty Wilderness box:
We proceeded down the trail, and shortly entered uncut timber:
The trail goes thru some beautiful old growth:
And had some rather “vigorous” brush along it, although the trail was never hard to follow:
With its own small rockslide:
We continued up the trail, to the intersection with the 3369 trail, which will take us up to old lookout location. Once back in the trees, the trail takes on a more “normal” look:
We stopped for a drink and a rest at a small viewpoint, and spied our eventual goal:
After one more trail junction, we finally made it to the top – the old lookout location. It is on the top of a rock and is mostly clear. The views were outstanding, although it was a bit hazy today:
We ate lunch on top, enjoyed the views, and then started our way back down. We made good time on the way back down, and while descending, I noticed this interesting blaze pattern:
It kind of looked like this double blaze was on trees near potential water sources – I probably saw 3 or 4 of these blaze patterns and all of them were near potential water sources (although almost all were dry today). Someday, I’d love to know all the different blaze patterns, although maybe it was up to the person doing the blazing. Maybe there never were any true “standards”.
We continued down the trail, making great time, enjoying the beautiful forest along the way. Shortly, we were back at the truck. We loaded up and headed down the hill for home. I stopped at A&W in Estacada on the way home for an ice cream. A great way to end the day. Short and sweet!
Location of Hike: Thomas Lake Trail
Trail Number: 111
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Start Time: 10:45 AM
End Time: 2:10 PM
Hike Distance: 6 miles
We knew going in it was going to be a little iffy due to the snow that was received the prior week – it was the first snow at 4000-5000′ in a couple of months probably. We decided to chance it anyway. I recorded GPS routes of the trail, so we could follow even if it was covered in snow.
We got to the trailhead about 10:30 – there was almost no snow at the trailhead – just a few small patches. There were 3 other vehicles there, so we knew someone was hiking the trail. We headed out, up the trail to Thomas Lake. This lake was completely melted out, with really no snow:
We poked around the lake for a bit and then headed up the trail. From here, the trail headed uphill rather steeply. Fortunately, it was a short steep section. We shortly popped out onto a flat meadow, which had a fair bit of snow, and was REALLY wet and muddy:
We headed up a bit more, and got to Naha Lake, which was still frozen over:
Although the trail wasn’t too bad at this point:
We went past Naha Lake, and up to this point had a really good track from others. It was at this point the track kind of fell apart – there were footprints everywhere:
And the snow was getting quite a bit deeper (and it was all really soft):
It is hard to tell from the photos, but the sky was getting dark as well. The forecast called for 100% chance of rain on Friday night, and the clouds looked like it was starting to roll in. I wanted to make sure we had setup camp before the rain started. We talked a bit, and decided that it would be too difficult without snowshoes to do the loop we wanted to do. Since we were unable to get to much farther down the trail, we decided it really wasn’t worth camping – we would just camp out, then pack up and head out in the morning. So, we decided to hike back out and come home. No overnight on this trip.
On the way back, we stopped at Eunice Lake to eat lunch.
We also explored a few campsites (in this area you can only camp in designated sites) – they were WAY off the trail, and a good ways from the lake – they like to keep 200′ from water.
After exploring the campsites, we headed back down to the truck and drove home. Not quite the trip we were expecting, but it was still interesting to see this new wilderness area. I think this would be a great place to go later in the summer when it has all dried out.
Location of Hike: Grouse Point and Serene Lake Trails
Trail Number: 517 and 512
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Breezy
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 10:40 AM
End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 8.1 miles
This hike was a President’s day outing. I had the day off (one of the perks working for a bank), so I decided to take advantage of the lack of snow this year. I thought I could make it up to Frazier turnaround to do a loop – Grouse Point to Serene Lake and then back. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, although since it was windy, I did pack the chainsaw in case some trees came down while I was hiking. Didn’t want to get the truck stuck behind a downed tree!
Anyway, the trip up to Frazier turnaround was uneventful until I got onto that horrible spur road. 4.4 miles of rutted, rocky, pothole pocked road. The first couple of miles were pretty typical, with almost no snow on them. Once the road takes a turn and gets a southern exposure, there started to be some snow on the road. I was a little leery of continuing, but thought I would try. The snow drifts were so compacted, and frozen, I basically just drove right over them, only sinking an inch or two. I continued down the road, and the only sketchy part was the long, narrow section on the big slide – but it wasn’t too bad with the truck. I got past that and the snow disappeared again. A little farther up the road, it was good I brought the chainsaw – there was a few small trees across the road which I cut with the saw. I made it to the turnaround in pretty good time, and this is what I saw when I got there:
A HUGE tree had come down and blocked the “turnaround” part of the road. I was to learn later that this tree actually was right next to the trail – it came down and now is hanging over the trail (although it is easy to walk under). It was a bit breezy at the turnaround, and a bit chilly, so I decided to head out quickly (to get my blood pumping and warm up). Getting over that big tree was a challenge for Bodie, but he finally figured it out. We headed up Grouse Point (an old road that has been converted to a trail), and shortly came to a big rockslide, which had VERY little snow:
Looking the other direction on that rockslide was our first incredible view of the day – looking down the Shellrock Creek drainage:
We continued down the road/trail, through a few small spots of snow, heading down thru the forest until we got to a partially frozen Cache Meadow:
After looking around the meadow a bit, we headed back uphill along the Grouse Point Trail. Shortly, we came to the helispot overlook above Serene Lake with its pitiful lack of snow on the ground at almost 5000′:
And I can’t do this trail without showing the wonderful view of Serene Lake down below – with only a little bit of ice:
I thought This was kind of neat – 4 mountains out for viewing – St Helens, Ranier, Adams and Hood (I think):
We continued a little farther on the Grouse Point Trail until we got to the junction with the Serene Lake Trail. We headed down this trail, avoiding most of the wind. It was a relatively short trip down the hill to the west side of Serene Lake and the camping spots there. There was a complete lack of snow on the ground. I decided to eat lunch there, trying to sit in a location protected from the wind. I was somewhat successful, but I had to put on my shell to stay warm. I ate lunch quickly, and we headed around the north side or the lake – across the Serene Lake outlet:
We continued down the trail, stopping at a rockslide to look across at where the old 511 trail is – across the drainage over there somewhere:
As we continued down the trail, we had to negotiate many big areas of blowdown on the trail – this was one of the worst ones:
After we got to the junction with Middle Rock Lake, we took the short side trail up to it. We didn’t go any farther than the first campsite, but it was interesting that it was almost completely frozen, unlike Serene Lake:
After stopping and enjoying the view for a few minutes, we headed back (climbing back over all the fallen trees) and continued up the trail (we were headed back up now). We came across some VERY wet sections of trail:
We made good time going back up the hill, and made it back to the truck. I really wanted to get out of there before it started to get dark. On the way out, I encountered someone driving a car that had made it quite a ways up the road. I told him he was guranteed to get stuck if he kept going. On the way out, the snow drifts that had been frozen on the way in were partially thawed. I sunk a few inches into them. No problem with a truck with ground clearance, but a car would probably have high centered. I hope he turned around, but I passed him and kept heading out.
The last treat for the day was on road 57, about a half mile from where it meets 224/46 – There was a group of 3 deer that were on the road. They didn’t hear me coming down the road and when I rounded the corner, they were startled and ran off, but I got a good look at them. It was a great way to end the trip!
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: Fish Creek Mountain Trail
Trail Number: 541
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 9:50 AM
End Time: 4:00 PM
Hike Distance: 7.5 miles
Anyway, Fish Creek Mountain seemed like a good option. It has some good elevation gain, and isn’t too long. Plus, I haven’t been there for several years. It was going to be a warm day, so I intended to get an early start, but I didn’t get going as quickly as I had wanted to. Got to the trailhead a little before 10. On the way up, I noticed that they have done a LOT of thinning along the 4620 road.
We headed up the old trail (a segment of the old Cold Springs trail, I think), up to the old road. This part of the trail was in pretty good shape, although it was a little brushy in the switchbacks near the top of that first hill. The road is getting reclaimed by nature and getting very brushy in places, too. We got to the original trailhead and headed up. In the sun, it was very warm, but in the shade it was very comfortable. On the way up, there was lots of beargrass blooming along the trail:
Not much blowdown to contend with either. Most of the trail is in excellent shape. A little farther up the trail we came to a beautiful hillside meadow with a neat rock formation:
And of course the great viewpoints like this rocky outcropping near the High Lake junction – look at all the old cuts on those hills:
We proceeded up to the lookout location and was greeted with a ton of beargrass blooms. Although the summit is grown in a bit, there are still a few spots that provide views. If I remember correctly, this was Olallie Butte peeking over the ridge in the distance:
And something I had never seen before on previous trips – the location of the old outhouse:
And the memorial plaque – this was well hidden:
And something else I had never seen before up there – what looks to be the remnants of an old helipad:
After poking around the summit for a while, we ate lunch in the trees since it was a lot cooler in the trees than out at the old lookout. After lunch, we headed back down, and did a little cleanup of the trail on the way down, lopping some of the brushier sections of trail, and moving some small logs off the trail. At the junction, we took the trail down to High Lake, and although the trail was a little brushy, when we got there it was very still and calm:
We spent a little while exploring the lake and then headed back up – on the way we cut some of the brushier sections of trail, and I cleared a bunch of “head slappers”. By this time it was starting to get cloudy and I was concerned we might get some thunderstorms, so we headed back down the trail pretty quickly. We made good time back to the truck. When we got there, there was a rather large group (8-10 people) wondering where the “trail to high lake” was, and how far it was. I told them how to get there and they went on their way. Some of the group was going to camp at the lake, but others were just day hiking it. It seemed like they were starting kind of late, but I didn’t question it.
A nice day in the woods – got to give the dog a good workout, and I it gave me some conditioning for the Enchantments trip in a couple of weeks. I need to do more of this to get ready.
Location of Hike: Memaloose Trail
Trail Number: 515
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 12:30 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles
The day started out by seeing how far up road 4550 I could go. I got a little past where I did the prior week, but not much past Music creek.
So, plan B was to hike the Memaloose trail and see if I could make it up to South Fork Mountain. The road to the trailhead was almost completely clear of snow, and the trail was completely snow free almost to the lake. The trail was mostly free of downed trees, except for a couple, including this BIG tree over the trail, which will be really hard to remove with crosscut saws:
After crouching under that big log, we continued up the trail and eventually crossed Memaloose Creek on the way up:
It was running pretty fast and high, but it was a beautiful sight. I’ve only been on this trail a few times, but I’ve never seen the creek so high. Continuing up the trail, soaking in the glory of all the old growth, we finally got to a Frozen Memaloose Lake:
We stopped for a bit at the first campsite and then I headed up the South Fork Mountain trail, not knowing if I would be able to find the trail and/or make it to the top. The trail quickly got buried in snow, however I was able to continue to follow the blazes, but after a short while, the snow got just too deep:
18-24″ in spots, and the postholing just was no fun. So, I turned around and went back to the lake. I found a nice spot to sit and just take in the sights and sounds of the woods, and sat there for over a half hour. It was really nice to just stop and enjoy where I was and really be in the moment. The experience soothed my spirit and calmed my mind. It was exactly what I needed to help endure recent events. Not a terribly long day, but just perfect.
Location of Hike: Pansy Lake, Motherlode, Schreiner Peak Trails - 551, 558, 555
Trail Number: 551, 558, 555
Weather during Hike: Mostly Overcast in the morning, drizzle in the afternoon
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 8:45 AM
End Time: 2:00 PM
Hike Distance: 10.3 miles
Anyway, on to the trip report – I got an early start for this trip because there were impending reports of serious weather coming in early Friday afternoon. Heavy rain and high winds – I don’t mind a little rain, but this was supposed to be a big storm. The forecast said the rain would start around 11am, so I was hoping I could get done by early afternoon so I would be out of the worst of the storm. I left the house about 7:20am and got to the trailhead around 8:30am. A little before the trailhead, I stopped on the road to capture this photo:
I was amazed that we had sunshine! Maybe it was a good omen for the day? I wasn’t expecting to see anyone else crazy enough to be out in weather like that (especially on a Friday), but a woman who had been camping just up the road from the Pansy trailhead kind of popped out of the brush. Since I didn’t see any cars at the trailhead, I assumed no one else was around, and I had Bodie off leash. Fortunately he didn’t cause a scene, and came right to me when I called him. Once we started up the trail, I let him off leash again (he likes that so much better).
Once I got suited up for the wet weather, we started up the trail, keeping a pretty brisk pace. I knew if we were going to beat that storm, we wouldn’t have a lot of time to waste. We made it up to Pansy Lake pretty quickly and kept going. This is where the incline starts getting a little steeper. On the way up, I took a few pictures of the Pansy creek drainage from one of the rockslides above the lake:
One we made it to the junction with the Motherlode trail (the end of the Pansy Lake trail), I was getting pretty hot, so I took off my thermals so I wouldn’t sweat as much. It wasn’t terribly warm, but keeping a brisk pace on the trail kept me pretty warm. I didn’t want to get too wet from exertion, otherwise I might get chilled. Anyway, after a short stop at the junction, we headed off down the Motherlode trail (someone had been really creative fashioning an arrow directing people on the Motherlode trail – it takes a sharp right at this junction):
This trail continues the upward climb, although at a gentler pace. We continued up the trail until we got to the junction with the Bull of the Woods trail and continued just a bit further to the Schreiner junction. This was the junction we passed last time – it was my mistake – I thought the Schreiner junction was farther down the trail. Anyway, this time, we headed north at the junction. This section of trail goes downhill at a pretty good pace, and then steepens with a series of short switchbacks down the side of the hill. It then levels out and joins the Dickey Creek trail right where there is a seasonal creek. I was surprised the creek was not flowing. Every other time I’ve been through there it has been flowing – but not today – It was dry as a bone. Once through the flat area, you start heading up the hill to Big Slide Mountain, passing several rock fields with expansive views of the Welcome Lakes/West Lake basin:
You can really see the fire damage done in the recent fire (2011). We got a good look at the Welcome Lakes basin, especially the lower Welcome Lake (the larger one) and all the burned area. You can see some green starting to come back, however, which is great! We continued up the hill until we reached the saddle between Big Slide mountain and the hill next to it where the trail down to Lake Lenore starts. I’ve been down this trail one time before, in 2006 with Carly on a backpacking trip to Big Slide Lake. The beginning of the trail was unaffected by the fire, but very quickly, you clearly see the fire line:
From there the trail quickly degrades to the point it is very difficult to follow due to all the debris on the ground – bark, branches and burned out logs litter the ground and obscure a large portion of the route of the trail. It was never a well used trail, and the fire really took a toll on it. After watching carefully and making our way down the hill, we finally arrive at Lake Lenore:
Compare that to our trip in 2006 – taken from a similar location:
But the good news is that nature is regenerating itself! Without any help from man – we saw LOTS of these little seedlings popping up everywhere:
It was also interesting to see the burned trees with the old blazes on them (which will probably soon fall down and disappear since they are all dead now):
After looking around the lake a bit, it was time to head back – It was just beginning to rain a bit, so we hurried back up the hill (well, as fast as we could, huffing and puffing) and quickly made our way back. On the way back down, we caught a glimpse of the lookout on Bull of the Woods:
And I stopped to enjoy the vine maple turning colors one one of the rockslides:
The rest of the trip back was a bit of a blur – we were trying to make time to get back to the truck before the worst of the storm hit. It was supposed to be a real doozy of a storm, and I didn’t want to get stuck in high wind and heavy rain. We made really good time on the way down, stopping only a couple of times for a quick drink of water or snack. I had to make one quick stop at the rockfield above Pansy Lake though – I wanted to capture the difference in weather between the morning and the afternoon. In the morning, it had been sunny, but by early afternoon the rain had moved in (I don’t think this picture really shows how misty and gloomy it was):
We got back to the truck right at 2:00 – a pretty good pace – the GPS showed about 10.3 miles in just over 5 hours with almost 4000′ of elevation gain. Not too shabby….. Although it was a rather rushed day, it was good to get out into the woods and seeing Lake Lenore post fire was an interesting excursion. The woods around Pansy and in Bull of the Woods are absolutely gorgeous, too. Beautiful old growth timber with some spectacular views (even in the rain). We were both tired, but we had a great day in the woods.
Location of Hike: Goat Rocks Wilderness backpack trip
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 26.5 Miles
A bit further up, in a small sidehill meadow, things started getting interesting when we could start to see the views that would be everywhere all weekend.
And our first glimpse at a mountain (I think this was Ranier):
As we climbed higher, we could start to see some of the Jordan Creek drainage below us:
And a bit further, we could see exactly where we had to go – to go through a saddle and pop out into the Goat Creek Drainage:
Once at the top of this trail, we got a GREAT view of the Jordan Creek drainage:
At the top, there was a small meadow with Jordan creek running through it (a great source of water!) and a few nice campsites:
We watered up at the creek, took a little rest, and then headed up the rest of the way to the saddle. From there, it was pretty much downhill to Goat Lake:
It was an amazing sight. Middle of September and STILL having ice floating on it! And still some snow in places. This place must get a LOT of snow in the winter. And finally, the guys who gave this place its name (I’m guessing):
They are hard to see, however there was probably 12-15 of them on the opposite side of the lake when we came down. That was the best view we were going to get all weekend, unfortunately. After enjoying the view for a bit, we headed down the trail in search of our campsite. Having never been here, I wasn’t quite sure what the possibilities were. I had been told there was a nice site a little bit from the lake. I always like to camp near water, and trees are always nice (for a little privacy). We found a really nice spot about a mile from the lake:
It even had a pretty decent view of Mt Adams:
By the time we got to our campsite, it was time for dinner. We setup camp, cooked dinner, cleaned up and by then it was starting to get dark and we were both tired, so we just went to bed. The next morning, we got up pretty much with the sun, made breakfast, cleaned up and then were on our way for our day hikes. The plan was to go up to Hawkeye Point in the morning, come back to camp to eat lunch, and then head over to the PCT to go up and explore the area around Old Snowy. On our way to Hawkeye point, we got to enjoy this nice view from the north end of the Goat Creek drainage (near Goat Lake):
We headed around the lake and then took the cutoff trail up to Hawkeye Point. The trail was rather steep:
Once on top, we looked down upon Goat Lake:
And got a great look at Mt Ranier:
Here are two panoramic photos from up on top of Hawkeye Point:
They don’t even begin to capture the awesomeness of that view! After enjoying the view for a while, we actually started to get a bit chilly. It was a bit breezy up on top. So, after taking in the view a bit more, we headed back down and had a pretty uneventful trip back to camp. On the way back, we met a group who was on the way out, informing us that there was supposed to be rain coming in that night. The weather report I had heard said it should hold off until Sunday afternoon, but he was pretty sure it was going to rain. When we got back to camp, we talked a bit about how we really didn’t want to wake up in the rain. So, we decided to do our afternoon hike (up the PCT) and see how we felt and what things looked like when we got back to camp – we could decide then whether or not to hike out, or stay the night.
After eating a quick lunch, we headed south down the trail and soon came across this really cool, interesting waterfall:
One of my maps shows it as “slide falls”, which is pretty descriptive. It is right next to a big rockslide. We continued south until we met the Snowgrass trail and then headed east to meet the PCT:
At this point, we were essentially above the treeline and everything was heavily exposed, but the views were amazing:
We passed below Old Snowy:
And continued north (and up) to a ridge where we got a great (although different) view of Goat Lake:
We continued north on the PCT, across a snowfield until the junction with the trail up to Old Snowy. We knew we really didn’t have enough time to climb Old Snowy, so we opted to stop there to refuel a bit. We had a great view of Mt Ranier:
and the Packwood Glacier:
After we refueled, we headed back down to camp. On the way up, we had seen horses way in the distance, but didn’t figure we would see them. Well, they were apparently doing a day trip near where we turned around. On the way back down, we saw them:
We continued back down the way we came, stopping once to get more water (we went through a LOT of water!!!) and then got back to camp about 4:40. We talked about what we wanted to do, and a nice warm shower and a comfy bed sounded kind of good. We had done everything we had set out to do – all we would do in the morning would have been to pack up and hike out. We figured we had just enough time to hike out before it got dark. So, we quickly packed up and headed south down the trail. We had already logged about 13 or 14 miles, but we were determined to make it home. The trail is essentially all downhill (minus a couple of short uphill segments) to the trailhead. We were counting on that to allow us to make better time. We did catch one nice break, though. When I was looking at the map, it showed the trail going down to the floor of the drainage, then crossing Goat Creek, and then heading back uphill about 500 feet before dropping back down to the trailhead. I thought that was kind of stupid, but figured that there must be a reason. Well, we went back uphill about 100′, and then the trail was pretty much just level. The map was wrong! Either the trail got re-routed, or the map was just plain wrong. I didn’t care, it was just nice not to have to go up and then back down right at the end of the hike.
I had one really neat thing happen on the way down – at one of the rockslides, I heard the typical “meep” from the pikas that live there. I never really looked at the rockslides, thinking the pikas were hiding (as I had always seen). Well, on this rockslide, the pika was right there! And when I looked at him, he ran over to me! I wasn’t going to feed him, but he was really cute. I didn’t have enough time to get the camera out take a picture – when he realized I didn’t have anything for him, he darted off back down the rocks. MAN those guys can run fast! It was still cool, though.
We ended up getting to the truck about 7:45, just as it was getting dark – although we did use flashlights for the last bit of trail. It gets REALLY dark in the woods! We were tired, but glad to be back to the truck. Then we just had to drive the 15 miles of washboarded forest service road to get back to a real paved highway, and then make our way home. We made two stops on the way home – one for dinner (which we had skipped) and one for gas. We finally ended up at home at about 11:30pm. A VERY long day. But, it was really nice to be able to take a shower and sleep in my own bed.
I really enjoyed this trip – I always enjoy the trips with Carly, and this was no exception. I was a bit worried about the reports of how busy the place is. It was really busy, but I never felt like we weren’t in the wilderness. It wasn’t THAT busy. And, it was kind of fun to talk to some of the other hikers on the trail. We are already talking about next year – the Enchantments. That will be another epic trip – even bigger than the last two!
Location of Hike: Up old 2209-330 spur road (kind of a trail)
Weather during Hike: Foggy in the morning and partly Sunny in the afternoon
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 11:00 AM
End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 6.3 Miles
Got going a little late, so didn’t start hiking until 11:00 – it was almost a 2 hour drive to the trailhead (Opal Creek trail), but the good news is that there were only two cars there today! Unlike the weekends, where you might have 100 or more. Anyway, we started out on the hike, crossed Gold Creek on the big tall bridge and soon came to the junction of the old 330 spur road, which would take us up Gold Creek to the site of the old mines.
As we started our way up the old road and past the wilderness boundary sign, the old road seemed more like a creek than an old road:
We got a few glimpses of the surrounding terrain through the trees:
We missed the turn to continue up the old road. I had thought the Gold Creek trail would take off to the right, however what really happens is the Gold Creek trail continues on straight, and this road takes off to the left, through a bunch of brush. We saw the junction, but it looked rather overgrown and figured it was just some sort of side trail. After a bit on the Gold Creek trail, I realized we were not heading in the right direction. We were still headed up quite a bit and heading away from the creek. So, we turned around and found the junction and soon found the rest of the old road (what is remaining of the old road bed).
The road was rather overgrown with LOTS Of downed trees over it – It was tiring to keep going over or under all the big trees:
After hiking for a while, we came to an old bridge, which has kind of turned into a logjam. Only one of the original logs is still intact – the one we crossed on:
After crossing the creek and heading uphill some more, we finally found the first evidence of old mining activity (other than the “road” bed) – This was some sort of bridge over a collapsed mine shaft. You could see the remains of the wooden supports down in the bottom of the cave in.
A little farther up the road was a flat area
And an old blacksmith forge blower:
Downhill from that flat area was some more remnants. Roofing from an old building
An old mine car
And a woodstove (maybe? Or Maybe a blacksmith furnace?)
Knowing there might be more up the road, but also seeing what time it was, and how tired we already were, I decided it was time to turn around. I really didn’t want to be hiking in the dark, and we still had a ways to go back down the road/trail to get to the truck. I was also a little nervous about getting back over the creek on that log (with the dog). We were getting tired, and I didn’t want either of us slipping on that log on the way back. So, it was better to call it a day and head back. Going back was much easier than going in – I think we made it back down in about an hour and a half. So, we didn’t have to hike in the dark (or drive in the dark).
The weather was great for December and it was an interesting day of hiking, seeing some old relics in the woods, and being able to see some giant old trees. I would love to know how old some of the trees in that area are. Some of them are HUGE!
Location of Hike: Old Baldy Trail
Trail Number: 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 9:40 AM
End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 8 miles
OK, on to the hike description. Originally, I had intended to start at Twin Springs and hike west, but after thinking about it, I realized I could start from the point where Old Baldy hits the 4614 road and it would be much closer to town and I wouldn’t have to drive that awful Abbot road! So, the revised plan was to start there, very near where the Eagle Creek cutoff trail intersects, and go east to the end of the trail.
This was to be a relatively easy hike for me, as my knee was still recovering from the Eagle Cap backpacking trip with my daughter. I didn’t want to push my knee too much, but knew it would be good to exercise it a bit. This didn’t look like too much elevation or mileage so it seemed like a good hike for that. If my knee felt OK, I planned to go up to Squaw/Tumala Mountain and down to Squaw/Tumala Meadows as well.
I was a little concerned early in the trip – my knee was bothering me quite a bit. I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to complete the trip, but after about a mile or so, my knee loosened up and felt fine. I decided to go straight thru to the end first, not doing the potential side trips, just in case my knee got sore. If things went well, I could do the side trips on the way back. The beginning of the trip was pretty non eventful – this trail is very much “old school” – not a lot of switchbacks. Many areas go straight uphill and straight downhill.
We passed the confusing junction to Squaw/Tumala mountain (the trail takes a hard left turn – straight takes you to the old lookout), and continued down the switchbacks and east on the trail. A little farther down the trail we met a hunter who had just come down from on the ridge and was looking for the trail down to Tumala/Squaw meadows. I told him that I hadn’t been on the trail before, but there was supposed to be a side trail down to the meadows, and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I assumed it must be farther down the trail. Turns out I was correct – a little farther down the trail was a rough side trail which went downhill and went down to the meadows. A side note – I hadn’t realized that this day was the opening day of (deer?) hunting season – there were LOTS of hunters around, and I hadn’t worn bright colored anything – all I had was my red bandanna. OOPS!
Shortly after we passed the side trail down to the meadows, we came to a rockslide which had a great view of the basin.
We stopped there for a while, took a break, had some water and food and I looked at maps, etc to see what peaks were around. It is a GREAT viewpoint and interesting to see all the little meadows and lakes.
After spending a while on the rockslide, we continued east on the trail to the end at Twin Springs. We saw some VW campers there (Bob?), but were in a hurry to get back, so just turned around and headed back up the trail. When we got to the side trail down to the meadows, my knees were feeling pretty good, so decided to head down the trail to the meadows, and explore what was down there. The trail heading down is good in places, and rather faint in others. We had to pay close attention so we didn’t lose the trail on the way down. (We did end up losing the trail a couple of times on the way back up – it was easier to follow down than up).
Once down the hill, we went out into the meadow, however it was still rather soft, even with all the dry weather. I can’t imagine trying to go through these meadows in the spring!
Since the meadows were so soft, we decided to go back to a flat spot a little higher up in the trees to have lunch. We ate and then decided to see if we could see any remnants of the road that showed up on the south side of the meadow. We went towards where the road shows on the maps, however the brush was just too thick. I didn’t want to risk messing up my knee, so we turned around. I’m not sure how they got a road in there, seeing how soft that soil is. Maybe on the other side it was firmer. So, we turned around and headed back up the hill, and back to the main trail. When we got to the junction up to the old lookout site, my knee was still feeling OK, so we took that side route and went up to the old lookout site. One surprising thing we found – a “new” (relatively) radio antenna of some sort below the lookout site – right in front of what looks like used to be a garage for the lookout. I’m guessing it must be for the forest service radios or something. It was quite a project to get that into place! Looks like they might have brought a truck up the old road to get the building there.
We spent a little time at the lookout site, enjoying the view, however the mountains were hiding behind the clouds. The rest of the view was pretty good, though – not too much smoke.
After a short break at the old lookout site, we headed back down the trail and back to the truck. The mileage total for the day was more than I had expected. It ended up being over 8 miles! My knees did OK, and I was able to complete this milestone! The hike was pretty peaceful, except for the few gunshots that I heard in the distance (from the hunters), saw no one else except for the lone hunter, and the weather was just about perfect – not too hot, not too cold. What a great day to be in the woods!
Location of Hike: Eagle Cap Wilderness - Wallowa Mountains
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold at night (below freezing)
Hiking Buddies: Carly
Hike Distance: 30 miles
This was intended to be our annual backpacking trip with my daughter last year, however due to unforeseen issues it had to be cancelled. I was very excited when she asked me if we could do this trip this summer. It certainly was a memorable trip. The trip started with some drama – we drove down the 7 mile gravel road to the trailhead, which wasn’t that bad (there are a LOT worse roads in the Clackamas district). We parked at the trailhead, got out of the truck, and heard a “sssssss” sound and looked down and the front drivers side tire was almost flat. Changed to the spare (which luckily still had air in it), and we went on our way down the trail. In over 10 years of hiking, I’ve never popped a tire on a gravel road. I guess there is a first time for everything. We debated on whether to drive all the way home on the spare (350 miles), but ended up deciding to stop on the way home at Les Schwab in Enterprise. Good thing – the tire was unrepairable due to the size of the slice, and we found out the spare was a little smaller than the tires, so driving a long distance would not have been a good thing. Long story short – ended up buying new tires there – the existing tires were almost down to the wear indicators anyway and ended up getting 6 ply tires (instead of 4 ply), which should help with any punctures down the road. They (Les Schwab) said they get a lot of punctures from gravel roads in that area. When we were walking back the road, saw lots of REALLY sharp rocks. On the way out the trip was a LOT slower to hopefully make sure we didn’t pop another tire since we didn’t have a spare. It was a rather “exciting” start for the trip….
Once we got underway on the trip, we headed down the trail – day 1 was a challenging day – 11+ miles and 3000’+ of elevation gain, getting up to 8600′. We were trying to get most of the mileage done on day 1 and 2 so that day 3 would be a shorter day – we had to drive home after we got off the trail, so we wanted to make it a shorter hiking day. So, day 1 – we started around 9:30am – the first challenge was the first trail junction – a little confusing, but a couple of minutes of reviewing the map and we were on our way – across a concrete bridge over the east fork of the Lostine River. It then followed the west fork of the Lostine River up the valley. Since we had 3000′ of elevation to gain, we were climbing pretty much most of the day – until we hit the high point, where we quickly descended about 1200′ to our destination for the night – Steamboat lake. I’m getting ahead of myself here – the first couple of miles were rather non-eventful, although we did see icicles hanging from a tree in the river on the way up!
Once we got to the next trail junction (there are a lot of trails in Eagle cap!!!), we passed a horse camp and then got to our first “ford” – I was able to rock hop across, but Carly had to put her sandals on, but the water wasn’t much more than ankle deep – earlier in the year it would be calf to knee deep. Either way, the water was still COLD. We then proceeded to do two more fords, but both of them were rock hops at this time of year. We were prepared for deeper crossings, but the water level was down considerably at all the water crossings.
After the first ford, we continued up (the direction for most of the day) to another plateau where we had some nice viewpoints and was at the base of a large rockslide. A little farther up the trail, we came to another crossing of the creek and we decided to have lunch there. It was a great place to fill up with water and rest a bit before we continued our climb.
After the creek crossing, we crossed a rather large meadow and then proceeded up another series of switchbacks, climbing above the meadow. After climbing for a while, and passing a small waterfall (Elkhorn creek I think), we got to yet another meadow with a meandering creek. We stopped in this meadow for a rest and saw a cute little family of chipmunks next to the creek. They had quite an underground lair of tunnels!
After a short rest we continued through the meadow and then started up again. This continued until we came to yet another meadow at the top of that hill. We crossed that meadow (which is probably pretty wet in the spring, although it was dry when we went through), and then continued up a little farther to our highest point of the trip – 8600′. There was still snow in spots at this elevation, but the trail was clear. It gave us a great view of swamp lake and we got a preview of the switchbacks we would soon be travelling down in order to get to swamp lake.
Once we rested a bit after that LONG climb, we started down the long switchbacks down to Swamp Lake. There were some interesting “tufts” in the swampy areas in the south part of the Swamp Lakes basin. The trail had a path built over this swampy area, and then passed along the east side of the lake in the rocky areas. We stopped here to admire the lake for a bit and rest, and the proceeded past the lake and down another series of switchbacks. Just past the lake, we saw a pair of deer grazing. As soon as they saw us they took off, but it was neat to see them. After the deer we went around a small peak and then went down another series of switchbacks down to Steamboat Lake. The Steamboat Lakes basin is similar to Swamp Lake, but the lake is a little larger and there were better campsites. We were at about 7400′ in elevation. There was no one else at the lake, and we walked around to find a good campsite. We settled on one a little ways from the lake, near a couple of large granite outcroppings – one which had been used as a fire ring at some point. Fires were prohibited in this area, so not sure why people were using it for a fire ring. Maybe the prohibition is relatively new. After making dinner and getting things cleaned up, it was starting to get dark – we were tired so we turned in early – about 7:30. We both slept (more or less) until the sun came up the next morning – about 6am. It was COLD. It had frozen overnight – there were ice crystals in places were there was moisture, so I’m sure it got below freezing that night. We both stayed warm in our sleeping bags.
Once the sun came up, we made breakfast, cleaned up and got our our way to our next destination – about 11.5 miles, 2400′ of elevation gain – a campsite in Brownie Basin next to Bowman Creek. Our plan was to have the first two days be harder so we could get done earlier on the third day since we had to make the 6+ hour drive home after hiking out – we wanted to get as early a start as we could. The beginning of day 2 was pretty much all downhill, although we did have a short bit of uphill right past the lake. The rest of the downhill was pretty consistent and well graded, but it was unrelenting. We did have to lose over 2000′ of elevation though. We weaved our way through various different forests, ranging from the scraggly pine, to smaller fir, to some sections that looked very similar to forests in the Willamette valley (very dense, big trees). We switchbacked down the hills, crossing water quite a few times. One “creek” we must have crossed 4 or 5 times on the way down as we switchbacked down. When we finally got down to the bottom, it was a nice forest where the trail pretty much followed a nice creek. We followed the creek for a bit and decided to have lunch and water/rest up for the upcoming uphill sprint. We also met a lone hiker with her dog and asked about trail conditions up the way. We would need to gain about 2400′ before our destination for the day. After lunch, we saw the North Minam Meadows. They are HUGE! Although you can’t really appreciate the size of them until you start climbing out of the valley. The trail followed the east side of the meadow, but kind of hid part of it. Once you get to almost the north of the meadow, a trail junction takes you east, switchbacking up the valley wall, sometimes rather steeply. As you ascend, you can really see how big the meadow is. When you get higher, you get a GREAT view of the North Minam River valley.
As we continued up the trail (UP the trail), we got to another small creek crossing and another meadow. This made for a good watering up and rest spot. At this point, we were most of the way to the top, but we still had almost two miles to go – and boy did those two miles feel really long. When we were almost to the top, we passed the second person we would see on our trip – a guy with a pack train of animals (4 or 5) coming down the hill – he apparently was going to camp at the meadow. There was a big horse camp there that looked popular.
Once we finally got to Wilson Pass (the high point for the day), we admired the views for a bit and then started down the trail into Brownie basin, which would be our camp for night 2.
From Wilson Pass, you could see the red spires of Twin Peaks, as well as most of the basin. After some photo taking, we continued down the trail, uneventfully until we got to Brownie Basin and a nice camp spot next to Bowman Creek. Night two was mostly the same as night 1 – setup camp, cook dinner, clean up and then go to bed. It got REALLY cold on night 2, much colder than the first night, but we did OK. It warmed up pretty quickly in the morning once the sun came up.
Day 3 was a much shorter day, although it started just like the previous day, except it was much colder (strange, since it was a little lower than the previous night, and the temperatures were supposed to be higher as the week progressed). Getting up with the sun, making breakfast, cleaning up and then breaking down camp. We got all packed up by 8:30 and were on the trail back down the mountain. On the way, there were quite a few really nice viewpoints to see the Lostine River Canyon. The trail was well graded, although continued to be very rocky all the way down the mountain. We tried to enjoy our last views of Eagle Cap as we descended back into the Lostine River Canyon.
When we finally reached forest service road 8210, and the Bowman trailhead, our adventure was not quite over – we still had to hike 3.3 miles south to where we parked the truck – and to see if the rest of the tires had held air for 3 days! The hike down the road was uneventful, although in order to make better time, and since we were going to be driving right past that point, we ditched our packs in the trees. We got to the truck, and all the tires were still inflated! Since we had no spare, the trip back down the road was very slow. We got back to the place we ditched our packs and put them back in the truck and then proceeded to Les Schwab in Enterprise for that adventure (ended up buying new tires and spending 2 1/2 hours there). After that experience we still had the long 6+ hour drive home. We were both eager to get home and take a shower, so we only stopped twice – once for lunch/dinner and once for gas. We finally got back home about 8:30pm. Truly an adventure to remember!