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!