Banks-Vernonia State Trail – Buxton Trestle to Tophill Trailhead – 01/16/2021

We kicked off our 2021 hiking year by revisiting the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. We had run the entire trail in April 2014 as part of an ill fated marathon and I had hiked a short section between the Buxton Trestle and Manning Trailhead in April 2016 while Heather ran a half-marathon (post). We had used the marathon as our “hike” to check off hike #23 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range”4th edition, but the Banks-Vernonia Trail was only part of a longer lollipop loop through L.L. Stub Stewart State Park that he describes. With this visit we planned on doing the rest of his described hike as well as continuing on to the Tophill Trailhead where we plan to someday start another section hike of the trail.

We began our hike at the Buxton Trailhead where I had started my 2016 hike as well.

From the far end of the parking lot we took a path down to Mendenhall Creek below the Buxton Trestle.



The path then took us up to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail where we turned right and crossed the trestle.



We followed the paved former railroad north approximately 3/4 of a mile into L.L. Stub Stewart State Park.
IMG_0281Leaving the Buxton Trailhead area.


IMG_0296Entering Stub Stewart State Park.

We continued through the park for another mile and a half passing two marked trails to the right before arriving at a third just north of Williams Creek

IMG_0308This trail was just north of Logging Creek and appeared to just loop back to the Banks-Vernonia Trail a bit further north.

IMG_0309The Caddywhomper Way(s) Trail was signed better. We skipped the viewpoint given the amount of fog/clouds and not wanting to add another 2 miles to the days total. The Oregonhikers field guide also mentions that there isn’t much of a view left due to the presence of trees.


IMG_0318Trail junction just north of Williams Creek

This was our first wrong turn of 2021 although it may have been correct back in 2016 when our guidebook was released. The map in the book showed a single trail splitting off to the right just beyond the creek so we turned down what turned out to be the Shoofly Trail.

After .2 miles we arrived at a signboard with a map (it would have been more helpful up at the junction).

It was here that we realized that it was the wrong trail and that the Hares Canyon Trail was just a tenth of a mile further north.

Since we were already down there we checked out Williams Creek stopping before the bridge which was clearly marked “no hikers”.



I say that it may have been the correct trail at one point because Sullivan’s description says that “after 100 feet a spur down to the right dead ends at the creek bank” and there was a closed fork up to the left that may have at one time been part of the Hares Canyon Trail. It wasn’t now though so back up we went to the Banks-Vernonia Trail where we continued north the the signed Hares Canyon Trail.

A barricade next to the trail had signs for active logging that was occurring Monday – Friday closing the trail on those days.

We headed up this trail through the forest where we ran into a pair of rough skinned newts.




We passed a signed junction with the Brookecreek Trail and then arrived at a new logging road three quarters of a mile from the Banks-Vernonia Trail.



There were no indications of where the Hares Canyon Trail went so we used the map to decide that it must be somewhere to our right and we followed the logging road a short distance before spotting an obvious trail splitting off of it.

The trail passed through a thinned forest before popping out on another logging road.


We stayed right on the road at junctions and dropped to another barricade at the Widowmaker Way Trail.


IMG_0361Sign for the Widowmaker Way and Harse Canyon Trails.

Passing through the logging operation was a bit depressing to be honest. We’ve been on several trails in the last year that have passed through active or recently logged areas and combined with the trails that we’ve lost to wildfires in the last few years and other trails that are being lost to lack of funding for maintenance it’s a bit of a bummer. Ironically this is all at a time when more people then ever are heading out to the trails overloading the most popular and causing issues with litter and human waste. Enough of the doom and gloom though and back to the hike.

The Hares Canyon Trail followed a roadbed of indeterminate age through a disc golf course arriving at a signboard in a mile marking the northern end of the Mountain Bike Area at North Caddywhomper Way.



IMG_0378No flowers yet but plenty of mushrooms and fungi.


IMG_0383The trails were well signed so it was easy to stay on the Hares Canyon Trail.


IMG_0388Comming up on North Caddywhomper Way

We turned left here following pointers for the Hares Canyon Trail until it crossed a service road (3/4 of a mile from the signboard).




At a junction on the far side of the service road we veered left following the Unfit Settlement View Trail and pointers for the Skycar View and Boomscooter Trail.


IMG_0402Wet webs in the trees.

We took a detour to the Skycar View despite the fog since it was only 150 yards away.



We returned to the Unfit Settlement View Trail and followed it downhill to a junction with the Boomscooter Trail where we turned right.


The Boomscooter Trail descended past Boomscooter Pond and ended in three quarters of a mile at the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

IMG_0415Chatty squirrel



Sullivan’s description would have had us turn left here and return to the Buxton Trailhead but we turned right instead in order to visit the Tophill Trailhead. There were two reasons for this, one was that if we did do more sections of the trail in the future we didn’t want to have a non-hiked gap in between our section hikes, don’t know why but we prefer them to connect. The second reason was that the Tophill Trailhead had been the halfway point of the 2014 marathon which was also the point at which the train went off the tracks. The section of trail just beyond that trailhead was the only significant uphill of the whole route and we had thought walking it would keep it from doing too much damage, but we hadn’t planned on it being 20 plus degrees warmer that day than it had been during any of our training runs. None of us recovered after the hill and the remainder of the race included a lot of walking and cramping. We were both interested in revisiting that hill and seeing if it really was a bad as it had seemed that day.

It was about 2 miles to the Tophill Trailhead where we walked to Highway 26 then turned around and headed up the hill.
IMG_0435Passing over Highway 47 on the way to the Tophill Trailhead.

IMG_0437Orange jelly fungus on a tree.

IMG_0441Heading up from the hill from the less steep south side.

IMG_0445Highway 47 at the Tophill Trailhead.

The climb back up the couple of switchbacks was underwhelming. It made us work but it also reinforced that it wasn’t the hill that had done us in that day, it had been the heat. We followed the Banks-Vernonia Trail back to the Buxton Trailhead passing back through L.L. Stub Stewart State Park along the way. The trail was fairly busy by the afternoon with joggers, hikers, bikers, and a couple of equestrians enjoying the dry day (with a bonus sighting of blue skies).
IMG_0451Chestnut-backed chickadee

IMG_0460Pond along the trail.


IMG_0464Entrance road to Stub Stewart.




IMG_0476Back at the Buxton Trailhead

IMG_0478Bench at the Buxton Trailhead

We had expected the hike to be around 13 miles but our GPS (and time) put it at 15.5 miles. Although not the most exciting or dramatic hike there was a nice variety of sights and the trails (except for the area being logged) were in great to good shape. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Banks-Vernonia State Trail – Buxton to Tophill TH

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Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas – January, 2021 Update

Heading into 2020 we had plans to visit 5 of the 6 remaining wilderness areas in which he haven’t hiked (post), but 2020 had other plans. Plans to visit three of the areas were moved to another year and a fourth was pushed back from May to September. Flooding in February wiped out our plans to visit the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness which was the same trip that we had planned on visiting the Black Canyon Wilderness. Rearranging hikes due to COVID-19 pushed a visit to the Devils Staircase Wilderness back a year.

Plans for a Memorial Day weekend trip to Roseburg involving a hike in the Boulder Creek Wilderness were a COVID cancellation but we managed to fit the Boulder Creek hike into our Labor Day weekend plans (post).
Boulder Creek Wilderness sign

Boulder Creek TrailPonderosa Pines in the Boulder Creek Wilderness

Looking up the Boulder Creek ValleyBoulder Creek Wilderness

Boulder CreekBoulder Creek

A July vacation to Lakeview and a visit to the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness (post) was the only visit that happened as planned.
Gearhart Mountain Wilderness sign

The Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain WildernessThe Palisades

Gearhart MountainGearhart Mountain

View from Gearhart MountainLooking down from Gearhart Mountain

Meadow below Gearhart MountainMeadow below Gearhart Mountain

Gearhat MountainLooking up at Gearhart Mountain

Visiting these two wildernesses puts us at 42 out of the 46 accessible wilderness. The three areas mentioned above are again in our plans for this year as well as the Monument Rock Wilderness in eastern Oregon. With any luck 2021 will be a better year and we will be able to reach our goal, but if not there’s always next year. Happy Trails!

Progress Report – 500 “Featured Hikes” – January, 2021 Update

In 2019 we posted about our goal to complete 500 “featured” hikes from William L. Sullivan’s “100 hikes” guidebook series. In 2020 we managed to complete the first of the books when we visited the Erma Bells Lakes (post) at the end of August. Ironically COVID-19, which caused so many issues for everyone this past year, was a big reason we were able to complete the Central Oregon Cascades book. Our original June vacation had already needed to be changed due to February flooding in the Blue Mountains but COVID kept us from taking a trip somewhere further away so we stayed home to do hikes closer by. In the end we wound up completing the 13 featured hikes that we had left from that book.

In all we were able to check off 37 featured hikes which included the 13 from the Central Cascades, 8 from NW Oregon, 7 from Eastern Oregon, and 9 from Southern Oregon. The one book that we didn’t make any headway with was the Oregon Coast. We did however visit Spruce Run and Lost Lake (post) which were two of the three hike options for the Lakes of the Coast Range (hike #12 4th edition).

Here is where we now stand at the end of 2020, having been on 401 of the 500 featured hikes:

100/100 – “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” 4th Edition 2012

95/100 – “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” 4th Edition 2016

94/100 – “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 4th Edition 2018

60/100 – “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” 3rd Edition 2015

52/100 – “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” 4th Edition 2017

The Salmonberry Railroad Trail in the Coast Range continues to be closed which has caused us to rethink using Sullivan’s 4th edition of the coastal book and reverting to the 3rd edition. In that case we would only have completed 91 of the featured hikes but at least all 9 of those hikes are open and we actually have them all scheduled for the upcoming year.

In addition to possibly finishing one of the Oregon Coast books in 2021 the remaining hikes in the NW book are on the schedule for 2021 as well. We did push completion of the Southern book back a year to 2024 due to cancelling a September backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness due to the massive wildfires in Oregon and California that month. The Eastern Oregon book is still on track to be completed by the end of 2025.

When I wrote in last year’s post “I’m sure there will be some twists and turns along the way, but eventually we hope to reach our goal.” I had no idea what 2020 had in store. We will continue to be flexible with our plans and make the most of the opportunities as they present themselves. Happy Trails!

2020 Wildflower gallery

While 2020 was a pretty good year for wildflowers we stuck relatively close to home save for a July trip to Lakeview and a couple of visits to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.  That meant we didn’t get to many areas where the wildflowers are much different from what we see most years so we didn’t see many new types.  Nevertheless we saw a wide variety of flowers throughout the year and some very colorful displays. We also took more urban hikes so some of the flowers weren’t native wildflowers.

Once again the first flowers we encountered were on our February hike.

Wood violetViolet


Skunk cabbageSkunk cabbage

Some type of violet at Trappist AbbeyViolet

Purple deadnettlePurple deadnettle

Tree blossomsBlossoms on a tree

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

Western service berryWestern service berry

California poppyCalifornia poppy

CheckermallowA checkermallow


Cultivated radishCultivated radish


Annual honestyAnnual honest

Giant white wakerobbinGiant white wakerobbin


Cow parsnipCow parsnip

Flowering bush near Morgan LakeFlowering bush as Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge

Red cloverRed clover

Tough leaved irisIris


Indian plumIndian plum

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

Thin-leaf peaThin-leaf pea

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Golden paintbrushGolden paintbrush


Meadow death camasMeadow death camas

Purple saniclePurple sanicle

A mustardA mustard

Star flowered solmonsealStar flowered solomseal


Yellowleaf IrisYellowleaf iris


Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot


Hookedspur violetHookedspur violet

Fairy slipperFairy slipper

Dogwood blossomDogwood

Buck Brush - redstem ceanothusBuck Brush


Showy phloxShowy phlox


Pea and poison oakA pea and poison oak


Monkey flowerMonkey flower

Snow queenSnow queen

Pale flaxPale falx

Wild gingerWild ginger

Oregon GrapeOregon grape

Candy flowerCandy flower

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Bleeding heart along the North Fork TrailBleeding heart


Maple blossomsMaple

Coastal manrootCoastal manroot

Popcorn flowerPopcorn flower?

Collomia heterophylla - Variable CollomiaVariable collomia

Western yellow oxalisWestern yellow oxalis


Pacific waterleafPacific waterleaf

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Western buttercupsWestern buttercups

Foam flowerFoam flower

Chocolate liliesChocolate lillies

Vanilla leafVanilla leaf



Tall bluebellsTall bluebells


Oregon geraniumOregon geranium

Vetch and daisiesVetch and daisies

Common St. John's wortCommon St. John’s wort

Douglas spireaDouglas spirea


Flower at McFadden's Marsh


Yellow glandweedYellow glandweed


Wild rosesWild rose

Inside out flowerInside out flower

Largeleaf sandwortLargeleaf sandwort

False solomonsealFalse solomonseal





Subalpine mariposa lilySubalpine mariposa lily



Woodland starsWoodland stars

Royal Jacob's ladderRoyal Jacob’s ladder

Nightblooming false bindweedNightblooming false bindweed

Alpine pennycressAlpine pennycress


Oregon sunshineOregon sunshine


Mountain ashMountain ash

Raceme pussytoesRaceme pussytoes


Henline Mountain TrailPaintbrush

Rusty saxifrageRusty saxifrage

PenstemonA penstemon


PyrolaA pyrola

Tiger lilies along the Swordfern TrailTiger lily

Gold threadsGold threads

Self healSelf heal

Bachelor buttonBachelor button

Possibly a willowherbA willowherb?

PeaA pea

Pink honeysucklePink honeysuckle

Flower along the Row River Trail

BrodeiaA brodeia

Scarlet pimpernelScarlet pimpernel

PoppyA poppy



A phaceliaA phacelia

Swallowtail coming in for a landingBlackberry


Flowers along the Estacada Lake Trail


Western meadow-rueWestern meadow-rue

Shooting stars and western buttercupsShooting stars and western buttercups

Elephants headElephants head

Pacific coralrootPacific coralroot

Musk monkeyflowerMusk monkeyflower

Bastard toadflaxBastard toadflax


PenstemonA penstemon

Silverleaf phaceliaSilverleaf phacelia

Washington lilyWashington lily

BuckwheatA buckwheat



Western hound's tongueWestern hound’s tongue

Diamond Clarkia next to a big seedheadDiamond clarkia

California stickseedCalifornia stickseed

Tiny flowers along the Green Ridge Trail

Scarlet giliaScarlet gilia


Sticky cinquefoilSticky cinquefoil


ThistleA thistle

BuckwheatA buckwheat

Blue-eyed MaryBlue-eyed Mary

Fawn lilyFawn lily


Olympic onionOlympic onion

PhloxA phlox

SunflowerFalse sunflower

Bistort and paintbrushBistort and paintbrush


PenstemonA penstemon

Phantom OrchidPhantom orchid

PenstemonA penstemon

BuckwheatA buckwheat

Tall buckwheatTall buckwheat


Streambank globe mallowStreambank globe mallow

Wildflowers along the road to the Monte Cristo Trail


Tapertip onionTapertip onion

White stemmed fraseraWhite stemmed frasera

Wildflower on Monte Cristo

Prince's pinePrince’s pine

Goats beardGoats beard


SaxifrageA saxifrage

LousewortA lousewort


StonecropA stonecrop


Blue-head giliaBlue-head gilia

Wildflowers along the Pyramids Trail

Cone flowerCone flower

CurrantA currant

Wildflower along the road to the Riggs Lake Trailhead

Large boykiniaLarge boykinia

Bog orchidBog orchid

Old man's whiskersOld man’s whiskers aka prairie smoke

PaintbrushA paintbrush

Sticky chickweedSticky chickweed

Nettle-leaf giant hyssopNettle-leaf giant hyssop

California corn lilyCalifornia corn lily

Musk thistleMusk thistle

Checker-mallowA checkermallow

Grand collomiaGrand collomia

Rosy pussytoesRosy pussytoes

Scouler's woollyweedScouler’s woollyweed?

An OrobancheAn orobanche

Slender cinquefoilSlender cinquefoil

Nuttall's linanthusNuttal’s linanthus

Orange agoserisOrange agoseris

Smooth stem blazing starSmooth stem blazing star

RougheyelashweedRough eyelashweed

A weedA weed

White water buttercupsWhite water buttercups

Sagebrush mariposa lilySagebrush mariposa lily

Tansyleaf evening primroseTansyleaf evening primrose

Bees on dustymaidensDustymaidens

HorkeliaA horkelia

AsterAn aster?

BroomrapeAn orobanche

PaintbrushA paintbrush

Mountain coyote mintMountain coyote mint

Butterflies on rabbitbrushRabbitbrush

Wildflowers at Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Wildflowers along the Warner Valley Overlook Loop

Butterflies on wildflowers in DeGarmo Creek

Spreading dogbaneSpreading dogbane




Swamp onionSwamp onion

PenstemonA penstemon

Wildflower at Lake Abert Watchable Wildlife Area

ThistleA thistle

Common mullenCommon mullen




LousewortA lousewort

Wildflowers along the Killen Creek Trail

Lousewort and lupineLousewort and lupine

Mountain heatherMountain heather

White mountain heatherWhite mountain heahter

False helleboreFalse hellebore


Wildflowers along the Pacific Crest Trail


FleabaneA fleabane

SpireaA spirea


WillowherbA willowherb

Cutleaf daisyCutleaf daisy

Dwarf alpinegoldDwarf alpinegold

Jacob's ladderJacob’s ladder



Butterfly on pearly everlastingPearly everlasting

Drummond's anemoneDrummond’s anemone

Wildflowers along the Blue Lake Trail

Ghost pipeGhost pipe

MadiaCommon madia

Goldenrod and other wildflowers along the Whitehorse Meadows TrailGoldenrod

Owls cloverOwl’s clover

Wildflower along the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail

Flower along the 804 Trail

I’ve made my best effort to roughly identify the flowers that I could. Any help or corrections are more than welcome. Happy Trails!

2020 Wildlife Gallery

Continuing a tradition that started a couple of years ago here are some photos of the wildlife that we spotted on our hikes in 2020. As always we kept our distance (thank goodness for the 30x zoom) and did our best not to disturb any of the critters. That being said there were several instances where they (mostly insects) chose not maintain social distancing.

As with 2019 (post) we’ll start out small and work our way up.


Ants on white tritelia


Red beetle

Bug on a flower

California poppies

Bee on wallflower

Bee on a coneflower

Big fly


Tent catapillers


Woolley bear caterpillar

Pandora moth catapiller

Crab spider on a prince's pine

Wolf spider and babies

Bug on the bridge over Rat Creek

Grasshopper at Marie Lake



Dragon fly

Dragon fly

Dragon fly


Snail on the North Fork Trail






Butterfly on yarrow

Butterfly along the Green Ridge Trail

Butterfleis along DeGarmo Creek

Butterfly at Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Policecar moth and butterfly

Orange tip butterfly

Common wood nymph


Friendly butterfly


Butterfly on dustymaiden

Butterfly on Oregon sunshine

Tortoiseshell butterfly

Butterfly on self-heal

Mountain parnassian

Sheep moth

California Sister Butterfly at Natural Bridge

Lorquins admiral

Mourning cloak on clover

Butterflies and bees on wildflowers

Butterfly on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail



Swallowtail on a salmonberry blossom


Frog in Blue Lake

Frog under Heather's daypack

Frog along the Highline Trail

Bull frog in The Mirror Pond

Rough skinned newt

Sagebrush lizard

Western fence lizard

Alligator lizard

Garter snake

Gopher snake



Small bird along Morgan Lake

Small bird at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Bird at Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Common Yellowthroat



House finch

American goldfinch




Rabbit and an golden-crowned sparrowThis one is here for the golden-crowned sparrow.


Cedar waxwings

Spotted towhee

Western tanager

Western bluebird

Western meadowlark

Horned lark


Red-winged blackbird

Yellow headed blackbird


Robin at Miller Woods

Varied thrush

Scrub jay

Gray jay

Stellar's jay

Clark's nutcracker


Northern flicker

Killdeer at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Birds along the 804 Trail


California quail

Rock dove

Band-tailed pigeons


Bird at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Black necked stilt and a white faced ibis

Birds at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Surf scooters


Cinnamon teal pair

Pied-billed grebe family

American scooter

Harlequin ducks

Mallards at the pond in front of the SAIF building

Common merganser

Duck at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Duck at Milo McIver State Park

Family of Canada geese

Gulls and American avocets at Lake Abert Watchable Wildlife Area

American kestrel

Owl hiding in mostly plain sightThere is an owl in this photo.

Osprey landing at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve


Hawk along the Whitehorse Meadows Trail

Bald eagle

White faced ibis

White pelicans



Great blue heron at McFadden's Marsh

Sandhill crane at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Chipmunk drying out on the rocks

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Ground squirrels

Squirrel with a cone

Squirrel at Riverfront Park


Pika at Lower Erma Bell Lake


Rabbit at William L. Finely Wildlife Refuge

Jack rabbit

Bat at Wiley Camp

Cows near Government Harvey Pass

Coyote at Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Deer at Miller Woods



Happy Trails!

The Hikes of 2020 – A Look Back

Well 2020 is officially over and I think nearly everyone is glad to see it go. It was a rough year for so many between COVID-19 costing lives and jobs and wildfires claiming homes and businesses. We were fortunate in that we were able to keep working throughout the year, stayed healthy, and were just slightly inconvenienced by the fires that impacted so many after Labor Day. The most traumatic event that we personally experienced was the loss of our eldest cat, Buddy (post) in January.

With all that going on during the year, hiking became a way to try and escape and yet it seemed nearly impossible not to feel the cloud that was 2020 hanging over everything. It certainly made for a “different” year of hiking. I made more changes to our planned hikes in 2020 than in any previous year. It wasn’t just COVID and fires that triggered changes either, flooding in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton in February damaged Forest Service Roads and trails forcing us to cancel a planned June trip. We originally had 58 days of hiking planned (as of January 1, 2020) but we cancelled a September backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness due to heavy wildfire smoke which left us ending the year with 52 days of hiking. Of those only 19 days consisted of hikes that were on the list on January 1, and just 9 wound up happening on the day originally scheduled (an additional two happened within a day of the original plan).

During those 52 days we spent 10 nights backpacking, stopped at 70 trails/trailheads, and 3 roadside waterfalls.
2020 hikesHiker symbol = Trails/trailheads, yellow houses = campsites, purple binoculars = roadside waterfalls

This year saw no repeated hikes and just 18 days where we were on the same part of a trail that we had hiked in a previous year, roughly 34.5 out of the 586.7 miles that hiked. That meant a lot of new trails and sights for us. Two of the hikes, Gearhart Mountain (post), and Boulder Creek (post) were in wilderness areas that we had yet to make it to.
Gearhart Mountain WildernessGearhart Mountain

Boulder CreekBoulder Creek

Here are just a few highlights from the places we visited over the year. (* denotes at least some of the area burned in a 2020 fire.)

Cobblestones along the beach at Cape Lookout State ParkNetarts Spit


View from Spencer ButteSpencer Butte

Shotgun CreekShotgun Creek

Horse Rock Ridge TrailHorse Rock Ridge

Morning at Miller WoodsMiller Woods

Trappist AbbeyTrappist Abbey


CamasBush Pasture Park

Baskett ButteBasket Slough Wildlife Refuge

North Fork Willamette RiverNorth Fork Willamette River

Little Luckiamute RiverLittle Luckiamute River

Old growth at Valley of the GiantsValley of the Giants

Indigo SpringsIndigo Springs

Rigdon MeadowsRigdon Meadows

Pigeon Butte TrailheadPigeon Butte

East Fork South Fork McKenzie RiverEast Fork South Fork McKenzie River

Sullivan Creek FallsSullivan Creek Falls*

Henline FallsHenline Falls*

Bull-of-the Woods and Whetstone Mountain from the lookout siteHenline Mountain*

Spirit FallsSpirit Falls

Pinard FallsPinard Falls

Moon FallsMoon Falls

Memaloose LakeMemaloose Lake*

Echo Basin TrailEcho Basin

Hall HouseFish Lake

View from the Green Ridge TrailGreen Ridge*

High Ridge TrailTable Rock Wilderness* (The Riverside fire burned at least the access road and may have encroached into the SW portion of the wilderness.)

Mt. Adams from the Monte Carlo TrailMonte Carlo Trail

Hunchback TrailHunchback Mountain

Meadow along the Pyramids TrailMeadow below the Three Pyramids

North Pyramid from Daly LakeDaly Lake

View from Winter RidgeWinter Ridge

Light Peak from Fence PassFence Pass

Beatys Butte from Flook LakeFlook Lake

Barnhardy RoadHart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Petroglyphs around Petroglyph LakePetroglyphs along Petroglyph Lake

Waterfall on DeGarmo CreekDeGarmo Canyon

The Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain WildernessThe Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness (This was probably our favorite area of the year amid these rock formations.)

View from Sleeping BeautySleeping Beauty

Red Butte and Mt. Adams from the Highline TrailHighline Trail

Cottonwood Creek FallsCottonwood Creek Falls (This was probably the sketchiest hike we’ve done.)

Mt. ThielsenMt. Thielsen* (The Thielsen Creek fire burned a small part of the trails in the area.)

The old Bohemia Post OfficeBohemia Post Office

Diamond Peak from Diamond View LakeDiamond View Lake

Climbers trail to Diamond PeakDiamond Peak (The sketchiest hike we didn’t do.)

Diamond Peak from Karen Lake at sunsetKaren Lake

Middle Erma Bell LakeMiddle Erma Bell Lake

Mt. Bailey from the Dellenback TrailDiamond Lake

Rattlesnake Mountain from the Rogue-Umpqua Divide TrailRattlesnake Mountain

View from the Spruce Run Creek TrailSpruce Run Creek Trail


Deep Lake TrailIndian Heaven Wilderness

Deschutes River with Grizzly Mountain in the distanceWildcat Canyon

National Creek FallsNational Creek Falls

Takelma GorgeTakelma Gorge

Hershberger Mountian LookoutHershberger Mountain

Rabbit EarsRabbit Ears

Rogue River at Natural BridgeNatural Bridge

Old lookout tower on Abbott ButteAbbott Butte Lookout

Wild Cherry TrailForest Park

Upper Latourell FallsUpper Latourell Falls

Larch Mountain from Multnomah BasinLarch Mountain

McKenzie RiverMcKenzie River


Sun rays through the treesYachats

Not all of the trails were in the greatest of shape, an issue that is unfortunately becoming more common as the agencies that manage them often lack the funding to maintain them.
Blowdown over the Swordfern TrailSwordfern Trail

East Fork Trail under blowdownEast Fork Trail

Blowdown over the Riggs Lake TrailRiggs Lake Trail

Hackleman Old Growth TrailHackleman Old Growth Loop

Howlock Mountain TrailHowlock Mountain Trail

Shale Ridge Trail continuing on the far side of the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette RiverShale Ridge Trail

Acker Divide Trail covered by blowdownAcker Divide Trail

Union Creek Trail (it is straight ahead, really)Union Creek Trail

While we haven’t run out of new trails and areas to explore we are finding it harder to see wildflowers and wildlife that we haven’t already seen at some point but there always seems to be some. We spotted a bobcat for the first time (from the car) on our way to Winter Ridge (post). Lake Abert and Summer Lake hosted a few species of birds that we hadn’t run across before. (post) We plan on posting wildflower and wildlife galleries soon but for now here are those that were new to us this year.
Castilleja levisecta - Golden PaintbrushCastilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush at Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge (post)

Musk thistleMusk Thistle at Winter Ridge (Unfortunately it’s an invasive but they were impressive.)

Pandora moth catapillerPandora moth caterpillar at Green Ridge (post)

Horned larkHorned Lark at Flook Lake (post)

Gulls and American avocets at Lake Abert Watchable Wildlife AreaGulls and American avocets at Lake Abert

Various birds including a white faced ibis and a black necked stiltBlack necked stilt at Summer Lake

Frog under Heather's daypackPossibly a coastal tailed frog at Wiley Camp in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (post)

The most interesting thing that happened this year though was stumbling on a human mandible. It was a little unsettling but it was clearly fairly old. We left it alone and marked the coordinates the GPS and reported it to the agency in charge of the land. The agency was nice enough to keep us in the loop when archeologists were called in to confirm that it was Native American at which point they contacted the appropriate Tribe(s) so that they could decide what to do with it. We were asked no to share the location for obvious reasons. It was very interesting getting to see how that process worked.

We also hit a couple of milestones this year, our last hike at Yachats (post) was our 500th day of hiking and we reached our long term goal of hiking all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition). We will talk a little more about that in a progress report on our goal to finish the 100 featured hikes in all five of his guide books covered areas.

Despite all its troubles 2020 will at least be memorable. Here is to a better 2021 with more new trail, new discoveries, and hopefully some happier stories. Happy Trails!

Yachats – 12/05/2020

We ended our 2020 hiking year by hiking a section of the Oregon Coast Trail from Yachats to Waldport (and back). Our final outing of the year also marked the 500th day with a hike since an ill prepared jaunt at Silver Falls State Park in 2006 gave us the hiking bug (post). I was extra excited for this outing having just received a replacement for our camera and looking forward to trying it out.

We started our hike at Smelt Sands State Recreation Site where the 804 Trail doubles as the Oregon Coast Trail route.


We headed north on the trail which passed between the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean and several hotels.

IMG_0042Looking back south as the sunrise paints the clouds.

IMG_0058A house on the cliffs.

After three quarters of a mile, and crossing the private driveway of the house pictured above, the trail descends to a 6.3 mile stretch of beach between Yachats and the mouth of the Alsea River at Waldport.

It was a beautiful morning, chilly but not too cold. A slight chance of rain was in the forecast after 10am but that bank of clouds looked far off on the horizon as we struck off on the sand.

IMG_0066Seagulls outnumbered people in the early part of the day.

We arrived at Starr Creek shortly after descending to the beach.

One of the trickiest parts of beach hiking can be trying to judge the depth of the various creek crossings using satellite maps. This section of beach contained several named creeks so we had come prepared for barefoot fording if necessary. Starr Creek was narrow enough though that we were able to hop across with the assistance of our hiking poles.

Continuing north we passed some banded cliffs where the ocean had created a small arch.

Beyond these cliffs the beach widened and we strolled along the hard packed sand looking for wildlife (both alive and not so much).


IMG_0084Vinge Creek, about a mile down the beach, was crossable on small rocks.

IMG_0086Geese flying overhead, we couldn’t make out what kind.

IMG_0087At first we thought there were two weather vanes on the houses, a whale on the right and a heron on the left.

IMG_0088It turned out to be a real great blue heron (but the whale was a vane).

IMG_0102Looking south toward Cape Perpetua (post)

IMG_0103View north.

IMG_0109Sunlight on the wave tops.

IMG_0110Sunlight bursting through the trees.


At Reynolds Creek (approximately 3 miles down the beach) we finally had to remove our shoes and socks for an ankle deep ford.

IMG_0123Wavy sand.

One of the most interesting sights came about 4.75 miles up the beach when we passed the “Big Stump“. The remains of an ancient redwood. The origins of the tree are unknown, it may have been part of an ancient redwood forest that was once present here or a transplant brought by the Pacific.


A mile beyond Big Stump brought us to a short section of grassy dunes at Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site.

IMG_0139Cape Perpetua from the dunes.

Not far beyond Governor Patterson we spotted the Alsea Bay Bridge spanning the Alsea River.

IMG_0144Testing the 40 zoom feature on the Canon SX740HS.

We made our way to a driftwood log near the mouth of the Alsea and took a seat.
IMG_0147Heading for the log.


IMG_0146View from the log.

IMG_0153More testing of the zoom function. Seagulls on the near sandbar and seals on the one on the other side of the bridge.

It was a little after 10:15am when we started back. The bank of clouds offshore came creeping in as we made our way back to Yachats but rain never materialized. We spent much of our return trip watching seals and a few birds bob along in the surf. We also decided not to worry about letting our shoes get wet so we just went straight through the creeks on the way back and may have let the ocean get us once or twice too for good measure.
IMG_0157Looking at the dark cloud bank over the Pacific.


IMG_0170A little more cloud cover to the south over Cape Perpetua.

IMG_0177Seagull shaking it off.

IMG_0181More cloud action.


IMG_0191Reynolds Creek after fording.

IMG_0200Finally starting to feel like it could start raining soon.

IMG_0202The advancing line of clouds.

IMG_0205Another look at the arch.

IMG_0216A kingfisher near the stairs up from the beach.

IMG_0220December blossoms on salal along the 804 Trail.

The tide was further in as we passed the rocky shoreline on the 804 Trail creating some dramatic wave crashes.




If not for our bladders we could have sat on one of the many benches along the 804 and watched the waves crashing into the rocks for hours but the restrooms at Smelt Sands beckoned. The weather had held up nicely and the hike was an entertaining one with just enough wildlife and sights not to be a tedious beach walk. It also helped that the sand was packed well and we never felt like we were having to work hard walking over it. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Yachats

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.

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).

The Sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it was still under 30 degrees, as we set off on the trail.

The trail climbed a forested hillside and crossed a forest road above Trail Bridge Reservoir (2 miles from the TH).

IMG_8455Forest road crossing.

The trail then descended to Forest Road 730 and a crossing of Smith River which feeds into the reservoir.





Another brief climb followed before dropping down to the Trail Bridge Dam.





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.

IMG_8499Fall means mushrooms.




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.


IMG_8533Anderson Creek joining the McKenzie.



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.

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.


IMG_8572Turning up Deer Creek to reach the footbridge.




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.

IMG_8592We had to go around this bridge due to frost and it being at an angle.



IMG_8606Footbridge over Frissel Creek.


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

IMG_8616FR 610

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.


IMG_8624We missed this sign for slough creek the first time by.



IMG_8633Missed this survey marker too.

IMG_8631We also completely missed this sign at Deer Creek.

IMG_8638Still cold









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.


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.

There were a few more views of the falls as the trail continued to climb beyond the viewpoint.



There was also a view across the Columbia River of Silver Star Mountain (post).

Above the lower falls the trail followed Henderson Creek up a narrow canyon to the upper falls.





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.

We crossed the creek on a footbridge below the splash pool then explored behind the falls under the basalt.




Beyond the falls the trail headed downhill on the opposite side of the creek.




After a half mile a short spur trail led downhill to a viewpoint above Lower Latourell Falls (the falls were not visible from here).


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.







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.


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.

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.


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.


IMG_8291Multnomah Creek Way Trail.

We followed this trail downhill for .2 miles to a footbridge over Multnomah Creek.

After crossing the creek the trail turned uphill following the creek up into the Multnomah Basin.


IMG_8311Larch Mountain from Multnomah Basin



The trail climbed out of the basin and eventually joined an old roadbed as it wrapped around a ridge end.



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.


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.

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.


From the parking lot we followed a paved path .2 miles to Sherrard Point.

IMG_8378Just a few of the steps up to Sherrard Point.


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.





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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

We followed the paved Leif Erikson Drive for .3 miles to the Wild Cherry Trail (near a set of outhouses).


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.



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.




IMG_8037The bridge damage was not an issue.

IMG_8038Another bunch of musrhooms.


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).

IMG_8050Firelane 1 junction.

With Heather still going strong we stuck to the Wildwood Trail arriving at the Nature Trail in another half mile.


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.






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.

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.


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

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.