McKenzie River Trail (Blue Pool TH south to NF-610) – 11/21/2020

A combination of a day off, a favorable forecast and a need to drive to Bend to pick up some Christmas items provided the perfect excuse to check out a section of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This would be our third hike on this 26.4 mile long trail, all on different sections (Tamolitch Pool and Clear Lake).

We started our hike at the popular Tamolitch Blue Pool Trailhead where we had also started our hike to the Blue Pool.
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This time though we headed south (left) on the McKenzie River Trail away from the Blue Pool and the crowds that would surely be arriving later in the day (we were the 2nd car at the TH on this morning).
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The Sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it was still under 30 degrees, as we set off on the trail.
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The trail climbed a forested hillside and crossed a forest road above Trail Bridge Reservoir (2 miles from the TH).
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IMG_8455Forest road crossing.

The trail then descended to Forest Road 730 and a crossing of Smith River which feeds into the reservoir.
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Another brief climb followed before dropping down to the Trail Bridge Dam.
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IMG_8495The top of Three Fingered Jack is visible in the distance.

We continued on the trail which now began to follow the McKenzie River more closely.
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IMG_8499Fall means mushrooms.

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There were a couple of opportunities to get down to the river bank which we took advantage of and just over a mile and a half from the dam we stopped to admire Olallie Creek joining the river.
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IMG_8533Anderson Creek joining the McKenzie.

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IMG_8541Olallie Creek across from the trail.

A half mile beyond Olallie Creek the river split leaving a large forested island briefly in its center.
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Beyond the island the trail passed some rocky cliffs where icicles dripped before dropping to a crossing of Deer Creek at the 5.5 mile mark of our hike.
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IMG_8572Turning up Deer Creek to reach the footbridge.

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Shortly after crossing the creek the trail arrived at Deer Creek Road (NF 782) where there is parking for the trail and Deer Creek (aka Bigelow) Hot Springs. We knew the hot springs were somewhere along our route but we didn’t know for sure where until we got home after the hike. There was no sign for the small hot spring that sits along the river bank but we did see an obvious trail heading south down to the river here. Not knowing that the hot springs were down there we visited the bridge over the McKenzie and then continued on the McKenzie River Trail.
IMG_8586Up river from Deer Creek Road.

IMG_8588Deer Creek Hot Springs would be somewhere along the right hand side of the river.

The trail briefly climbed above the river before switchbacking down and arriving at Frissel Creek just over a mile from Deer Creek Road.
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IMG_8592We had to go around this bridge due to frost and it being at an angle.

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IMG_8606Footbridge over Frissel Creek.

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We had planned to turn around between 10 and 10:30 at either the hot springs or Forest Road 610 which the trail briefly follows. Since we didn’t realize we’d passed the hot springs we wound up making FR 610 the turnaround which was approximately three quarters of a mile beyond Frissel Creek. We arrived at the road just after 10:30.
IMG_8610Sun over the McKenzie River

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We turned around at the road and headed back keeping our eyes open for any sign of the hot springs and any other things we missed on the first pass. We still didn’t realize that the hot springs were where they were but we did spot a lot more mushrooms and the tops of the Middle and North Sister on the way back.
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IMG_8624We missed this sign for slough creek the first time by.

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IMG_8633Missed this survey marker too.

IMG_8631We also completely missed this sign at Deer Creek.

IMG_8638Still cold

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IMG_8679Without the use of the zoom on the camera they are hard to make out but the tops of the North and Middle Sister are visible over the hills.

The Garmin showed 14.6 miles for this out and back (Google maps had indicated it would be 13.4 miles) and there was between 800 and 1000′ of cumulative elevation gain. What climbs there were weren’t ever steep and didn’t last long. We encountered a half dozen other trail users but when we arrived back at the trailhead it was full and cars were stretched all they way down the road with people heading for the Blue Pool. It has become one of “those” hikes and is getting loved to death. After changing we drove to Bend for a quick visit with Heather’s parents and then headed back over the pass to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: McKenzie River Trail

Latourell Falls and Larch Mountain – 10/31/2020

We wrapped up our “official” 2020 hiking season on Halloween with a pair of hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. Latourell Falls and Larch Mountain were two of the remaining eight featured hikes we had yet to do from Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington”. We started our morning at Guy Talbot State Park for the short loop hike to Lower and Upper Latourell Falls. We arrived before 7:30am in an attempt to avoid the crowds that would likely be arriving later in the day which worked out as the only other car that was there when we arrived soon left. The downside was that the Sun was still working it’s way up leaving the conditions less than perfect for photos.
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The loop starts at the trailhead with a paved path to the right leading down to the splash pool below Lower Latourell Falls and the left hand fork leading uphill .8 miles to Upper Latourell Falls. With the lack of light we chose to head for the upper falls first to let the Sun get a little higher before visiting the lower falls. Just over a quarter mile up the trail we arrived at a viewpoint overlooking Lower Latourell Falls.
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There were a few more views of the falls as the trail continued to climb beyond the viewpoint.
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There was also a view across the Columbia River of Silver Star Mountain (post).
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Above the lower falls the trail followed Henderson Creek up a narrow canyon to the upper falls.
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This 120′ waterfall consists of an upper slide before the water turns sharply right through a chute before a final plunge into the splash pool.
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We crossed the creek on a footbridge below the splash pool then explored behind the falls under the basalt.
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Beyond the falls the trail headed downhill on the opposite side of the creek.
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After a half mile a short spur trail led downhill to a viewpoint above Lower Latourell Falls (the falls were not visible from here).
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IMG_8206Silver Star Mountain in the background with the cliffs of Cape Horn (post) along the Columbia River.

After checking out the viewpoint we continued on the loop passing another viewpoint across the Columbia a short distance later.
IMG_8215Looking east down the Columbia River.

IMG_8218Looking NW across the Columbia.

IMG_8220Silver Star Mountain again.

The trail crossed Historic Highway 30 before dropping into the picnic area of the park then led under a bridge to the base of Lower Latourell Falls.
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At 249′ Lower Latourell Falls is the 3rd tallest fall in the Columbia River Gorge. It was at the base of the falls that we finally crossed paths with other people. There was a pair of hikers and then a wedding party arrived for pictures.
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We left the falls to the photographers and climbed back up to the trailhead. This loop is approximately 2.5 miles (a little more if you do any exploring) with 600′ of elevation gain.

We then drove west on Highway 30 toward Corbett, OR turning onto Larch Mountain Road which we followed for 11.6 miles to a sharp right hand corner. At the corner is a small pullout at a gated road which is where we were planning on starting our hike. There were already a couple of cars parked here so we continued 100 yards up the road to a small pullout on the right.
IMG_8271Looking down toward the corner from the small pullout on the right.

The official trailhead is located at the end of Larch Mountain Road and requires a NW Forest Pass. The upper trailhead also provides for a much shorter hike to the viewpoint atop Sherrard Point.

We walked along the shoulder of Larch Mountain road to the gate, checking the posted Forest Service notice regarding closures to make sure our planned route was indeed open.
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All the trails along our route were indeed open so we started up the old roadbed following it for a little over a quarter mile to the Larch Mountain Trail.
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The 6.8 mile Larch Mountain Trail runs between Multnomah Falls (post) and Larch Mountain. The trails around Multnomah Falls are currently closed or limited by reservation only due to COVID-19. A right turn uphill on the Larch Mountain Trail would have brought us to the upper trailhead in 1.5 miles while turning downhill to the left would also get us to Larch Mountain in approximately 5 miles. We turned left for two reasons, first Sullivan’s description has you go that way and second we wanted to give the Sun more time to get overhead in hopes of having a better view of Mt. Hood.

The Larch Mountain Trail dropped over 300′ in the next .4 miles before arriving at a junction with the Multnomah Creek Way Trail.
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IMG_8291Multnomah Creek Way Trail.

We followed this trail downhill for .2 miles to a footbridge over Multnomah Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail turned uphill following the creek up into the Multnomah Basin.
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IMG_8311Larch Mountain from Multnomah Basin

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The trail climbed out of the basin and eventually joined an old roadbed as it wrapped around a ridge end.
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IMG_8348Mt. St. Helens (behind some tress) and Mt. Rainier.

A little over 2.75 miles from the footbridge we arrived at a junction with the Oneonta Trail where we turned uphill to the right.
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The Oneonta Trail followed the ridge uphill to Larch Mountain Road in .9 miles. Aside from a couple and their dog at the footbridge we hadn’t seen any other hikers until this stretch when we started to occasionally pass other hikers.
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IMG_8361Signboard near Larch Mountain Road.

IMG_8364Larch Mountain Road from the end of the Oneonta Trail

We turned right and followed the road uphill a half mile to the upper trailhead.
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From the parking lot we followed a paved path .2 miles to Sherrard Point.
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IMG_8378Just a few of the steps up to Sherrard Point.

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It had turned out to be a beautiful day and we had clear views of 5 Cascade volcanoes; Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.
20201031_114918Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_8391Mt. Hood

The Sun was just a bit of an issue when looking at Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_8422Mt. Hood with Mt. Jefferson to the right.

20201031_115249Mt. Jefferson

One neat feature at Sherrard Point are the plaques identifying the mountains, their elevations, and their distance from the viewpoint.
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IMG_8411View east from Sherrard Point.

After enjoying the view we headed down and took an unsigned right hand fork uphill to the picnic area.
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From there we stayed right at forks heading downhill until we reached the Larch Mountain Trail at another unsigned junction near some old picnic tables.
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We followed the Larch Mountain Trail downhill back to the junction with road bed where we had started our loop then followed the road bed back to Larch Mountain Road and our car.
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We were expecting this hike to be about 6.5 miles with 1300′ of elevation gain but both of our GPS units had us a little over 7.5 miles. Regardless it was an excellent hike with a nice variety of scenery and some great views. We were pleasantly surprised that it hadn’t been too crowded at Sherrard Point allowing for plenty of space between people. It was a great way to end what has been the strangest hiking season that we’ve had yet. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Latourell Falls and Larch Mountain

Forest Park Loop (Leif Erikson, Wild Cherry, Wildwood and Nature Trails) – 10/24/2020

With Heather’s foot still a little sore from her fall at Abbott Butte we wanted to find a hike that wasn’t too strenuous for her to test it out on. An 8.8 mile loop in Portland’s Forest Park fit the bill, especially since there would be several shorter loop options available in case her foot didn’t respond well. The loop we had chosen is the longer of two options given by Sullivan for the Balch Creek hike in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” guidebook (hike #4 in the 4th & 5th editions). The shorter loop option involves Balch Creek itself while the longer 8.8 mile loop never comes near the creek. For this hike we parked at the end of NW Thurman St. at the gated Leif Erikson Drive.
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In August 2020 Portland Parks and Recreation began a pilot program of one-way loops in an attempt to reduced visitor interaction and possibly help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Parts of our loop were included in one of the one-way pilots.
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We followed the paved Leif Erikson Drive for .3 miles to the Wild Cherry Trail (near a set of outhouses).
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We turned up the dirt Wild Cherry Trail (following the one-way signs) and quickly encountered people coming down the wrong way (so much for the signs). The Wild Cherry Trail gained about 400′ as it climbed to a junction with the Wildwood Trail in .6 miles.
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IMG_7986Switchback along the Wild Cherry Trail.

We turned right onto the Wildwood Trail at the junction and remained on it when the Wild Cherry Trail continued uphill to the left a few yards later.
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This was our fourth hike involving the 30.2 mile Wildwood Trail having hiked portions of it on our Washington Park (post), Maple Trail (post), and Northern Forest Park (post) outings.
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After .6 miles on the Wildwood Trail we arrived at a 4-way junction with the Dogwood Trail, part of the 2.75 mile one-way loop.
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Heather’s foot was doing well so we continued on the Wildwood Trail. In another .6 miles we arrived at parking area along NW 53rd.
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IMG_8011This was the first slug we recall seeing of this color.

IMG_8014Interpretive sign at the NW 53rd parking area.

In another .3 miles we ignored the Alder Trail on the right (another option to shorten the loop) continuing on the Wildwood Trail.
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The next loop option came almost 2 miles from the Alder Trail when the Wildwood Trail crossed Firelane 1. There were some nice clumps of mushrooms along this stretch. There was also a damaged bridge near the middle of this section which there were several warnings posted for.
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IMG_8037The bridge damage was not an issue.

IMG_8038Another bunch of musrhooms.

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Approximately a half mile before reaching Firelane 1 we passed the Morak Trail on the left (a 100 yard connector to Firelane 1 that is not shown on all maps).
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IMG_8050Firelane 1 junction.

With Heather still going strong we stuck to the Wildwood Trail arriving at the Nature Trail in another half mile.
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We turned right and when the trail split a tenth of a mile later we stayed left (the right hand fork would have taken us to Firelane 1).
IMG_8056The fork, left was downhill right up.

The Nature Trail followed Rockingchair Creek downhill to Leif Erikson Drive in just over a quarter mile where we turned right back toward our car.
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It had been busy when we had started our hike with the parking already nearly full but things had picked up even more since then. Even with it being busy there were moments where no one else was present along the 3.5 miles back to NW Thurman Street.
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IMG_8078Firelane 1

IMG_8081Somewhere along Leif Erikson there was supposed to be a view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along the way but the clouds never burned off like the forecast had called for.

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IMG_8091The Alder Trail at Leif Erikson Dr.

IMG_8093An orange one-way marker along Leif Erikson Drive between the Dogwood and Wild Cherry Trail junctions.

For the most part people appeared to be doing a pretty good job of covering their faces and maintaining social distancing (at least better than following the one-way trail designations). It was another enjoyable hike in Forest Park and an encouraging outing for Heather’s foot. At some point we plan on returning to see Balch Creek and explore more of the park. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park 10/24/2020

Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls – 10/17/2020

The third day of our long weekend in Union Creek was supposed to be a single hike to Abbott Butte and Elephant Pond in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. The day started as planned as we drove from Union Creek to the Abbott Butte Trailhead.
IMG_7633Union Peak and Mt. McLoughlin on our drive to the trailhead.

IMG_7635The peaks of Crater Lake National Park

IMG_7639Abbott Butte Trailhead

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail begins here at Huckleberry Gap near the southern end of the wilderness. Much of the area burned in a 2017 fire and there was a profuse amount of fireweed present which had gone to seed and left the ground looking as though it had received a dusting of snow.
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Just after taking the preceding photo which Heather had stepped to the side of the trail for, we resumed the hike and I immediately heard a ruckus behind me. I turned around to see Heather laying on the trail next to a log. She had gotten tangled some branches and fallen. While nothing was broken she twisted her foot awkwardly. After taking inventory she decided to continue on.

The trail spent the first mile and a half loosing approximately 300′ as it wound around Quartz Mountain before arriving at Windy Gap.
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IMG_7662Huckleberry bushes

IMG_7663A section of green trees along the trail.

IMG_7670Quartz Mountain

IMG_7675Passing below Quartz Mountain

IMG_7673Abbott Butte from the trail.

Along the way my camera decided to malfunction giving me a lens error when trying to use the zoom function. I eventually had to give up on using the zoom and am now looking for a replacement :(.

At Windy Gap the trail entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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Prior to the fire the trail paralleled an old road bed on the hillside above it but that tread has been mostly lost so we stuck to the road bed.
IMG_7684On the roadbed

IMG_7685Pearly everlasting

The road arrived at Sandy Gap .4 miles from Windy Gap.
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The peaks of Crater Lake were visible from this gap.
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We continued on the road bed form this gap as well. Between the gaps we had at least been able to see where the trail had been on the hillside above but at Sandy Gap the tread had all but vanished.
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Approximately .7 miles from Sandy Gap we passed a trail sign for the Cougar Butte Trail. The sign was the only evidence that the trail had ever existed from what we could see.
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Another tenth of a mile brought us to what in theory was a 4-way junction below Abbott Butte.
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IMG_7702Sign indicating the non-existent trail is not suitable for horses.

We followed the old road up an open hillside switchbacking three times to the summit of Abbott Butte after a mile. Along the way we spotted a pair of deer near the tree line.
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There were also some spectacular views.
IMG_7727_stitchMt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta and a whole lot of other peaks that I should know.

IMG_7724Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7732Nearing the summit.

The Abbott Butte Lookout has seen better days. While the stand is still upright the lookout was not and the old sleeping quarters beneath looked near collapse as well.
IMG_7734The old lookout on Abbott Butte

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Regardless whoever the idiot was that used wood from the lookout for their precious campfire should be ashamed.

IMG_7739The old outhouse?

There view south was limited by trees but there was a good view to the east.
IMG_7745Mt. Thielsen and the peaks of Crater Lake.

After a nice break at the summit we headed back down the road. After .7 miles at the 3rd (lowest) switchback we turned right toward a post.
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This was the route to the continuation of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail. Our plan was to follow it another 1.3 miles to Elephant Pond. In typical Rogue-Umpqua Divide Fashion the trail alternated between good tread and non-existent as it passed through meadows, green forest and burned forest.
IMG_7760Flagging marking the route.

IMG_7763A cairn along the tread ahead.

We passed another sign for the Cougar Butte Trail .4 miles from the switchback and at least this time there was a visible trail.
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Just beyond this junction the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail crossed a cinder field, turned east and headed steeply downhill.
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The trail eventually leveled out a bit passing through a series of overgrown meadows. For the first time since early in our first hike in this wilderness we nearly saw other people. We heard someone calling for Tyler but we never saw that person or Tyler.
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IMG_7783This meadow is where we heard the voice.

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IMG_7789Another late flower

Before we reached Elephants Pond we spotted the rock formation known as Elephants Head.
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IMG_7804Fireweed that hadn’t gone to seed.

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IMG_7823An owl’s clover

IMG_7820It’s hard to tell from the photo but this mushroom was big.

We declared victory at the pond as the trail was growing increasingly faint and entering another section of snags plus Heather’s foot was feeling a bit sore.

We returned the way we’d come only this time when we had reached Sandy Gap I decided to follow the old trail alignment above the road bed.
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I rejoined Heather on the road near the wilderness boundary and we continued back to the car. Just before reaching it, near where she had fallen earlier we spotted a very pretty butterfly.
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This was another enjoyable hike in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, even with the faint tread and our other mishaps. At 10.3 miles it was a good days worth of hiking and we drove back to Union Creek for another round of dinner and pie from Beckie’s Cafe.

During the return hike and drive we had been discussing possible scenarios for the next days hike given Heather’s tender foot. Our planned hike was an 8.2 mile out and back from the Union Creek Resort along Union Creek to Union Creek Falls. We came up with a few different options making use of the upper trailhead which was only a seven minute drive away. Unfortunately by the time we’d driven back to Union Creek and finished our late lunch/early dinner her foot had swollen and stiffened signaling an end to her hikes this weekend.

While we were waiting for our food I had been checking up on the condition of the Union Creek Trail which as of 2018 was overgrown with quite a bit of blowdown in between the resort and falls. Trip reports as recent as August 2020 confirmed this. The temperature in the morning was going to be just under 40 degrees and an overgrown trail meant wet foliage which wasn’t exactly an enticing combination so a new plan was formed. It was just after 4pm when we finished dinner so with Heather’s blessing I took my leave and drove to the upper trailhead.
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It was a little after 4:30pm when I set off and I gave myself a turn around time of 1 hour (or sooner if the trail conditions warranted). The trail began by descending 100′ in the first quarter a mile to the creek near Union Creek Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
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From the falls the trail continued downstream and was in relatively good shape with just a couple of small trees to step over. The creek was lively at first so I made frequent stops to check out several small cascades and chutes.
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Approximately 1.7 miles from the trailhead the trail conditions really started to deteriorate. I had been encountering a little more blowdown and now I was facing nearly chest high ferns.
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It was passable but I had to watch out for hidden obstacles so my pace slowed as had the creeks.
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I continued another quarter mile or so before calling it good, 45 minutes into my self-imposed 1 hour turn around time. The wilder show from the creek was over as it continues to calm the closer it gets to the resort. I double timed it back to the car stopping less frequently (an ouzel caught my attention at one point).
IMG_7953The broken zoom function didn’t let me get a good shot but the ouzel is on a rock in the middle of the creek.

I managed to get 3.9 miles in so almost half of the trail and I got to see a number of nice little cascades along the way. I was however a little damp from the vegetation so I was really glad I hadn’t tried to do the hike first thing in the morning.
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I drove back to the resort and found heather sitting by the creek reading. Before turning in for the evening we picked up a cinnamon roll for us and two pieces of pie from Beckie’s to take to my parents the next day. Heather is currently on the mend and will hopefully be back out there hiking and running shortly. Until next time, Happy Trails!

Flickr: Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls

Hershberger Mountain, Rabbit Ears, and Natural Bridge – 10/16/2020

We had a full itinerary scheduled for the second day of our Union Creek trip with three stops planned. We had originally planned on stopping first at the Rabbit Ears which are about 10 miles from Union Creek along Forest Road 6515. From Union Creek we drove north on Highway 62 to Highway 230 where we continued north on that highway for .9 miles before turning left and crossing the Rogue River on Forest Road 6510 (Hershberger Road). After 1.6 miles we forked right onto Forest Road 6520 and in another half mile turned left onto Forest Road 6515 (shown on Google Maps as Road 299). DO NOT rely on Google maps to get you to either Rabbit Ears or Hershberger Mountain. Not only is the road number incorrect but after approximately 4.5 miles it is misidentified on Google maps which shows the road making a hairpin turn to the left and shows no other existing roads. In reality this is a 4-way junction with FR 6515 continuing as a slight left. A total of 5.6 miles after turning onto this road we came to an actual hairpin curve to the left around a small meadow. To the right was a small parking area for the Rabbit Ears, but it was still a bit dark out to start hiking so we decided to change our plans and head up to Hershberger Mountain first. To reach Hershberger Mountain we needed to continue another mile on FR 6515 and turn right onto FR 580 for what Sullivan described as 1.8 steep, rough miles. We originally missed the part about the right turn after a mile and wound up passing FR 580 which was also marked as an OHV trail. After going more than 1.8 miles the wrong way we turned on our GPS unit to confirm our location then reread the book and found our error. We turned around and drove back missing FR 580 again thinking it was strictly an OHV trail and not an actual road but this time we quickly caught our mistake, turned around again and were finally back on track. A 2017 wildfire burned much of this area and along most of FR 580 which was in pretty bad shape with a number of large waterbars, some deep enough that the front bumper our our Subaru Outback scrapped the ground ever so slightly so passenger cars probably shouldn’t try it. When the 1.8 miles was up we came to a parking area on the left side of the road with some trails signs and a truck.
IMG_7144Sunrise from the parking area.

Two trails left the parking area, the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and the Acker Divide Trail.
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We would be taking the Acker Divide Trail but first we wanted to visit the lookout on Hershberger Mountain so we continued up FR 580 toward the lookout.
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We could have driven the .8 miles up to a parking area just below the lookout but 1.8 miles of FR 580 had been enough. This stretch may actually have been in a little better shape but then again we were only walking on it and not trying to drive.
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The lookout tower is available on a first come first serve basis and with the truck at the parking area below we weren’t sure if someone was using it so we didn’t go in but we did explore the area around it.
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The views were great which was a nice change to our Labor Day trip to Rattlesnake Mountain where smoke ruled the views. (post)

IMG_7160Mt. Bailey, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7162Arant Point, Union Peak, Goose Egg, Klamath Point, Lee Peak, Devils Peak, Pelican Butte, Lucifer Peak, Venus, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta (among others).

IMG_7166Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta

IMG_7163Rabbit Ears

IMG_7169Sun over Crater Lake National Park

While up near the lookout I noticed a sign along the rocky ridge to Hershberger Mountain’s summit.
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I headed for the sign and then continued onto the summit on a user path.
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From the summit I could make out Rattlesnake Mountain (post) behind some burned snags.
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Weaver Mountain just to the left of the snags with Rattlesnake Mountain behind to the right and Fish Mountain the furthest right.

IMG_7195Survey marker at the summit.

IMG_7197The sign, lookout, Rabbit Ears, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Shasta coming back from the summit.

As I was coming back the unbelievable happened. For the second day in a row a varied thrush held still long enough for me to get decent picture.
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I rejoined Heather near the lookout and we hiked back down to our car and after taking a few more sips of the coffee we’d left in it we started down the Acker Divide Trail.
IMG_7205Acker Divide Trail leaving FR 580.

The trail quickly entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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The trail dropped quickly losing nearly 300′ in the first .4 miles where the trail crossed a small stream at the edge of a meadow.
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The meadow was what we have come to picture when we think of this particular wilderness. Faint tread with a few cairns led us through the meadow and into a section of green trees.
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IMG_7216Another cairn to the right of the tree ahead.

Beyond the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and just over a mile and a half from the trailhead we passed a sign for the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.
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I believe that the 2 mile section beyond this sign may be abandoned. On the map it leads to the edge of the wilderness near the junction of FR 6515 & FR 580 but according to the Forest Service and a sign we saw at a horse camp along FR 580 the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail follows FR 580 between that horse camp and the trailhead we were parked at. In any event we stuck to the Acker Divide Trail arriving at a meadow below Toad Lake in another .4 miles.
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IMG_7234A lonely flower along the Acker Divide Trail

IMG_7236Mushroom near the meadow.

IMG_7245Toad Meadow

Another .4 miles brought us within view of the Cripple Creek Shelter at the edge of the fire scar.
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We made our way to the shelter where we took a nice break and enjoyed the surroundings.
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IMG_7258Tis the time of year for Mushroom to replace flowers.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for mushrooms and any lingering flowers that might yet be blooming.
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IMG_7271Candyflower

Our hike here came in at 6.8 miles and approximately 1200′ of elevation gain. After successfully navigating FR 580 again we stopped at the Rabbit Ears pullout and followed a path into the trees.
IMG_7274Pullout along FR 6515

IMG_7275Trail to Rabbit Ears

In a tenth of a mile the patch split and we chose to go right which brought us to the base of the rock formation.
IMG_7284The split

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The trail then turned uphill on some loose rock which made us happy that we’d chosen to go this direction because we felt going up it would be easier than coming down.
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IMG_7295We were surprised to find these phlox blossoms still looking good.

From the high point we had a pretty good view of Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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Continuing on the trail brought us a view of Fish Mountain to the north before the trail dropped back down into the trees to complete the loop.
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20201016_114550_HDRSmaller rock formation along the trail.

The half mile loop was really nice. Getting to see the Rabbit Ears up close was interesting and the added bonus of mountain views and surprise phlox was icing on the cake. We then drove back to Union Creek and parked at the lodge where we were staying since our next hike started just across the highway.
IMG_7329Beckie’s Cafe across Highway 62.

IMG_7332The lodge, store, and gift shop at Union Creek Resort.

We crossed the highway to the seasonally closed ice cream shop and followed a path on its right side to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint parking area.
IMG_7331The Ice Cream shop and to it’s right the sign for the trail to the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint.

IMG_7337Interpretive signs at the parking area.

A .2 mile paved loop offers a short but spectacular option for a quick tourist stop with several viewpoints of the Rogue Gorge. We did the loop counter-clockwise heading first to viewpoint 4.
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IMG_7344Viewpoint 4

IMG_7352Rogue River at viewpoint 4.

IMG_7358Viewpoint 3

IMG_7359View upriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7361Downriver from viewpoint 3.

IMG_7369Interpretative sign at the viewpoint.

IMG_7370The lava tubes.

IMG_7373Viewpoint 2

IMG_7380Viewpoint 1 above the end of the Rogue Gorge.

From viewpoint 1 the paved path crossed a footbridge before arriving at the interpretative sign boards at the parking area. The Rogue Gorge Trail, which we took, continued as a dirt trail descending to the riverbank and continuing downstream.
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For the next 1.2 miles the Rogue Gorge Trail followed the river closely as it passed a number of cabins and a portion of the Union Creek Campground. This section of the Rogue River flowed quietly past a wonderful display of Fall colors.
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IMG_7425Union Creek Campground

At the end of the 1.2 mile stretch we arrived at Union Creek (the actual creek) and crossed it on a footbridge.
IMG_7428The orange sign and flagging was for a 50k being run the following day.

IMG_7429Union Creek

Beyond the footbridge was a 1.7 mile stretch of trail passing more of the campground and some other cabins before arriving at a footbridge spanning the Rogue River.
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As we neared the bridge the river became wilder as it passed over and through more lava flows.
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IMG_7472A Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_7488The footbridge to the upper left.

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The footbridge offered an opportunity for a 2.2 mile loop using the Upper Rogue River Trail and passing Natural Bridge. For now we stuck to the Rogue Gorge Trail and continued past the footbridge.
IMG_7496Rogue River on the other side of the footbridge.

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About a mile from the footbridge we came to a sign at what looked like a fork in the trail.
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We took the right hand fork sticking to the river bank where a gentleman was walking his dog. The trail petered out on some rocks along the river.
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It was easy enough to walk over the rocks though so we continued on not realizing that we were very close to Natural Bridge which in the past had been the way across the river but has been closed and replaced by another footbridge.
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We turned inland on an old road bed still not realizing we were off course until it petered out and we discovered we were on the wrong side of a fence.
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When we saw the fence we realized that we should have forked left at that sign so we made our way to the correct side of the fence and quickly picked up a paved path coming from the Natural Bridge Day Use Area.
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The paved path brought us to the Upper Rogue River Trail which we took to the footbridge across the river.
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The Rogue Gorge had been spectacular but Natural Bridge added the element of oddity to the mix as the river disappeared under the lava rock only to reappear a short distance later.
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IMG_7565The inlet

Beyond Natural Bridge the Upper Rogue River Trail decided to gain some elevation as it climbed steeply gaining 300′ before dropping back down to the other footbridge. The climb did provide a brief glimpse of Llao Rock along the rim of Crater Lake.
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We turned off the Upper Rogue River Trail to cross the footbridge and return to the Rogue Gorge Trail.
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We turned left on the Rogue Gorge Trail and followed it back to Union Creek. Instead of crossing the creek this time we turned right onto the Union Creek Trail.
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The Union Creek Trail followed the creek closely for .7 miles through the Union Creek Campground. The trail actually passed through some campsites but this section of the campground was closed for the season so all of the sites were empty.
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The trail crossed Union Creek on a footbridge near the campground entrance.
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On the far side of the bridge was a parking area near the Union Creek Amphitheatre where they were setting up for the 50k.
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Just up the road from the parking area here a short path led to another parking are near Beckie’s Cafe where we simply walked up to the take out window and ordered dinner and a piece of pie.
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The pie was as good as I had hoped it would be having read about it from Boots on the Trail. After dinner we walked across the highway and into our room at the Union Creek Resort Lodge. It had been another day of nice hikes in this area. We were growing more and more impressed with the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (despite the lack of trail maintenance). There was something about that wilderness that just felt peaceful. We went to bed looking forward to another visit to it the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hershberger Mountain and Natural Bridge

National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge – 10/15/2020

As the strangest hiking season we’ve experienced winds down we took our final long distance (over 3 hours away) trip of the year for a long weekend of hiking around Union Creek, OR. Recent rains had knocked down the wildfires for the most part but those rains had given way to a sunny forecast which made for promising hiking conditions. We kicked off our hikes with a stop at the National Creek Falls Trailhead.
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Located just west of Crater Lake National Park National Creek Falls is spring fed from water absorbed by the Park’s pumice plain. A short .4 mile trail descends from the trailhead to the creek just below the falls.
IMG_6881There was just a little bit of blowdown to navigate on the way down.

IMG_6884National Creek Falls

On a warmer day we would have loved to stay for a bit and possibly wade across the creek to get a full view of these impressive falls but it was in the mid 30’s this morning and with the moisture generated by the falls we quickly became uncomfortably cold. We settled for the view we could get from the creek side and retreated back up to our car and turned the heat on full blast.
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When enough feeling had returned to my hands to grip the steering wheel we returned to Highway 230 following it south to its end at Highway 62 then continued south on that highway past Union Creek to Woodruff Meadows Road (between mileposts 51 and 52). We turned right onto this paved road for one and three quarters of a mile to a small pullout just past the Woodruff Bridge Day Use Area and a bridge over the Rogue River (parking is also available in the day use area).
IMG_6895Signboard at the pullout.

We were here to do Sullivan’s Takelma Gorge hike (#32 in the 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California”). In his book he suggests a quick detour to a small fall beneath the bridge so we crossed the road and made our way down to the river bank to view the cascade.
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We then recrossed Woodruff Meadows Road and headed south along the river on the Upper Rogue River Trail.
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The mile and a half to Takelma Gorge had many river views with lots of fall colors lining the banks. There was also a varied thrush sighting that actually resulted in a few decent pictures (these birds are my nemesis when it comes to getting photos).
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As we neared the gorge the river began to be squeezed through channels created by lava flows.
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IMG_6962Rogue River emerging from a channel.

Takelma Gorge is also the result of a lava flow where the Rogue turns a sharp corner and blasts down the gorge.
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The trail follows along the rim of the gorge passing a couple of viewpoints over the next .9 miles.
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IMG_7029Rogue River emerging from Takelma Gorge.

Either end of the gorge could have been turn around points but the Upper Rogue River Trail continues and so did we. From the southern end of Takelma Gorge it was just over two miles to the River Bridge Campground which we planned on making our turn around point. The nearly level trail remained close enough to the river to provide plenty of views.
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Just under a mile from the gorge we passed the Rogue Baptist Camp.
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IMG_7053Ouzel

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IMG_7064River Bridge

We turned around at the campground and headed back.
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It was a beautiful day and somehow the colors and the gorge were even more impressive on the return hike.
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When we got back to Woodruff Bridge we noticed some flagging and signage along the trail that had not been there earlier. Apparently there was a 50k race scheduled for Saturday (10/17). The race was an out and back starting and ending in Union Creek. The fact that the race would be happening Saturday helped us decide that Friday we would be doing the Natural Bridge hike since that would have us on trail following part of the race course.

We drove to Union Creek where we checked into the Union Creek Resort then after getting settled we walked across Highway 62 to get dinner from Beckie’s Cafe. After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner we decided to check out the area behind the cafe which was actually part of our next day’s hike. We managed to get ourselves turned around in the Union Creek Campground and our little after dinner stroll turned into a nearly mile out and back along Union Creek. It had been a nice start to the long weekend and we were looking forward to what the next day had to bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge

Wildcat Canyon (Maston Trail System) – 10/11/2020

A wet weather system arrived with the weekend dropping some much need rain over the wildfires in Oregon and depositing a decent amount of new snow on the Cascades. This was great news and one of the few times that we were more than happy that our original plan was forced to change due to weather. We were going to be in Bend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Heather’s Dad which provided us an opportunity to hike in the rain shadow of the Cascades before heading home Sunday morning. It was a nice celebration and a rare event for all our calendars to align and be together.

Having finished all 100 featured hikes (post) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) we turned to his 5th edition of the book and decided to check out Wildcat Canyon (Hike #36). Wildcat Canyon is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s Maston Trail System, a 4,000 acre mixed use network of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. It also happens to be located in my old stomping grounds near Tumalo, OR. The Maston Trailhead (see previous link) is less than 10 driving miles from the my parent’s old house between Bend and Redmond and just over 5 miles from my former elementary school. Way back then the Maston Trail System didn’t exist but I had spent time exploring the Deschutes River Canyon near that area, closer to Eagle Crest Resort, so I was excited to check the trail system out.

We were the second car at the Maston Trailhead that morning.
Sunrise at the Maston Trailhead

Maston TrailheadCline Buttes from the Maston Trailhead.

It was a crisp morning with a bit of frost on the ground, the kind of morning that reminded me of a high school job I had moving irrigation pipes at a nearby farm. We set off through the equestrian parking area and passed through an open fence by a trail map.
Equestrain trail at the Maston Trailhead

Maston Trailhead map

This was the Settlement Trail (an equestrian/hiker only trail), named for the settlers who had cleared the land and began constructing farms in the early 1900’s in preparation of the arrival of irrigation water. The water never came and by the 1930’s the farms had been abandoned.
Interpretive sign at the Maston TrailheadInterpretive sign at the Maston Trailhead telling the story of the settlers.

Old foundations along the Settlement TrailStone foundation of one of the abandoned buildings along the Settlement Trail.

We followed the Settlement Trail by staying right at junctions for the first 1.5 miles.
Settlement Trail

Settlement TrailTypical sign at a junction. Not all of the junctions had signs and not all of the signs identified which trail/junction it was so having a copy of the trail system map is a really good idea.

There were a lot of different birds about but most wouldn’t stay still long enough for a picture and those that did perched at the top of junipers distant enough to make identifying them even with a 30x zoom a bit difficult.
Songbird atop a juniperThis one may be a sparrow of some sort, it was signing quite a bit.

Bird atop a juniperPossibly another sparrow or a finch or something else.

Bluebird atop a treeMaybe a bluebird?

We took a wrong turn at a junction just over a half mile from the trailhead. We had been expecting to see the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead to our right which our guidebook indicated we should go down to, so when we spotted a signboard along a road less then a tenth of a mile to our right we headed for it. When we got to the little pullout at the road we double checked the map and realized that we had turned right too early so we turned around and returned to the junction. We turned right again and continued on the Settlement Trail another quarter of a mile to the actual Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.
Wildcat Canyon Parking from the Settlement TrailWildcat Canyon Trailhead off to the right.

We spotted the only non-bird wildlife of the day near this trailhead when a rabbit raced out of the sagebrush and paused briefly on the other side of a juniper.
Out of focus rabbit behind the juniperI managed to snap one photo and of course the camera focused on said juniper instead of the rabbit beyond.

We stayed straight at the trailhead on the Settlement Trail which was now almost directly next to the Rockbar Trail (a mountain bike trail). The Settlement Trail quickly arrived on the basalt cliffs above the Deschutes River Canyon.
Deschutes River and Wildcat CanyonWildcat Canyon on the right joining the Deschutes River Canyon

Deschutes RiverThe Deschutes River near where the canyons meet.

Deschutes RiverGrizzly Mountain in the distance beyond the Deschutes River.

The trail turned north along the canyon rim which we followed for half a mile, switching to the Rockbar Trail when the equestrian trail crossed over it.
Deschutes RiverAnother of several viewpoints along the rim.

Deschutes RiverSome Fall color along the Deschutes River.

Rock doveRock dove

Deschutes River CanyonA viewpoint along the Rockbar Trail.

Deschutes River

Deschutes RiverLooking south up the river canyon.

Deschutes RiverA calm pool along the Deschutes.

Stellar's jayI could see this one, a Stellar’s jay.

Shortly after the Rockbar Trail turned away from the canyon it crossed a private road.
Rockbar TrailComing up to the road.

We followed Sullivan’s instructions and jogged left 100′ picking up the equestrian trail again.
An equestrian continuing on the far side of Necomb Road

We turned uphill on the equestrian trail to a junction with the Headgate Trail, another mountain bike trail, in just 100 yards.
Headgate Trail

We turned left following this single track through the juniper and sagebrush for approximately 2 miles ignoring side trails along the way.
Headgate Trail

Headgate TrailThis was Junction 2 (one of the junctions with an identifying sign). We stayed right on the Headgate Trail here.

At a slightly higher elevation than the Settlement Trail the Headgate Trail would have provided a fairly nice view of the Cascades but on this day they were mostly shrouded in clouds although we could see fresh snow on Tam McArthur Rim (post) and on the lowest portion of the South and North Sisters.
View from the Headgate TrailTam McArthur Rim is left center with South Sister in the center and North Sister to the right center.

We turned down what we believe on the map to be the Maston Tie Trail (it was unmarked) and followed it for a quarter of mile back to the beginning of the Settlement Trail at the Maston Trailhead.
Maston Tie TrailHeather and Dominique on the Maston Trail.

Maston Tie Trail comging back to the Maston TrailheadComing up on the Settlement Trail.

This wound up being a nice loop, just under 5 miles, with minimal elevation gain (200′ or so). The network of trails provides options for both shorter and longer loops too with multiple starting points available. We hope to come back again in the Spring some year to check out more of the area and see what it looks like during a different season. Until then this was a great introduction to the area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wildcat Canyon

Junction and Cultus Lakes – Indian Heaven Wilderness – 10/03 & 10/04/2020

With a September backpacking trip to the Sky Lakes Wilderness having been canceled due to the wide spread wildfires on the West Coast it seemed like our Labor Day trip (post) may have been the last nights in our tent. Fortunately the weather and smoke both cooperated over the first weekend in October and we spent one final night in our tent in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It appeared that nearly everyone else had that same idea making this trip by far the busiest over night trip we’ve experienced.

We had visited this wilderness on two previous occasions – a 2015 day hike starting at the Thomas Lake Trailhead, and a 2018 day hike to Indian Racetrack via the Pacific Crest Trail. We began this trip on the eastern side of the wilderness at the East Crater Trailhead.
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Our plan was to take the East Crater Trail 2.5 miles to Junction Lake and set up camp then make a big loop (with a few side trips) around Bird Mountain using the Pacific Crest Trail, Cultus Creek Trail, Indian Heaven Trail, and finally the Lemi Lake Trail. We started up the East Crater Trail through a mountain hemlock forest with splashes of Fall colors.
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The trail climbed gradually entering the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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A little less than a mile and a half from the trailhead we passed the first of several small ponds and the scar of the 2017 East Crater Fire.
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IMG_6392Still some fireweed blooming in the fire scar.

IMG_6396East Crater beyond a pond.

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Just before the 2.5 miles we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail and the end of the East Crater Trail near Junction Lake.
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IMG_6406Junction Lake

We didn’t want to set up our tent on the vegetation in the meadows around the lake so we looked to the opposite side of the PCT where we found a nice little spot tucked back in the trees.
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IMG_6407This crab spider offered to watch our tent for us while we were away.

After getting everything set up we headed north along the PCT past Junction Lake to a junction with the Lemi Lake Trail.
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We stayed left on the PCT and reentered the trees on a forested hillside.
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A mile from the Lemi Lake Trail junction we came to another junction with the Elk Lake Trail near Bear Lake.
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This was our first detour as we turned left and descended to the shore of Bear Lake where numerous tents were set up.
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The Indian Heaven Wilderness is famous for its huckleberries but this late in the year most of them were well past edible but along the lake shore there were a few left which had caught the attention of the locals.
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We opted not to go the third of a mile further to Elk Lake and after a short break we returned to the PCT and continued north another .4 miles before making another short side trip downhill to Deer Lake.
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We continued past Deer Lake meeting the Indian Heaven Trail on the far side where a right turn onto it would have allowed for a shorter loop. We had done that loop on our first visit to the wilderness though so we stuck to the PCT this time. We could hear pikas “meeping” from a talus slope near the junction so when we got closer to the rocks we started scanning for the little guys. We were quickly rewarded as one darted in and out of the rocks pausing long enough for a couple of photos.
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The PCT continued to climb gradually along the western side of Bird Mountain passing the Placid Lake Trail approximately a mile from the Indian Heaven Trail before arriving at a 4-way junction after another mile.
IMG_6466Placid Lake Trail on the left.

IMG_6481No pikas in these rocks, that we saw.

At the junction the PCT continued straight while the Wood Lake Trail headed downhill to the left.
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IMG_6486PCT at the 4-way junction.

We took the right had path, the Cultus Creek Trail which crossed over a pass.
IMG_6483Cultus Creek Trail heading uphill to the right.

On the far side of the pass we took a use trail out to a rocky viewpoint with a great view of Mt. Adams.
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In front of Mt. Adams we recognized Sleeping Beauty which we had hiked up earlier in the year (post).
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We took another break on some rocks here and soaked in the view. The forecast for the weekend had been for widespread haze so the blue sky and clear view was a nice surprise. After the break we returned to the Cultus Creek Trail which headed steeply downhill. We were starting to see more and more hikers as it seemed a lot of people had the same idea that we’d had as far as it being a good weekend for a visit. As the trail dropped to the east we briefly got a glimpse of the Goat Rocks and Mt. Rainier beyond Sawtooth Mountain.
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IMG_6509Goat Rocks with Mt. Adams hiding behind trees.

IMG_6511Mt. Rainier behind Sawtooth Mountain (and Steamboat Mountain to the right)

IMG_6513Mt. Rainier

After a mile and a half on the Cultus Creek Trail we arrived at the Cultus Creek Forest Camp.
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We walked to the right through the camp following signs to the Indian Heaven Trailhead.
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We followed this relatively steep trail back into the wilderness and up to an even better viewpoint just over a mile from the trailhead.
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Mt. Rainier had swapped sides with Sawtooth Mountain and was fully visible as were the Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams.
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Beyond the viewpoint the trail continued to climb but much more gradually arriving at a junction with the Deep Lake Trail after 1.2 miles.
IMG_6576The Labor Day wind storm had knocked a number of trees down but the trails we took had mostly been cleared already.

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There was a bit of a traffic jam at the Deep Lake Trail junction and we wound up on that trail even though we had not planned on this side trip.
IMG_6580Cultus Lake from the Deep Lake Trail.

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It was only about a quarter mile to Deep Lake and well worth the trip as it turned out. The top of Mt. Adams was visible across the lake.
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We took another break along the shore of this lake (which was also very busy with hikers and backpackers).
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We returned to the Indian Heaven Trail and followed it to the far side of Cultus Lake where we turned left on the Lemi Trail.
IMG_6598Lemi Rock beyond Cultus Lake

IMG_6601Cultus Lake from the Lemi Trail.

Beyond Cultus Lake the Lemi Trail passed through a series of meadows with bright red and yellow huckleberry leaves.
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After a mile of fairly level hiking the Lemi Trail steepened gaining a little over 200′ in .3 miles.
IMG_6621The climb was up a forested hillside.

The climb offered us the only view of the day of Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_6622Mt. St. Helens

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The trail leveled out again on the east side of Lemi Rock at a junction with what appeared to be possibly be a climbers trail on the right.
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We continued on the Lemi Trail another quarter mile to a viewpoint above Lake Wapiki where we now had a view of Mt. Hood (and a little more haze).
IMG_6642Mt. Adams as we approached the viewpoint.

IMG_6644Lake Wapiki

IMG_6665Mt. Hood

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The Lemi Trail continued another 1.1 miles down to the lake but the climb up to the viewpoint from Cultus Lake was enough to convince us that we weren’t up for the 400′ climb back up from Lake Wapiki so after resting at the viewpoint we started back. Curiosity got the best of us at the trail near Lemi Rock though as it appeared fairly level so we turned left onto it and began following it to see where it might lead.
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We followed this trail past more spectacular Fall colors for .2 miles where it suddenly disappeared in some small trees.
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We maneuvered our way through the trees picking up another mylar balloon (we have come to hate these).

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We popped out at a small meadow where we declared victory at headed back toward Lemi Rock.
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As we passed a small pool with a clear reflection Heather spotted the second pika of the day.
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After watching the pika for a moment returned to the Lemi Trail and took it back to Cultus Lake and the Indian Heaven Trail.
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We turned left onto the Indian Heaven Trail and followed it for another .3 miles to a junction with the Lemi Lake Trail.
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We turned left onto this trail passing through a series of meadows before arriving at Lemi Lake after a little over half a mile.
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IMG_6711Lemi Lake

We had brought our camp stove and dinner and stopped at the lake to get water and eat.
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After dinner we followed the Lemi Lake Trail for another 1.5 miles back to Junction Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail.
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IMG_6721Pearly everlasting

IMG_6737Lemi Rock from the Lemi Lake Trail.

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IMG_6747Junction Lake

IMG_6748Back to the PCT.

IMG_6751Junction Lake from the PCT/Lemi Lake Trail junction.

Things had gotten very crowded at Junction Lake and there were tents all over the grass around the lake shore. We retreated to our little spot in the trees away from the madness and took our camp chairs in the opposite direction and sat for awhile at the edge of a meadow.
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We decided that we’d get up no later than 5am and beat the crowds by hiking out in the dark the next morning. We’ve been spoiled with nearly none of our backpacking trips involving many other people at all so this was a bit of an adjustment for us. We wound up waking up at 4:30am and set off under a full moon toward our car.
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We had only hiked in the dark one other time, when we thought there might be a fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness, but it was actually 40 miles away (post). That had been quite the adventure as it seemed like we were constantly seeing eyes in the forest or toads in the trail. We were hoping we might have a similar experience here but the 2.5 mile hike back to the car was quick and uneventful. We were back home in Salem a little after 9am though which gave us plenty of time to unpack, do laundry and watch the Seahawks game. Aside from not being used to that many people on an overnighter it had been a good trip. The weather was great as were the views and the Fall colors. Somehow we managed to turn what we expected to be a 14.6 mile hike into 18.2 miles (those side trips will get you every time) but it was worth every step. Happy Trails (and Go Hawks)!

Flickr: Junction and Cultus Lakes

Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes – 09/26/2020

The tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns and communities had kept us home since Labor Day. Several forests and parks still remain closed but things have been slowly reopening and some much needed rain arrived to help slow the fires and clear the air. One of the forests that had reopened was the Clatsop State Forest between Portland and Seaside. Hike #12 in William L. Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” consists of three short hikes to lakes in that forest. We had visited Soapstone Lake on a previous outing (post) With many forests and parks still closed due to the tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns it seemed like a perfect time to check out the other two lakes, Lost and Spruce Run. We also added nearby Bloom Lake whose trailhead along Highway 26 we’d driven by a number of times.

We began our morning at the Spruce Run Creek Trailhead at Henry Rierson Campground.
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The winds that had caused the fires to explode throughout Labor Day night had also toppled thousands of trees across the forests of Oregon so we we weren’t sure what conditions we might encounter. Nearly immediately after setting off on the trail we were met with a jumble of recently downed limbs.
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They were passable with care due to the slick condition of the wood which was damp from passing showers. Encountering this so early in the hike made us even more concerned about the conditions further on but as it turned out this would be the biggest obstacle of the day. There were a couple of downed trees which we simply stepped over and the rest was just smaller debris.

The Spruce Run Creek Trail began with a series of ups and downs, sometimes surprisingly steep, as it followed along Spruce Run Creek.
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It was a fairly dark morning as passing showers kept the Sun behind clouds but none of the showers lasted long nor were very heavy and the clouds breaking up made for some nice views.
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A little over a mile along the trail we were surprised to enter a recently logged area.
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The trail was in relatively good shape and easy to follow through this area.
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Another small surprise came near the 2 mile mark where we expected to find a short spur trail on the left leading to Lost Lake Road. Instead we arrived at a newer logging road.
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We momentarily wondered if we had somehow taken the spur trail without realizing it but after consulting the map it was clear that this was a new road and we were still on the Spruce Run Creek Trail. We turned right onto the road and spotted the continuation of the trail at a 3-way junction after 100 yards or so.
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We had actually planned on taking the spur trail to Lost Lake Road and hiking up that road 1.1 miles to Lost Lake instead of driving to the Lost Lake Trailhead after finishing our hike to Spruce Run Lake so at the 3-way junction we turned left. We followed this road downhill approximately .2 miles past a gate to Lost Lake Road where we turned right.
IMG_6215The open gate and Lost Lake Road from a logging road.

As we climbed up the road the alternating showers and blue sky created a nice rainbow behind us.
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From the parking lot of Lost Lake we headed clockwise around the lake on a nice trail.
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There were several opportunities for views of the little lake along the 1 mile loop.
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IMG_6253Hardhack

After completing the loop we returned on the roads to the continuation of the Spruce Run Creek Trail.
IMG_6255Spruce Run Creek Trail on the left.

The trail descended through logged forest for the next half mile before passing the timber sale boundary.
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IMG_6264Leaving the logged area.

In another quarter mile we arrived at a pair of benches near the end of Spruce Run Lake.
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20200926_094603Rough skinned newt near Spruce Run Lake.

The lake was created by a landslide that backed up Spruce Run Creek. The water level fluctuates with the season and was little more than a pond at this point of the year.
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The rest of the lake bed was a marshy green meadow with Spruce Run Creek flowing through.
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IMG_6280One of many damp spider webs in the meadow.

IMG_6283The meadow from the bank of Spruce Run Creek

After exploring the meadow for a bit we headed back to our car under increasingly blue skies.
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IMG_6296Bleeding heart

IMG_6299Scouler’s bluebell

IMG_6307A little butterfly

When we had passed through the logged area we got a better look at the forest along the first part of the trail now that it was lighter. It looked and felt like Autumn.
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Combining these two hikes was a little over 9 miles with 1600′ of elevation gain. We drove back to Highway 26 and headed toward Portland stopping at the Bloom Lake Trailhead just west of the Quartz Creek Bridge for a final quick hike.
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The blue skies that we had enjoyed on the earlier hike were nowhere to be found at this trailhead even though it was only 3 miles from Spruce Run Lake as the crow flies. The heaviest shower of the day passed overhead as we crossed South Fork Quartz Creek on a footbridge.
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Fortunately this shower was like all the rest had been, brief. The Bloom Lake Trail climbed along an old road cut for a mile to the start of a loop around little Bloom Lake. We stayed left at the fork and in another .3 miles crossed an inlet creek on a slick looking piece of wood.
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IMG_6340Fall means mushrooms start replacing wildflowers.

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Beyond the creek crossing we turned right another another old road bed then right again on August Fire Road (on which one can drive to Bloom Lake).
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We turned right off of this road at another old road bed that was blocked by cut tree trunks.
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This led us down to Bloom Lake.
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IMG_6356Snail near Bloom Lake.

We continued around the lake on a trail which crossed the outlet creek on an old log.
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We completed the loop around the lake then headed back downhill to our car.
IMG_6366Mushrooms

IMG_6360More mushrooms

This hike was 3.2 miles with 675′ of elevation gain making our days tally 12.4 miles and 2275′. It was nice to get back out and this had turned out to be a good choice. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes

Boulder Creek Wilderness – 09/07/2020

We woke up at Wiley Camp on Labor Day and got ready to head back to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to drive back to Salem via Highway 138 and stop at the Boulder Creek Wilderness, one of the five remaining Oregon wilderness areas we had yet to visit (post) and one of Sullivan’s featured hikes.

It was the least smokey morning of the weekend which made for a pleasant 2 mile hike back to our car.
IMG_5942Buck Canyon Trail

IMG_5957View from the Buck Canyon Trail

IMG_5960Hummingbird Meadows Trail

IMG_5960West Fork Muir Creek

We drove back to Diamond Lake (post) from the trailhead then took Highway 138 toward Roseburg to milepost 55. There we turned right onto Medicine Creek Road and made an immediate left onto Soda Springs Road following it for 1.3 miles to the Soda Springs Trailhead.
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From the trailhead we took the Soda Springs Trail which ducked beneath a large steel pipe diverting water from the North Umpqua River to a nearby power station.
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The trail began climbing immediately after passing under the pipe and quickly arrived at a signed junction where the North Umpqua Trail forked to the right.
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The trail continued to climb through previously burned woods to another junction .4 miles from the trailhead.
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This was the Bradley Trail onto which we turned left following pointers for Pine Bench.

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This trail climbed over 650′ in the next mile before leveling out along the broad plateau of Pine Bench. There was an increasing presence of poison oak along the trail which we kept our eyes out for. It was especially bad along the hillside after we entered a more recent (2017) fire scar.
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IMG_6005Bradley Trail passing below some cliffs.

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IMG_6009A lot of the poison oak was turning color which made it easier to spot.

IMG_6013Entering the 2017 fire scar.

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IMG_6029Bradley Trail arriving at Pine Bench.

It was a hot climb in the exposed sun so reaching the forest atop Pine Bench was a nice reprise from both the heat and the vast majority of poison oak.
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IMG_6033Rock formation visible from the Bradley Trail.

A little over a mile and a half from the Soda Springs/Bradley Trail junction we arrived at the Boulder Creek Trail.
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We turned right here looking for a side trail to a spring near a campsite.
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IMG_6040Common wood nymph

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IMG_6045Illahee Rock Lookout

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We passed the campsite after .4 miles but we didn’t take the unsigned spur trail down to the spring due to the GPS map showing the trail further off.
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IMG_6112Spur trail to the left.

We quickly realized that the trail we had seen must have been the one we wanted but decided to continue on for now. From the campsite the trail continued to Boulder Creek after 1.7 miles. We were seeing very little poison oak and it was a nice day on the bench so we opted to do Sullivan’s longer described hike to the creek. The trail made a few unexpectedly steep up and downs and it grew fainter with a few downed snags but it was passable and there were signs of recent brushing/trail maintenance.
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IMG_6058Just over half a mile from the campsite we passed the very faint Perry Butte Trail.

IMG_6060Trail maintenance and ripe blackberries.

IMG_6063Looking up the Boulder Creek Valley

IMG_6064Looking down at the trail across a side drainage.

IMG_6065Looking across the Boulder Creek valley.

IMG_6067Small fall on Boulder Creek

IMG_6069Final drop down to Boulder Creek.

IMG_6070Boulder Creek

We took a short break on the rocks along the creek before turning back.
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IMG_6076The continuation of the Boulder Creek Trail on the far side of Boulder Creek which reportedly becomes even fainter and more wild.

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After cooling off a bit we started the process of climbing back up to the campsite and the spur trail to the spring.
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When we made it back to the spur trail we turned down it for 100 yards to a wide open area with madrone trees.
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The spring was just below some rocks on the left but there wasn’t much water flowing this time of year.
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After another short break we continued back to the Bradley Trail junction. We stayed straight here following the Boulder Creek Trail downhill through the 2017 fire scar. While there had been a good deal of poison oak along the Bradley Trail this trail put that one to shame. It was all avoidable but it was thick along the trail as it switchbacked downhill. There was also one switchback near the top where we were forced to walk down a large downed tree.
IMG_6115Fern tree along the Boulder Creek Trail.

IMG_6118This log was the trail.

IMG_6120Another switchback with poison oak on all sides of the trail.

The bright side of going down this way was there was a wilderness sign, or at least most of one (we hadn’t seen one on the other side).
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After a approximately 1.5 miles we arrived at a junction with the North Umpqua Trail where we turned left on an old roadbed.
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We followed the road another tenth of a mile or so to a gate blocking the road at the Boulder Creek Trailhead.
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Not too far from the gate we came to a pair of boulders blocking the road meaning the actual trailhead is inaccessible via car although there was room to park at the boulders. We continued down the road which brought us close to the North Umpqua River near the power station.
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We stopped at the far end of the Soda Springs Day Use Area to read the interpretive signs before returning to our car.
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We headed back to Salem and when we were back in cell range began receiving alerts about a hazardous wind event. By the time we made it back to Salem strong dry winds from the east had pushed the Lionshead and Beachie Creek Fires into the valley. Later that evening/night those fires would explode along with numerous other new fires up and down the West Coast. A slightly smokey but wonderful Labor Day Weekend turned into a nightmare for thousands. The fires continue to be a huge danger to many but the winds have shifted and rain is in the forecast so hopefully some relief is coming. Happy Trails and stay safe.

Flickr: Boulder Creek Wilderness

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.