Location of Hike: Douglas, Plaza, Old Baldy, Eagle Creek Cutoff, Eagle Creek trails
Trail Number: 781, 783, 502, 504, 501
Weather during Hike: Sunny to Rainy to Overcast
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Zack
Hike Distance: 28 miles Elevation Gain: 8200 feet
- Day 1 – Head down the Eagle Creek trail to the Douglas Trail and head down the Douglas Trail to its intersection with the Plaza trail. Go on the Plaza trail till we get to Coffman Camp (we were hoping it still existed).
- Day 2 – Continue down the Plaza trail to the old Plaza guard station and 4610. Walk a short distance down 4610 to the end of the Old Baldy trail and head down Old Baldy to the Eagle Creek Cutoff trail and head down to Eagle creek – camp at the creek.
- Day 3 – Head down the Eagle Creek trail back to our starting point.
We mostly followed the plan but day 2 was quite a bit harder than we had anticipated. More on that later.
Day 1 – Eagle Creek Trailhead to Coffman Camp – 8.75 miles
While we were driving to the Eagle Creek trailhead we encountered a dump truck which we thought rather odd, but once we got to the trailhead, we started down the road to the “new” landing (we’ve parked there before) – on the way down there was a grader – the dump truck had been dumping gravel on this road and the grader was smoothing it. We decided we should park at the top of the hill since we didn’t know what was going on. As we were getting ready, the grader came up the hill and Zack talked to the driver. It is a good thing we decided to part at the top because he said before the day was done they were going to be putting in a big pile of gravel at the top of the hill to block the road. Had we tried to park at the bottom we would have been stuck.
Due to that work, we decided to take a slightly different route to begin. We had found the that other road continued all the way up to the abandoned road that the Douglas trail drops onto, so we decided to head up that way. We went by the location of the old lookout and soon reached the Douglas Trail. From there is was pretty easy walking, uphill a lot of the way, and soon, we got to the Wildcat Quarry where we got a nice view of Old Baldy:
We saw one other hiker while we were here. It was a beautiful day and it wasn’t too warm. We rested a bit there while enjoying the view and then continued up. At this point the trail is pretty wide:
We continued up the trail and it wasn’t too long before we encountered our first real bit of snow – nothing difficult to get thru – YET:
At some point, we got a nice view of Mountains to the North (St Helens, Adams, Ranier):
Since we were doing well on time, and it is a very short side trip, we dropped our packs and headed up to the top of Wildcat Mountain. There isn’t a lot to see up there since all the trees have grown up. We didn’t spend too long up there and then came back down and re-donned our packs and continued down the trail. The Douglas trail past Wildcat Mountain gets a bit narrower and a bit brushier:
At some point we got a great picture of where we were going – Tomorrow we would be going around the head of that basin:
The trail kind of follows the ridge (more or less) and at one point there was a rocky outcropping where we got some nice views – here is Mt Hood:
And there were some pretty flowers in the rocky areas:
A little farther down the trail Zack noticed this sign – a “3” – but 3 miles from what? We all scratched our heads and even after coming home and looking at several things, I still can’t figure out what it is 3 miles from:
We continued down the trail – as we got farthe down, the trail was getting even more brushy in places:
We finally arrived at our destination for the night – Coffman Camp:
It is a pretty large, flat area but it is obvious it doesn’t get used much any longer – the ground cover was pretty healthy and the fire pit hadn’t been used in a while.
There is a sign pointing to the spring below Coffman Camp – it is a rather long trip down the hill to the spring:
We setup camp for the night, had dinner, started a fire and then went to bed. It was somewhat breezy at times but not bad. We were still hoping the weather would hold out for us.
Day 2 – Coffman Camp to Eagle Creek – 11.7 miles
We got up Saturday morning, had breakfast, got water and then packed up and headed out. We knew today was going to be a longer day, but we weren’t quite ready for how long of a day it was going to be. While we were getting packed up, it started to rain – so we had to pack up wet tents. At this point it wasn’t much rain, but it was enough to get things wet – and they would stay wet for the remainder of the weekend.
We packed up and headed out. Beyond Coffman camp, the Plaza Trail gets REALLY brushy in places – its good we all had full rain gear on because otherwise we would have been soaked:
It was starting to rain more consistently although it was still rather light – the winds had also picked up but for the most part we had been protected from them. We soon got to the junction with the Salmon Mountain trail – this goes out to the old lookout location on Salmon Mountain:
We continued along. At the point where the trail turns south, Kirk wanted to go find “Stony Camp” (it is shown on older maps) – I didn’t realize this and since I was somewhat slow due to all the uphill we were doing, I continued up. I stopped a few times and waited, thinking everyone was going to catch up but no one came. I finally dropped my pack and headed back down to see what happened. I finally found Zack who was waiting for Kirk to come back up the hill. We then continued up towards Sheepshead rock.
By this time, the rain was getting worse – it was cold, and we were intermittently getting some good winds thrown at us. It was just flat out cold. It was near this point where we saw our first significant snow – and it was tiring to get thru:
We made it thru all the snow, past Sheepshead rock, thru the wind and rain and hail (at times). We got to the point where the trail kind of levels out and it just disappeared under all the snow. At that point we just kind of headed downhill in the general direction of the trail. We got to the point where it took a hard turn, and I was thinking that had been an old road and thought it would be very recognizable – but we didn’t see it. We were able to find the old fireplace at Plaza – this was the old Guard station:
From there we started trying to follow the trail but we decided to just cut our losses and make the most direct way over to 4610. After a bit. we finally made it out to milepost 18 on the 4610 road:
And wood deck 54 on 4610 was right there – apparently they numbered each wood deck along the road – I looked at my photo from last fall at the east end of 4610 and it had a 1 on it, so the numbering appears to to east to west:
We walked up 4610 – we were all hungry and wet. We were hoping the rain would subside a bit but we didn’t have much luck with that. As we were walking we got out of some of the snow and you could see all the masticating of brush they had done on 4610 last fall – this was to be used as a secondary firebreak for the Riverside fire if needed:
We finally decided to stop at the old abandoned/decommissioned Twin Springs camp – we quickly ate some lunch under the trees trying not to get too wet. After a quick lunch, we walked down the road to the Old Baldy trailhead. We stumbled around in the snow a bit but finally found the trail and followed it. Soon we were out of the snow and following bare trail again. It was still pretty wet and windy along the trail however.
The next obstacle/challenge of the day was navigating the switchbacks up to the saddle below Squaw/Tumala Mountain. Kirk and I had been there about a month ago and turned back at about the first switchback because there was so much snow. I was hoping there would be significantly less but fearing it would still be covered. Fortunately, I was wrong – most of the snow had melted and we had a clear trail to the top except for a few small patches of snow.
We made it to the saddle pretty quickly and then headed down. The trip over to the junction with the Eagle Creek cutoff trail was pretty easy. We were now relatively protected from the wind and the rain seemed to have mostly subsided. Not having snow to navigate over helped as well. Once at the junction, Kirk checked out the car that was sitting at the access point on 4614. Zack headed off ahead of us since his knee was bothering him a bit and he was taking it slower.
Once we started down the 504, we hit a spot of snow and then a HUGE blowdown mess where we briefly lost the trail. We quickly found it and headed down – well, I mean we headed up – I had forgotten that even though this trail loses like 2000′ of elevation, it starts out GAINING elevation – you have to go back up to the ridge to follow it down – which is kind of a silly route. Once on the ridge, the trail goes up and down a bit, following the ridge. It is a pretty long slog down to Eagle Creek. When we got to the serious downhill part, I was amazed at how well the switchbacks were maintained. I likened that descent to the last bit of Corral Springs, but down there you can barely see the tread. The tread here is VERY visible and although it is steep, it is well maintained.
We finally made it down to the creek and then the search for a campsite began. Here is Eagle Creek:
Originally we were going to camp on the west side of the creek in the small campsite there, but we quickly realized that would be pretty tight for 3 tents. Zack went across the creek looking for a site but didn’t find anything too great. Kirk headed downstream and found a very old campsite that had not been used in years. The firepit was in good shape but the area had tons of small vegetation growing. We trampled it down and made camp successfully. It was a really nice site.
After dinner, Kirk and Zack were able to get a fire going even though the wood was pretty wet. The small cedar sticks and pitch wood were enough to get things dry enough to burn. Kirk and I by the campfire on Saturday night:
After not too long the fire had turned to coals and we were all tired so we all went to bed. It got dark sooner in the trees than it had the night before when it was more open.
Day 3 – Eagle Creek back to Trailhead – 7.2 miles
We got up a bit earlier this morning and made breakfast and then packed up. The goal was to be back at the truck before noon – Zack had to drive to Klamath Falls that night, so didn’t want to be driving all night long. Once we got packed up, rather than wading the creek, we found a log to cross on – Here is a picture Zack took of me crossing the log:
Once on the trail, we wasted no time – the trip was pretty uneventful and we didn’t stop too many times. Since it is mostly a gradual downhill, it was pretty easy to maintain a good pace. As we progressed, my ankle started bothering me more and more, so I had to slow down a bit.
One of the few pictures I took while we were heading out on Sunday morning – the lush rainforest of Eagle Creek:
Near where the trail heads uphill, we encountered two women hikers. They were very friendly and said they were surprised to see 6 vehicles at the trailhead. When we got to the trailhead, we were surprised to only see one other vehicle there, so I’m not sure what they were talking about. One thing I am glad is that we didn’t park at the landing on Friday because at the top of the road, there was a large pile of gravel with some VERY large stones in it. Had we parked down at the landing we probably would have been trapped.
We made it back to the truck ahead of schedule and packed up and headed out. It was quite the epic trip – very challenging, but seeing a lot of country that I’d never seen before.
Location of Hike: South Huckleberry Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Zack and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 1:40 PM
Hike Distance: 8.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We discussed what to do, and decided to head up a gated road – apparently it is the “Yellow Gate trail” which connected with the Huckleberry trail – these didn’t seem like trails really, they were old roads (and really not that old).
The beginning of the trip was relatively steep, especially for a road. We soon got up on more of a contour line and it mostly leveled out except for a few ups and downs. At one point, we got a good look at the burn damage across the canyon:
We continued down the road, which was in excellent shape, although not well travelled. We saw recent evidence of horses. One thing that was most amazing was how much green was on the ground under the burned areas – all the growth has occurred this spring:
We continued down the road until we got essentially to its end, where there is another loop trail around a wet area – the signs said it was the “wetlands trail”. Partway around the loop there was this cool bench that fortunately was mostly spared in the fire – you can see it burned thru in one small spot on the right side but otherwise is fully intact:
Not too long after the bench, we got to another road and then to what appears to have been a group camp area:
It had an outhouse, picnic shelter, fire ring and a big sign board, but it didn’t look like anyone had been there for a while.
We continued down the road, getting into another burned area where it looks like they had tried to make a firebreak and chipped up some logs:
Just into this burned area, the continuation of the wetlands trail headed west off this road. We decided to head down the road a bit to see what we could find. Looking across the canyon, there as this really interesting green plateau:
We also saw another picnic shelter up on a ridge – we thought that would make a good lunch spot. We weren’t sure where the road continued, but it didn’t look like anything too interesting so we turned around (after coming home it looks like the road continued back down to the main road – I kind of wish we had continued down – more explorations for another day)
We turned around and found another side road we believed to head up to that picnic shelter. This is what it looked like:
We stopped there to have lunch. It was interesting – one of the posts of the shelter was completely gone, as well as one of the benches and the top of the picnic table – but the other bench and everything else was untouched:
After we ate lunch, I pulled out my drone and took a video of the surrounding area:
After eating lunch and doing the video, we packed up and headed down – back to the wetland trail junction we had earlier seen. We headed west on that trail which obviously hasn’t seen many people recently. It was kind of interesting – but was most amazing to me was all the green in the midst of the burn:
At one point there appeared to be a side trail and we heard water so we headed over to investigate. There was a small creek running down from the cliffside that surrounded this wetlands area.
After exploring the creek a bit we headed back and were soon back where we started the loop around the wetland area. We then headed back the road/trail that we came in on. On the way in, we had seen a trail near the road and thought we’d go back that way on the way down. We made it to the junction and found what I’m pretty sure were a couple of the brown sign posts that you see – the plastic/fiberglass flexible posts – but this one was completely melted/burned:
We headed down this side trail, which basically just paralleled the road – at one point there was a big ditch and an odd looking area – we figured out it was a melted plastic culvert – it looked like volcanic rock:
We continued down the side trail but it didn’t last very long, dumping back out onto the road – we couldn’t figure out why it was even built – it was rather odd since it was so short.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, just heading back down the road to where we started. On the way down, I had to take another shot of the stark contrast between the burn and the lush green underneath:
We made it back to the truck relatively early and headed home. It was an interesting day of exploring an area I’ve not explored before. One more option to have until the forest opens back up.
Location of Hike: Eagle Creek and Douglas Trails
Trail Number: 501, 781
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed out at our “normal” time, and got to the trailhead. There were already 5 or 6 cars there which is unusual, but with so many trails closed due to the fires, it is kind of expected. We headed down the road and pretty quickly got onto the “real” trail where it enters the old growth. This trail is so lush and has some gorgeous old growth on it. The constant sound of Eagle creek is pleasant as well.
We got down a couple of miles and the decided to head uphill. We spread out as we were going uphill, looking for signs of trail. We did find a few spots that kind of looked like tread, but it didn’t last very long. We looked for blazes, cut logs and insulators. The only thing we found was the one cut log:
Not too far away from this we found this old campground:
We continued up the hill and eventually joined with the Douglas trail a little east of where it hits the old 255 spur road. We hit tiny spots of snow on the way up the hill and when we got to the top, there was patchy snow. There was a couple of inches on the road – the dogs enjoyed that quite a bit.
We headed west down the road until the spot where the trail takes off again. We weighed our options and decided to go up the trail a bit and then basically follow the ridge. A little ways up the hill, we found what looked like tread – as we proceeded along it was definitely tread and it seemed to kind of come and go, but basically followed the ridge. There is a lot of salal up there which made it tougher in spots. We didn’t go too far, when Kirk found the remains – right on this tread:
We looked around a bit and then decided to have lunch. After lunch, we decided to continue following the tread we had found. It kind of continued to come and go, but we mostly followed tread along the ridge. We got to one open spot where there were these HUGE, ancient vine maples – they looked like huge spiders or something:
As we continued trying to follow the tread, we did end up finding one cut log:
It was shortly after this that we lost the trail completely, but we were very close to the old road, so we walked over there and then continued west. We walked past the end of the road down what we figued was an old quad track. When we were here a few weeks ago, we followed it down to the point where it took a steep turn down the hill. Today we continued down the hill – we were assuming this would eventually bring us out onto an old road that we could walk back to the van. That turned out to be a completely correct assumption. The track continued down the hill, soon getting into a cut area (15-20 year old cut probably) and then down onto an old road. The road has been bermed for a few years so no one has driven up that far, but we did see recent evidence of cutting back some brush.
It wasn’t long before we were back at the van. By this time there were probably 10 vehicles at the trailhead. We loaded up and headed out. It was a great day of exploring on an absolutely beautiful spring day.
Location of Hike: Helion Creek
Weather during Hike: Partly Cloudy and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 1:30 PM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 700 feet
I knew it would be a short day, so we headed out after lunch and arrived at the gravel area a little after 1:00. We headed out, down the horrible side hill, with tons of downed logs. We had realized that staying high was a better option that going low, as hugging the cliffs was usually a little easier.
As we went, we passed a couple of small creeks. One of them had a cool waterfall:
After about an hour, we made it to the creek and started searching. Kirk used his endoscope and I used mine and Zack was using his pole to poke around. Here is Kirk using his endoscope, attempting to find the drone (with the dogs supervising him):
And here is a great photo of the Helion Creek Waterfall:
Along with a video:
After a while with no success with the endoscope, I decided to put on my waders and wade the creek and use my hands to search the pools. That worked really well, although the water was REALLY cold. After about an hour of searching, we finally gave up. I thought we searched the target area pretty well, but there are a LOT of nooks and crannies it could have gotten stuck in, or it could have been washed way down the creek. Either way, we decided to call the search and head back.
The trip back seemed slightly better than the trip back the prior week (maybe we were getting better at finding a good route, or maybe we were just worn down by the rough trip). It took us about another hour to get out and back to the van. We were all tired and a little disappointed we didn’t find it. Even if we HAD found it, who knows what shape it would have been in. I guess I just wasn’t meant to have a drone. If/when I get another one, I will make sure I have one with obstacle avoidance, and I will make sure I’ve practiced flying it a LOT more before I try and fly it in a tight canyon.
Even though it was a disappointing day, it was nice to get out for a few hours.
Location of Hike: Lower Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to partly sunny with rain, snow and sleet
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie, Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.5miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Due to the warmer than normal weather we’ve been having, we were able to easily make it to the lower trailhead at almost 3000′. It wasn’t really raining when we got there, so we quickly suited up for extreme weather and headed up the trail. The trail basically follows the ridge up to an old clearcut below Cottonwood Meadows. The lower portion of this trail is in some magnificent old growth with tread in really good shape:
We did encounter quite a few downed logs and a few messes on the beginning of the trail, but we cleaned up what we could and went over/around what we couldn’t. It wasn’t too long before we popped up onto the 5830-265 road where we saw just a little bit of snow:
We walked up the road and then went cross country thru the clearcut (the trail thru the clearcut was wiped out). After a few attempts at making sure we were going the right direction, we got up tp the 240 spur crossing where there was more snow. Beyond this crossing the real trail continues north:
Right after that crossing, we got to the first, lower Meadow, which looked mostly frozen over:
And then continued north thru a couple of small little meadows towards Cottonwood Lake:
And shortly arrived at a mostly frozen Cottonwood Lake (although none of us wanted to try it out to see how frozen it really was!):
We ate lunch there and looked around a bit and then headed out. When we got to the 240 spur, we decided to walk back the road rather than going cross country, since it was rather difficult – there was a lot of melting snow water runoff which added to the difficulty of getting thru the clearcut. The plan was to head west until the road turned and then head uphill to the upper road – this would cut quite a bit of time off the trip – almost a mile of road walking it looks like.
We made it up to the road turn and then up the hill – from there we went uphill and soon found the upper road that had been bermed at an old gate location. It was in this section I took some photos of Thor having fun in the snow:
He had lots of fun with Ollie – running around and doing his beaver thing in the snow and even doing some frapping at one point.
We finally came back to the 265 spur and things had cleared up a bit from what they were in the morning – we still got gusts of wind occasionally but there was even a few small spots of blue sky at times – You can sort of see Mt Mitchell in the background (in the clouds behind the trees):
We headed down the road and onto the old trail and quickly made it back to the truck, doing a little bit of trail maintenance along the way – cutting out some smaller trees.
Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive down to the end of the road and check out the collapsed bridge over Cot Creek:
It is really growing in – it was interesting to see how much work went into building that bridge too – there was a LOT of cribbing on each approach.
After checking out the bridge we headed back to town – we wanted to stop at Fearless but they were closed for New Years Day. We headed over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon (I had been there once with Don) for a beer and some appetizers.
It was a very interesting day on a beautiful old trail in a very interesting area. The winter weather warning didn’t really seem to come to pass – other than a few gusts of wind and a little bit of rain, sleet and snow at times, it really wasn’t that bad up there. I was expecting to get a LOT wetter than we did. I wasn’t even sure we would be able to make it up all the way due to the wind. It turned out to be a pretty good middle of winter day in the woods. A good start to the new year.
Location of Hike: Down Calico road and Back Fish Creek
Weather during Hike: Misty to Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Zack and Thor
Start Time: 9:45 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 4.8 miles
Zack joined us on this hike and he wanted to do some clearing up the old Calico road – the plan was to try and clear that and then head down to Fish Creek and clear that road on the way back – we didn’t have enough time to get the whole Calico road cleared, but we got close. We didn’t do much on Fish Creek since we ran out of time. I didn’t take too many photos since it was kind of a short day, but we did cut quite a few logs off the old road. I didn’t count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 40 or 50 logs. We used my saw, but Zack did all the cutting since I wasn’t sure how Thor would respond to the the noise of the chainsaw. Amazingly enough, it didn’t seem to bother him. I did a bunch of lopping and clearing of the cut logs.
We started down the old Calico road, and short came to a huge messy blowdown. We cleared that, and then crossed Rimrock creek. After that crossing, I normally head down to Fish Creek (there is an old quad trail down), but today we continued up the Calico road. We cleared logs as we went, and while clearing one log, Zack saw this Pacific Giant Salamander- I didn’t get a good picture of him – once we saw him, he quickly scampered back under some brush – I was trying to get my boot in the photo for scale, but was too slow. His body was probably 6-8″ long and his tail was at least that long, if not longer:
We continued down Calico road to a point where the 120 spur met it. We had lunch there and the sun came out for a few minutes. After a quick lunch, we continued south on the 120 spur and quickly came to First Creek – this is what it looks like a little higher up the canyon wall (a little smaller than down by fish creek):
We continued down the spur road and a litlte farther Zack told me about this cool little waterfall below the road:
While he continued to cut logs off the road, Thor and I went down to check it out. A little farther down the road, we encountered this very large tree that had come down – one we did not cut:
We continued to the end of the 120 spur and then headed cross country down to the old road 54. We came in just north of Second creek. Once we hit the old road 54, we quickened our pace since we were running a bit late. We didn’t really do any cutting or lopping on the way back except for a couple of small trees. We made it back to the truck a little after 3.
A great day out in the woods in February. Nothing earth shaking happened, but cutting out a bunch of logs felt good and the weather really couldn’t have been better.
Location of Hike: Switch Creek Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 6.8 miles
It had been something like 5 years since I’d been on the trail, so I had to try and remember some of the more obscure parts. Fortunately, I had a track from my last visit that helped us to stay (mostly) on the trail. We headed up from the parking area on road 46 where it was somewhat windy – down by the reservoir it was REALLY windy, but all up and down the Clackamas Gorge it was windy. The wind made the air temperature feel even colder – it was below freezing and there was frozen frost on road 46 in quite a few places, so driving was a bit tricky.
After getting ready (quickly due to the cold temps), we headed up the old spur road which is the beginning of the trail. It is still reasonably easy to follow, however the small trees are growing in in spots. We shortly got to the creek crossing and picked up the trail on the other side. That was not very easy, since there were quite a few rather large logs that had fallen, many right in the tread. We made our way thru that mess, and a better trail emerged after that (at least for a while). It wasn’t too long after the creek crossing where we ran across the first grisly/gross/interesting find of the day – a dead blacktail deer – and a pretty large one at that – Zack said it was a “4×5” – a 4 point buck with a smaller point near the head which was the “5”. He said that was a REALLY large deer for the Clackamas area. Something had eaten a large portion of it, but it was still pretty fresh. We couldn’t tell if this was a bad shot by a hunter, or if it was a cougar kill. Warning – gross picture ahead:
After checking out that find for a bit, we continued up the steep hillside – sometimes VERY steep – losing the trail for a bit here and there – but someone has flagged most of it reasonably well – so we were able to re-find the trail easily. When you get near the top of the hill, you intersect a better, more established trail. This trail takes you up to the 4640 road. At the trail junction, eagle eyed Kirk found an insulator (the old map shows this trail heading back up to Oak Grove Work Center with the phone line):
We shortly got to the newly decommissioned 4640-157 spur – the one that took you to a hunter camp at the top of the hill. The section out to the 4640 road is very short and soon we were on the 4640 road, attempting to follow the road and a bit of cross country to head east:
After doing a short cross country route thru an old gravel pit, we soon crossed Switch Creek again:
And then headed up to a rather swampy little lake area where we had lunch. There were a few of these “birdhouses” – but I’m not sure what is supposed to nest in them. The hole is HUGE:
After eating lunch in the sun on the north side of the swamp/lake, we made another cross country route – pretty much directly east to the 163 spur road, where we passed another swampy/lake area and then attempted to find the old trail that headed east. We walked up the ridge, and thought we were in the right area, but ended up going too far north and came back down and finally found the old tread. It was on a VERY steep, unstable hillside, but it had good views to the south in a couple of spots. This was looking southeast towards Burnt Granite with Olallie Butte just to the left of it – Olallie was all white, although it didn’t show up too well in the photo:
We headed up a little higher, following the trail relatively easily, with a few spots that had kind of fallen away. This is what some of the better trail looked like up higher:
At some point, we talked about what our turnaround time should be, and we decided it should be 2:00 (since the days are pretty short). We got to a particularly indistinct area on the trail, and we weren’t quite sure where it went. At that point, it was 1:57, so we made that our turnaround spot. We headed back the way we came – I got another shot looking south/southeast with a cool shot of the fog/clouds hanging over the hills:
We went back the same way we came except for one section where we walked back the road instead of going cross country – it was all downhill and we figured it would be faster. Looking at our route, I don’t think it cut much distance off anyway. We pretty quickly got back down the hill and got to the van a little before 4:00. It was starting to get chilly again, so it was good we got there when we did.
We finished the day with dinner and a beer at Fearless. An awesome winter day in the woods! Oh, and we never put on our snowshoes – we got to almost 4000′ but the snow was never deeper than 3-4″. so it turned out we didn’t need them after all!
Location of Hike: 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: Buck Lake Trail
Trail Number: 701
Weather during Hike: Cold, sunny at times, overcast others
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 10:20 AM End Time: 3:15 PM
Hike Distance: 6.7 miles
We got to the trailhead a little after 10:00, and found just a little bit of snow:
We headed up the short trail, and while I had planned on going to the lake and then going up, Zack had seen some segments of trail on previous hikes in the area, so we headed up the ridge off the trail about half way to the lake. We shortly found the first evidence of trail – a blaze and tread:
And a little farther up we found a very old cut log:
We continued up the ridge, mostly following blazes, but occasionally losing the trail in the snow. We finally arrived on top of the ridge, where the terrain flattens out. This area has been cut extensively in the past, so the trail goes in and out of cut areas, making it difficult to follow (especially in the snow, since it obscures many clues to the trail). There is also a tremendous amount of blowdown in places, making traversal quite difficult. Here is what it looks like on top in one of the easier to traverse spots:
In one particularly well maintained section, we did find some interesting artifacts. The tread was discernible and blazes were plentiful, and someone had worked on cutting out a number of downed logs. We also saw these “diamonds” along the way – Red, blue and one yellow one:
Our guess as to the purpose of these was to mark the trail for winter use – maybe snow shoeing or cross country skiing, but that was just a guess. They were high up on the trees, maybe 10-12′ high, placed at regular intervals marking the trail.
When we got up higher (we actually got up to about 4800′ in places), and got into some of the cut areas, the snow we getting a bit deep, and any semblance of trail was almost impossible to see. We were soaking wet from being rained on (melting snow from the trees) all day long, and decided to cut our losses and take the roads back rather than trying to go back the way we came. We figured it would be easier and much faster – I think that was a good call. We headed over to the 160 spur and hiked down to a point where it looked like it would be easier to go thru the woods. That also turned out to be a good call – in the uncut trees the snow was almost non existent and the underbrush was very easy to walk thru. We walked uphill back up to the flat area and then headed down the “nose” back to the 240 spur. On the way down, we encountered 3 or 4 of these rock outcroppings, which were really interesting. Here is the largest of the 4:
These would be interesting to explore – I think this one in particular would yield a nice view from the top. We didn’t want to climb it with all the snow on it. An adventure for another day.
We soon came to the 240 spur and headed back down to the trailhead. That was easy walking and we quickly made it back to the trailhead, and a warm truck. A stop at Fearless on the way home made for a great end to a great exploration. Probably the last high elevation one for this hiking season. This trail will stay on my list of “todos” for next year, for further exploration.
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: 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: 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: Horseshoe Saddle, Ruddy Hill and Skyline Trails
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 10:30 AM End Time: 4:00 PM
Hike Distance: ~5 Miles
On the way up, all the rough roads shook up my bladder so I needed a break. We stopped at the Olallie Meadow campground to use the outhouse. While there, Zack happened to spot tread! We hiked it a ahort way just to see where it went. I realized this must be the old Skyline trail when it was routed near the meadow. After scouting that out for a short way we headed back to the truck and checked out the guard station/cabin (not sure its official name):
It was unlocked so we went in and looked at it. It was cool to see a structure that is probably close to 100 years old (built in the 20s?):
And soaked in the views of the huge Olallie Meadow:
After checking that out for a bit, we headed on up to Olallie Lake – we stopped at the store to look around (since Zack had never been there before). It was rather breezy, which was putting whitecaps on the lake. After enjoying the view of the lake fora bit, we headed up to Horseshoe Lake campground. Well, I didn’t do any real planning – the plan was to meet at the campground and hike the Horseshoe saddle trail (which has the sign on it). Well, never having met them in person before, I wasn’t sure who to look for, but I kind of figured 3 women camping would be easy to spot. Zack asked if I knew what they drove and I said “that would have been a good question to ask!”. Looking around the campsites, we didn’t see anyone who fit the bill – we asked a couple people and they kind of looked at us strangely. We decided to hike the trail and then head up to Ruddy Hill – maybe we would meet them on the trail. So, off we started down the trail. Shortly, we came to the new sign, which was very well done:
We continued down the trail, reaching the saddle shortly and then headed north on the PCT to the short, but steep Ruddy Hill trail. Huffing and puffing, we finally arrived at the summit of Ruddy Hill, were the first thing we saw was the old phone box. A little worse for wear than the last time I saw it, it continues to stand (barely):
We took in the incredible views from up on this aptly named hill:
We decided to eat lunch on the hill, enjoying the views. Once done with lunch, we headed back down the trail. When we got to the campsite, we looked around to see if anyone new had arrived. For some reason, I was thinking they were going to stay Friday and Saturday nights, but I was wrong – they were only staying Saturday night and had gotten a late start from town. Needless to say, we didn’t find them, so we decided to head out. We figured maybe plans had changed or something else happened. Having a bunch of extra time in the day, since we were so close, I asked Zack if he wanted to go explore a section of the old Skyline Trail that Donovan had shown me a couple of years before. I guess that was going to be “plan B”….. On the way, we decided to stop at Olallie Meadows and do a little more checking of that section of the Skyline trail. We went back and got on the trail segment again and hiked north a short ways. Zack found a really cool artifact – an old fence/hitching post along the edge of the meadow – they are kind of hard to see in the photo, but they are in a line – all leaning to the right in the center of the photo:
We also found a blaze:
After poking around, finding a couple more fence posts on the ground, we decided to head out and go up to the other junction I had been shown a couple of years before. We headed up an old decommissioned road to the point where the trail crossed it. We could either go north or south. We opted to go north. Following the trail was difficult in parts, but we kept finding blazes. Up the trail a little ways, we found another interesting artifact – an old phone line insulator – it is kind of hard to see in this photo – it blends in with the tree behind it:
We continued north, finding tread and blazes – the trail gets pretty wide near an old grazing/watering hole. We ended up kind of running out of time, but since the trail pretty much ran parallel to the road (the 4220 road), we decided to go a bit farther and then hike over to the road and back to the truck. We figured it would be MUCH faster than climbing over all the logs we came thru and we could go a bit farther up the trail. So we ended up going a little farther than a mile up the trail and then headed over to the road and back to the truck. The trip back to the truck was a LOT faster than the trip in. Note for future explorations – we can head over on the road and then start where we stopped to continue north.
It was a good day of trail exploring. Not quite what was planned, but we had a good time. The big event happened on the way home. Not too far from Estacada on Highway 224, we got stopped by a flagger. We didn’t know what was going on, but we heard a helicopter and were stopped for 10-15 minutes. I got out and asked the flagger what was going on and he said there was a fire – once I was out of the truck and around the corner, I could see a smoke plume up on the canyon wall. It was a pretty good fire, that was certain. We watched the helicopter do about 3 or 4 runs, dipping his bucket in the river and then heading up to the fire to drop it. They did not want cars going under the helicopter due to safety concerns. After those runs, the helicopter stopped for a bit and they let us go. After we got past the fire, Zack took a couple photos of the fire out the read window of the truck:
It was obvious this was a large fire and growing quickly – it started right above the quarry at milepost 36 sometime during the day. I guess it is named the “Pit 36 fire”. As of today, the fire is still growing and they have closed highway 224 – hopefully they will get it under control soon. It was a very somber way to end the day.
Location of Hike: North Fork Clackamas River - Fisherman Trail
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Zack
Start Time: 11:15 AM End Time: 3:15 PM
Hike Distance: 4.7 miles
It was a beautiful day – probably close to 60 degrees and sunny. The beginning of the walk climbs, but you hear the sound of the river for a ways – you then veer away from the river and keep climbing quite a bit above it. A little later, you come back down to the river – it is about here where the old road kind of disintegrates and gets tougher to follow. I think it was about this point where we came upon a small herd of elk. We scared them and they ran off, but it was pretty cool to see. The trees in this area are relatively large and it is a very pleasant area. Here is a photo of one of the tracks:
We continued following the increasingly difficult road, coming to a large old washout which was rather difficult to get around. We had a hard time figuring out exactly where the road went. We finally found bits and piece and made it up to an old spur road. We stopped for lunch and saw a logging operation on the hill across the way. We ate and then decided to head up this old spur to see how much farther we could go. A little ways up the spur we came across what looked like an old marijuana grow operation. Abandoned camping gear, fertilizer bottles and trash. It was very odd because they camped right on the old road, and there was active logging nearby. Maybe they did this before that area was logged. Anyway, we kept going up the road until the road stopped at a removed/collapsed bridge across Fall creek. The creek was running pretty fast and deep and we really didn’t want to cross it, so we turned around and headed back. We took a slightly different track back, hoping to avoid some of the blackberries we encountered on the way in. A photo of the removed/collapsed bridge:
It was a nice day in the woods. I really enjoyed hiking with Zack, although it wasn’t as good of a day as it would have been if we had been able to get to our original goal. Still, any day spent in the woods is better than a day anywhere else!
Location of Hike: South Fork Water Pipeline
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Kirk and Zack
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 3:40 PM
Hike Distance: 3 miles
The day started at the location of the old “Oregon City Water Patrol Station” (that is how it is labeled on the maps). The house is no longer there, however there is a nice big pullout and lots of parking there. Kirk brought his canoe and the plan was to canoe across the river over to the landing on the other side and then follow the pipeline trail north as far as we could.
The trip across the river went easier than expected – the current in the middle of the river was relatively fast, but it was pretty narrow – on the far side of the river was an eddy that was actually moving upstream! Anyway, we quickly made it across the river, got the canoe out of the water and then proceeded to find the pipeline grade. Doing this trip in the winter is really the best option for two reasons: 1 – there is LOTS of woody brush (salmonberry, blackberry, various grasses) that would be tough to navigate in the summer. 2 – There is a fair amount of poison oak along the pipeline grade – in the winter it is dormant, so it a lot easier to move past without getting itchy.
We wandered around a bit, and finally found the pipeline grade and started our trip north. I had forgotten how rough this “trail” was – and I think it has gotten worse since I was here last. We struggled with the downed trees and brush and it seemed the farther north we went, the worse it got. I finally had enough of it, and pulled out my little pruning saw and started cutting some branches. Zack had just given me new loppers, but I didn’t bring them, thinking I would not need them – that was a mistake. The pruning saw helped a lot, but loppers would have made it easier. Kirk soon took over the pruning saw, and I got out my hand pruners. There is a LOT more clearing that needs to be done on that trail, but we made a bit of an improvement. Here is some of what we had to go around (and there was a lot worse that I didn’t take photos of:
Here is Zack and Kirk clearing a particularly rough spot:
Once we got past the “cliffy” parts of it, just north of the bend where we started, the going improved a bit, but it was still rather brushy:
Although you couldn’t see the pipeline itself most of the way, these coax cables were visible almost the entire route – they made it pretty easy to follow the route of the pipeline:
Sometimes they were buried in the duff, sometimes they were stretched in mid air (like guard rails almost) – this photo also shows a big downed log that was cut at some point long ago – it wasn’t cut all the way through, but a notch was made in it – it was cut so long ago the notch was now at ground level:
A little farther up the trail, we found this item – Kirk thought it was a device to bleed off air from the pipeline, which kind of makes sense since it seemed to be at a high point along the pipe:
We continued north, following the river – the route improved a bit, and we even got to some rock slide areas where the grade was very good (if you look closely, you can see the coax cables in the lower left of the image):
Around one of these rock slides, an interesting/scary thing happened: When Kirk moved a log off the trail and threw it downhill, the rocks started giving way – a mini slide occurred. We were waiting for it to take out the trail, but it didn’t (thankfully). It did slide a LOT of rock downhill however.
Continuing north along the grade, we finally found the tunnels we had heard about. The tunnels did not start at the cliff face directly north of the bend in the river, they started a lot farther north. Here is the entrance to the first of four tunnels:
They were not very large – and seemed to get smaller the farther north we got. The first one was big enough to stand up in, but just barely
This was a very weird sight inside the first 3 tunnels. Groups of daddy long legs spiders and crickets, all grouped together. We had no idea what was going on there, but it was really weird looking:
At the entrance to the second tunnel, Kirk found an old insulator laying on the floor of the tunnel – it was kind of a weird place to find one:
All of the tunnels were in the cliff behind an “island” in the river. I’m not sure it is actually an island, but it does have a slough going alongside the cliff on the north side, and looks kind of like an island. This is the view from between two of the tunnels looking out at the flat area between the cliffs and the river:
Inside the 3rd tunnel, we had to walk on top of the pipe – there was up to a foot of water in the tunnel and it made for difficult going:
When we got to the other end, we found out why – a landslide had blocked up part of the tunnel exit and there was water dripping down into the tunnel from runoff. I”m sure during wetter parts of the year, this tunnel has a lot more water in it. Here is the exit of the tunnel – that straight thing is not a piece of the pipeline, but a tree that had fallen downhill – you can’t even see the pipeline, just the small tunnel exit:
The last tunnel had what looked like a piece of petrified wood in the ceiling of it:
And it also has a curve in it:
At the end of the 4th tunnel, the pipe takes a hard turn and goes straight down to the water – it is kind of hard to see in this photo because the pipe is covered in moss and ferns, but it goes downhill at probably a 60-70 degree angle until right above the water and then turns north right above the waterline:
On the way back someone noticed this interesting “glaze” on the wall of one of the tunnels:
It reminded me of stuff I remember seeing in the Oregon Caves. When looking it up, they referred to this as calcite deposits. It looks like it is soft, but it feels just like rock (although smooth).
After exiting the 4th tunnel, and realizing we were pretty much at the end of our route, since the pipeline went down to the water and seemed to head at waterline for a while, we decided to head up to the top of the hill and see what we could see – we got up there and saw a very difficult bushwhack. We decided this would be our turnaround point, so we stopped for lunch.
Heading back was pretty uneventful, and considerably faster than the trip in, since we had done all that clearing on the way in. We enjoyed some of the many cliffs on the way back:
We made good time back, and since we were a little early, we decided to go explore a little ways up the “Gipper” trail – it heads up and over the hill over to Hillockburn. I have been on that trail a couple of times and it offers some really nice views (this picture was taken on a trip in 2012):
After exploring up the Gipper trail a bit, we headed back down, back to the canoe, and made our way back across the river without incident. Kirk had to go home to a family dinner, but Zack and I headed to Fearless for a beer and some sweet potato fries. On our way back, we stopped to look at the point we got to, in order to see where the pipeline went. While we were looking we saw an AWESOME sight – A Bald Eagle flew up from the river into a tree! As we made our way down river, the eagle followed us for a bit. They are absolutely beautiful creatures, and it was amazing to see in the wild. An amazing way to spend an incredible winter day in the Clackamas. It felt more like a fall day!