Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop – 6/27/2020

After ending a five day stretch of hiking with a 13 mile, nearly 4000′ elevation gain hike we chose a longer hike with even more elevation gain for our next outing. I found the the Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop while working on our future hiking plans in the off season. A recent trip report indicated that the wildflowers were near peak and a mostly sunny forecast for Saturday made it seem like a good time to check it out. In addition this hike is not particularly popular so social distancing most likely wouldn’t be a problem.

There are numerous potential starting points for this loop (or shorter hikes to one or both of the peaks) we chose to start at the Monte Carlo Trailhead. The reason was twofold. First this was the starting point for the hike described in the Oregonhikers.org field guide and secondly the drive was almost entirely paved.

We missed the parking area for the trailhead which was directly across FR 18 from the start of the trail mistaking it for part of the Oklahoma Campground. We wound up turning up the next little forest road (I believe it was 752) on the right and parking at a pullout along it and walked down FR 18 to the trail. This really didn’t add any extra distance as the loop ended by walking approximately 2 miles along FR 18 between the Lower Monte Cristo Trailhead and the Monte Carlo Trailhead.
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We followed the field guide entry closely for this hike due to numerous logging road crossings, a couple of road walks and a few odd junctions. The field guide was spot on (despite being a bit off on total distance which we’ll get to later) so I won’t reinvent the wheel here and try and describe every twist and turn of the route. A tenth of a mile up the trail we came to a forest road which was the same one that we parked along. There was no signage at this junction but we knew from the field guide (and our GPS) to turn right. After our hike some hikers came by our car having turned left at the junction. After following the road for approximately 450′ we came to a trail on the left which quickly began climbing.
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The designer of the trail apparently had little use for switchbacks as the trail went just about straight uphill. A little over three quarters of a mile in we came to an old logging road which the trail followed to the right where it leveled off a bit.
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This road ended at FR 1840 where a sign pointed to the left for the Monte Carlo Trail.
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At another road junction after just 500′ on FR 1840 another segment of trail launched uphill. In the forest here we found a large number of phantom orchids.
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IMG_7967One of the phantom orchids to the right of the trail.

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Just over a quarter mile after leaving FR 1840 we came to another logging road which we turned right on briefly to pick up the continuation of the Monte Carlo Trail.
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Another .3 mile climb was followed by another short walk to the right on a road followed by yet more climbing.
IMG_7983A rare level section of trail.

IMG_7995There were thimbleberry bushes along the roads/trails all day long.

Just over 2 miles into the hike we came to a small hillside meadow.
IMG_8010Bumble bee working on some clover.

IMG_8004Penstemon

IMG_8018A few wildflowers.

IMG_8020Yarrow

IMG_8022Popcorn flower and strawberry plants.

After rounding a corner we came to a bigger meadow with more wildflowers and some views.
IMG_8059Timberhead Mountain

IMG_8062Little Huckleberry Mountain

IMG_8067Nightblooming false bindweed

The trail managed to steepen as it headed uphill and entered the upper portion of the meadow.
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The meadow was full of Oregon sunshine and a few other flowers.
IMG_8085Tall buckwheat

Tall buckwheatCloser look at the tall buckwheat.

IMG_8091Oregon sunshine

IMG_8078Yarrow, lupine and penstemon

At the top of the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and entered some trees before arriving at a trail junction.
IMG_8099Many of the signs along the route were no longer in the ground so it was important to make sure they really were pointing in the correct directions.

IMG_8104Honeysuckle

The junction consisted of the Monte Carlo Trail which we were on and the Buck Creek Trail which is managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources whose land we were now on. We kept left on what was now a combination of the Monte Carlo and Buck Creek Trails which crossed and old logging road then arrived at the Buck Creek No. 2 Trailhead. We picked up the Monte Carlo – Buck Creek Trail here at a sign for the Middle Fork Grove and Monte Carlo Viewpoint.
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The Monte Carlo-Buck Creek Trail dropped to a crossing of Buck Creek before climbing for almost a mile (crossing one logging road) to a 90-degree right hand turn. Much of the time was in previously logged forests.
IMG_8119A few trees that were spared.

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IMG_8120Bunchberry

IMG_8131Footbridge over Buck Creek.

IMG_8135Salsify

IMG_8139Streambank globemallow

IMG_8141Silverleaf phacelia

IMG_8153Logging road crossing.

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The trail had reentered forest a bit before the 90-degree turn. After turning the trail dropped just over 200′ to Road B-1500 where we encountered the first other hikers of the day. A couple had parked along this road and were getting ready to head up to Monte Carlo for the wildflowers.
IMG_8161Starting the descent.

The trail set off from B-1500 amid a lot of lupine.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining over 600′ in the next three quarters of a mile to a junction atop Monte Carlo. A bit below the summit the trail enters an open hillside with wildflowers and some actual switchbacks. There is also reportedly an excellent view of Mt. Hood but there were enough clouds present that we could not verify that.
IMG_8179Entering the meadow.

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IMG_8194Pollinator on wallflower

IMG_8197Bee heading for some penstemon.

IMG_8203Clouds to the south.

IMG_8204Penstemon

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IMG_8211Lots of Oregon sunshine again.

IMG_8216Taper tip onions

20200627_101109Penstemon and lomatium seedheads.

IMG_8218Warning for mountain bikers going down the trail.

After briefly reentering the woods (and leveling out for a bit) the trail reached the summit junction.
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At this point the trail is back in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. A jeep track to the right heads down Eton Ridge while the Buck Creek Trail also drops to the right down Penny Ridge. The Monte Carlo Trail turned left and began a mile long traverse of the Monte Carlo Ridge.
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The ridge walk was a delight. First it was relatively level and better yet it was covered in wildflowers.
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IMG_8278Balsamroot

IMG_8260Ladybug on a flower.

20200627_103428Cat’s ear lily

IMG_8280Lupine

IMG_8283Phlox and Oregon sunshine

IMG_8297Buckwheat

IMG_8301Paintbrush

20200627_104543Sunflowers

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IMG_8334Grouse in the flowers.

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Despite the clouds having hidden Mt. Hood from the meadow below there were plenty of views from the ridge.
IMG_8378Little Huckleberry Mountain to the left and Lemi Rock to the right.

IMG_8233Lemi Rock in the Indian Heaven Wilderness

IMG_8255Looking SE into Eastern Oregon.

By far the best view was of Mt. Adams.
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There were various penstemons in the area with the view of Mt. Adams.
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The level trail ended at the ridge end where the Monte Carlo Trail dove down toward a saddle and FR 1840. The trail dropped nearly 800′ in .7 miles before reaching the road. Worse than the steepness of the descent was knowing that we would need to gain all of the lost elevation back to visit Monte Cristo.
IMG_8397Starting the drop.

IMG_8409There were huge amounts of Arnica in the forest.

IMG_8419Monte Cristo from the trail as we dropped….further, and further.

The trail arrives at the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead on FR 1840.
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To complete our loop we would eventually need to start down FR 1840 to the left but to reach Monte Cristo we needed to head uphill to the right on FR 1840-100 following pointers for the Monte Cristo Trail 53.
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IMG_8428FR 1840-100.

IMG_8431Shiny beetles

After .6 miles of gradual climbing the road ended at the an old trailhead.
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It was time to gain that elevation back and the Monte Cristo Trail did it with gusto. Despite the presence of actual switchbacks the concept seemed to escape the designer and instead of tight turns and gradual grades the trail went from a moderate grade to nearly straight uphill before turning back along the hillside at a moderate grade. We gained over 800′ in the next .8 miles.
IMG_8447A “switchback” turning directly uphill.

About a tenth of a mile below the summit the trail entered a spectacular wildflower meadow.
IMG_8456Sunflowers at the edge of the meadow.

IMG_8468Approaching the meadow.

IMG_8474Sunflowers

IMG_8479Scarlet gilia

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After having missed out the view of Mt. Hood earlier there was just enough of a break in the clouds to see the mountain from Monte Cristo.
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A lookout tower once sat atop the peak.
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A much shorter ridge than on Monte Carlo ran north from the summit where the Monte Cristo Trail continued eventually reaching the Monte Cristo Upper Trailhead. Our second encounter with hikers came along this ridge when a group of three people were coming up from this upper trailhead.

The short ridge was covered with wildflowers including quite a bit of white-stemmed frasera which we haven’t often encountered.
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IMG_8521Pussytoes

IMG_8525White-stemmed frasera

IMG_8544Phlox

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IMG_8563Taper tip onions

20200627_122010White-stemmed frasera

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IMG_8584Wallflower and paintbrush

IMG_8581A white lupine

IMG_8580Paintbrush and phlox

We took a short break at the summit which was just long enough for Mt. Hood to sort of reemerge from clouds that had hidden it. This happened at the same time a hawk decided to ride an updraft straight up in the sky.
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After admiring the hawks flight abilities we started back down through the meadow.
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The trail was just as steep going down as it had been coming up and our knees were starting to protest this whole adventure. We made our way back to FR 1840-10 and followed it back to the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead, pausing briefly to watch some swallowtail butterflies.
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We followed FR 1840-100 a few yards downhill to it’s junction with FR 1840 and turned left for 20 yards to the signed Monte Cristo Trail on the right.
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Our knees would not be getting a break just yet as the Monte Cristo Trail descended over 1000′ in just over a mile to the Monte Cristo Lower Trailhead along FR 18.
IMG_8612Presumably letting you know that you’re a mile from the road. (It could also be that this tree is “Number 1”.)

IMG_8618Twinflower in the forest.

IMG_8622Our first blooming prince’s pine of the year.

20200627_134001_HDRNot nearly the steepest section.

IMG_8626FR 18 finally!

We turned left on FR 18 the nearly 2 mile road walk back to our car. The good news was that the road surface wasn’t too hard and better yet it was nearly level the whole way!
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The field guide lists the hike as 11.8 miles but a trip report from 6/20 that I’d seen said that the hike came in closer to 14 miles for him. My Garmin came in at 13.6 miles so keep that in mind if you’re considering this hike. It was certainly challenging but the wildflowers and the views made it a worthwhile endeavor. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Loop

Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows – 6/21/2020

For the final hike of our vacation we were looking for something relatively close to home that we had not done before. While we had visited the Table Rock Wilderness twice before (post) both of the previous hikes started from the Table Rock Trailhead. Two of our guidebooks contained hikes starting at the Old Bridge Trailhead which would allow us to do a predominately new hike in the BLM managed wilderness.

One author (Sullivan) suggested a 6.4 mile loop utilizing the High Ridge and Bull Creek Trails as well as Rooster Rock Road while the other author’s (Reeder) suggested hike was a 10.8 mile out and back to Rooster Rock on the High Ridge Trail. We decided to combine the two and visit the meadow below Rooster Rock and then return via the Bull Creek Trail/Rooster Rock Road route described by Sullivan. We parked at the Old Bridge Trailhead which had it’s pros and cons.
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Trailhead sign at the Old Bridge Trailhead.

On the pro side the entire drive to the trailhead is on paved roads. On the con side the trailhead is at a gravel pit used for target shooting and there were a lot of empty shell casings as well as litter in the immediate vicinity.

The first few feet of the trail were nearly hidden by thimblerry bushes but after passing through them the trail was obvious and well maintained.
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IMG_7385A second signboard just up the trail from the trailhead.

There was a chance of showers in the forecast that never materialized, but it was foggy and the fog left the vegetation wet which in turn made us increasingly wet as we brushed against the leaves.
IMG_7389Wet leaves around an iris.

One thing that we’ve come to expect from hikes in this wilderness is a good climb and this portion of the High Ridge Trail was no exception. Starting at an elevation just over 1200′ the trail climbed 1800′ in 2.5 miles to a junction with the Image Creek and Bull Creek Trails. The majority of the climb is through a mature forest but at the 2.4 mile mark a small wildflower meadow awaits.
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IMG_7423Rhododendron

IMG_7430Coralroot

IMG_7448The small wildflower meadow.

We’d timed it fairly well for the flower display but the fog made it a little hard to get the full effect of colors.
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IMG_7452Paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and plectritis

IMG_7461Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_7465Death camas

20200621_074119Paintbrush

IMG_7472Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7478A penstemon

The trail briefly reentered the forest before coming to a second, larger meadow in .1 miles.
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IMG_7490Balsamroot at the edge of the meadow.

20200621_074643Penstemon

IMG_7491Larger meadow

This meadow was quite a bit larger with a few additional types of flowers present but it was also disappointingly foggy.
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IMG_7498Honeysuckle

IMG_7493Larkspur amid the paintbrush and Oregon sunshine

IMG_7516Tomcat clover

IMG_7518Possibly a milk-vetch or some sort of vetch.

On the far side of the meadow we arrived at the wide 4-way junction with the Image Creek Trail on the left, the Bull Creek Trail on the right, and the continuation of the High Ridge Trail straight ahead.
IMG_7525Image Creek Trail and the High Ridge Trail.

We stuck to the High Ridge Trail which launched uphill. The trail gained the ridge and leveled out for a bit before another steep climb. There were a few dips along the way as the trail was forced to leave the ridge to drop under rock outcroppings which just increased the amount of climbing needed.
IMG_7535One of the sets of rocks along the way.

IMG_7543In the middle of one of the climbs.

IMG_7552The trail leveling off a bit.

Approximately 2 miles from the junction we came to the first of a series of small meadows, each with a slightly different feel.
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IMG_7591Oregon sunshine

IMG_7607Mountain sandwort

IMG_7611Penstemon

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Olympic onionOlympic onion

IMG_7635Back in the trees.

20200621_093033Fawn lilies

IMG_7647The next little meadow.

IMG_7656Larkspur and blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7658Groundsel

IMG_7661Trees again.

IMG_7662Another meadow

IMG_7672Phlox

IMG_7676Phlox

IMG_7678Chickweed

Just under 3 miles from the junction we arrived at the meadow below Rooster Rock. This was the first part of the hike that was familiar to us having visited Rooster Rock on both our previous trips to the wilderness.
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We were just a week or two early for the full false sunflower display but a few of the blossoms had opened and there were plenty of other flowers blooming.
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IMG_7709Larkspur

IMG_7710Lupine

IMG_7713Wallflower

IMG_7722Paintbrush

IMG_7727Bistort

20200621_100025Sub-alpine mariposa lily

We turned left at a “Y” junction with the Saddle Trail and climbed to, wait for it…. a saddle between Rooster Rock and Chicken Rock. With the fog we couldn’t really see either rock formation but we knew they were there. While Rooster Rock is taller there is no trail to it, but there is one up to Chicken Rock and we headed up despite knowing that there would be no views of Mt. Jefferson today. There was a lot of colorful clumps of purple and pink penstemon though.
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The rocks were at least a good spot to take a short rest and have a bit to eat. We were occasionally able to make out the shape of Rooster Rock across the saddle as we sat.
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Mt. Jefferson to the left and the Three Sister to the right of Rooster RockFor comparison.

After our break we explored a little more of the meadow along the High Ridge Trail looking for any types of flowers that we might have missed earlier.
IMG_7805Sticky cinquefoil

We headed back along the High Ridge Trail to the junction with the Bull Creek Trail. The three miles back to the junction were pretty uneventful except for startling an unexpected hiker who we thought had seen us but hadn’t. He was in the middle of the trail and when he didn’t move we noticed he had ear buds in. I said hi and he about jumped off the trail. He wasn’t expecting to see anyone else on the trail he said. We wished him luck with the view as it was supposed to clear up at some point during the day and continued on our way.

By the time we arrived at the junction the fog had at least lifted so we took a faint user trail out to the edge of the big meadow from the Bull Creek Trail to take another look.
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After returning to the trail we noticed a smaller meadow on the opposite side that was bursting with color.
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It was mostly plectritis and Oregon sunshine but Heather managed to spot a couple of yellow monkeflowers.
IMG_7842Plectritis and Oregon sunshine

20200621_120104A monkeyflower by some plectritis.

The Bull Creek Trail dropped fairly steeply along an old roadbed to a crossing of a branch of Bull Creek.
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In a cruel twist the trail climbed away from this crossing. We had hoped that we were done climbing for the day but not quite. We then dropped to a second branch of the creek.
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After a brief smaller climb form this crossing the trail dove downhill in a hurry to the Bull Creek Trailhead along Rooster Rock Road.
IMG_7864Iris along the trail.

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It was 1.6 miles from the junction to the trailhead and now we faced a 2.3 mile road walk back to the Old Bridge Trailhead.
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As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad. We could hear (and occasionally got a glimpse of) the Molalla River and there was finally some blue sky overhead.
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The butterflies were coming out to pollinate the flowers so we watched them as we shuffled along.
IMG_7873I didn’t see the beetle until I was uploading this photo.

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We spotted a colorful bird flying back into some trees but couldn’t quite figure out where it had gone of what it was. I took a bunch of pictures of the branches though hoping to at least get an idea of what it was which actually sort of worked. It was a western tanager.
IMG_7890Where’s the western tanager.

The highlight of the road walk came as we neared the trailhead. Several cedar waxwings were in the trees nearby.
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Instead of 12.4 miles my GPS showed 13 but that’s to be expected when we wander around exploring things. 🙂 This was a tough hike with nearly 4000′ of elevation gain up some steep climbs but it was a good one. Having already gotten to experience the views from Chicken Rock helped alleviate any disappointment about the foggy conditions and we got to see a very different set of flowers in the meadow on this trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows

Green Ridge – 6/20/2020

After three nice days the weather turned on us again and what had been a pleasant forecast for Saturday turned to rain everywhere I looked on the west side of the Cascades so we swapped a planned hike in Washington’s Trapper Creek Wilderness for a trip over Santiam Pass to Green Ridge where there was just the slightest chance of showers.

The Green Ridge escarpment sits at the eastern edge of the High Cascades graben along the Green Ridge Fault. With the ridge being the transition zone between the High Cascades and the High Desert the area is an interesting mix of trees and vegetation. The trail is popular with equestrians and mountain bikers as it connects with various longer loop options.

To reach the trailhead that we began at we drove Highway 20 to FR 11 also known as Green Ridge Road (2 miles east of Black Butte Ranch or 5.8 miles west of Sisters). We turned north onto FR 11 at a pointer for Indian Ford Campground and followed this paved road for 4.3 miles to an unmarked junction with FR 1120 at a curve. We turned left on the red cinder FR 1120 for 0.9 of washboard road to the trailhead on the left.
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The Green Ridge Trail began on the far side of FR 1120 at a sign.
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The trail passed through a forest of mostly ponderosa pine and a few scattered flowers.
IMG_6945Paintbrush

IMG_6956Balsamroot

IMG_6971A phacelia, Oregon sunshine, and a little pink diamond clarkia.

20200620_071037A penstemon

IMG_6977Washington lily

IMG_6955I couldn’t get a good shot of this western tanager but he was really colorful.

IMG_6995Buckwheat

IMG_6985Bird with breakfast

The trail soon began climbing gradually up the ridge via a long switchback. As we climbed we began to get views of the nearby Cascade peaks.
IMG_7012Three Fingered Jack

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20200620_071856Pinedrops

We also began to notice 3-inch long Pandora moth larva crawling across the trail.
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The larva spent spring feeding on ponderosa pines and are now burrowing into the ground where they will transform into pupae. They will then emerge next summer as adult moths. Based on studies of ponderosa pine tree rings up to 22 Pandora moth outbreaks have occurred in the last 600 years. When I was at Redmond High School in the late 80s/early 90s one of the outbreaks occurred and the number of the large moths was amazing.
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Many of the larva we saw would not be making it to adulthood as they seemed to be of particular interest to the resident ants of the area.

Three Fingered Jack was clear of clouds but the same couldn’t be said for Mt. Washington when it came into view over the shoulder of Black Butte (post).
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While it was still climbing the trail began to level out as it followed the ridge south.
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As I was watching the drama at my fleet playing out between the larva and the ants I spotted something in a hole in the middle of the trail.
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We shared a moment then the lizard scurried off into the sagebrush and we continued on. Mt. Jefferson soon joined the view and it too was relatively free of clouds for the time being.
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We spotted another familiar prominent feature along the Cascade crest as well.
IMG_7084South Cinder Peak (post)

As we continued along the ridge the forest transitioned from the ponderosa pines to higher elevation furs and pines.
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The flowers transitioned too and we were soon seeing a lot of purple larkspur red scarlet gilia, and white California stickseed as well as a few other flowers.
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California stickseed

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IMG_7195Lupine

IMG_7200Columbine

IMG_7206A moth but not a Pandora moth. 🙂

20200620_092042Sticky cinquefoil

20200620_091818Salsify

IMG_7225Tortoiseshell butterfly

Around the 5.25 mile mark we came to a bend in an old roadbed that the trail had been following since the 4 mile mark. Past the bend the road headed downhill a bit to dip around a knoll and continue on another 4.3 miles to the Green Ridge Lookout.
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This knoll was our goal for the day. We were using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” guidebook and he described a faint trail leading up past a campsite to a viewpoint. We couldn’t identify the faint trail so we simply set off cross-country up the knoll. We did pass a fire pit which we assumed was the campsite and then noticed what might have been a faint trail.
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Just .2 miles from the trail/roadbed we arrived at the rocky viewpoint where we found a lot of penstemon.
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There was also a view of several mountains from the North Sister north to Mt. Hood.
IMG_7271Black Butte and the North Sister

IMG_7304North Sister

IMG_7289Three Fingered Jack

IMG_7302North Cinder Peak and Forked Butte (post)

IMG_7252Mt. Jefferson

IMG_7248Mt. Hood

We could also make out just the slightest bit of the Metolius River (post) below the ridge.
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After a nice break we headed back along the ridge. We took one side trip on the way back down just over 2.25 miles from the knoll to check out what looked to be quite a bit of balsamroot to the east of the trail. It turned out to be a wide open area that had a high desert feel in the center with lots of buckwheat while balsamroot surrounded it near the tree line.
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IMG_7323Buckwheat in the center.

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IMG_7329Balsamroot near the trees.

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After the brief side trip we continued down the trail which was now quite a bit busier with several mountain bikers and a couple of hikers making their way up the trail. Going in this direction there were times where we were looking straight at Black Butte and in so doing we noticed that Broken Top was visible over the left shoulder of the butte.
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IMG_7365Tam McArthur Rim (post) and Broken Top

There was a moment when a bit of blue sky opened above the cascades giving us a good look at Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack.
IMG_7346A sliver of blue sky over Black Butte and Mt. Washington.

IMG_7348Mt. Washington

IMG_7352Three Fingered Jack with some blue sky.

The blue sky quickly disappeared and it sprinkled ever so briefly before we arrived back at the trailhead. Our hike came in at 11.2 miles with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain which was spread out fairly well along the trail so that it never felt very steep at all. Given all the rain forecast for the west side of the cascades we felt fortunate to have gotten the mountain views we did. The best part of the hike for us though was the different vegetation and scenery along the ridge. The mix of high cascades and high desert made it a truly interesting place. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Green Ridge

Hackleman Grove, Echo Basin and Fish Lake – 6/19/2020

Our vacation week had a theme going, multiple stop days, and we continued that on Friday with a three stop day to check off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes – Echo Basin. Actually the hike was no longer one of Sullivan’s 100 featured hikes in the most recent edition of his Central Oregon Cascades guidebook, but it was a featured hike in the 4th edition which is the one that we are using in our attempt to hike all of his featured hikes (post).

We began our day by stopping at the Hackleman Old Growth Grove Trail for a short 1 mile loop. The convenient trailhead is right off of Highway 20 near milepost 67. There is also a loop option that is marked as wheelchair friendly although on our visit there were a number of downed trees that said otherwise.
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The wide trail led into the forest and quickly split.
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We stayed right here and soon encountered our first downed trees.
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The trail descended a bit toward Hackleman Creek to a junction where two trails joined from the left. The first was the wheelchair accessible continuation and the second was not.
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IMG_6580The wheelchair friendly path.

IMG_6581The hiker path.

It was at this point that we realized that we probably shouldn’t have stayed right at the first junction. As we turned onto the hiker path we began seeing numbered posts for an interpretive trail. (There were no brochures or anything to tell us what the numbers represented.)
IMG_6582The hiker trail.

A short side path took us to the bank of Hackleman Creek.
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20200619_071852Western meadowrue

IMG_6606Mushrooms on a log.

We met back up with the middle trail at another signpost and could see more numbered posts down that trail which reinforced the idea that we should have taken the middle trail and returned on the hiker trail (based on the numbers of the posts we passed).
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In any event it was a nice little hike and a good leg stretcher/warm up for our next stop at Echo Basin.

The Echo Basin Trailhead was 2 miles up Forest Road 055 which was just .3 miles east of the Hackleman Grove Trailhead. There was a fairly deep channel in the road a tenth of a mile or so from the actual trailhead that could prove difficult for lower clearance vehicles (we saw one car parked at a pullout just before it on our drive out).
IMG_6608Echo Basin Trail at FR 055.

This hike is a lollipop climbing an old logging road for a half mile then starting the loop at the .7 mile mark at a foot bridge over Echo Creek.
IMG_6618Rocky start to the trail.

IMG_6622Trillium

Just before the start of the loop we arrived at a green meadow that wasn’t very far along with most of the plants still early in their growth cycle.
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We worried that we had come too early for the wildflowers higher in the basin.
IMG_6650More trillium along the meadow.

IMG_6653Swallowtail on salmonberry blossoms.

IMG_6658Start of the loop.

We crossed the creek and spotted a rabbit hiding in the brush.
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The trail climbed and entered the start of the meadow that fills Echo Basin.
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IMG_6676Orange tip butterfly

We were starting to see a few more flowers as we began to get into the meadow.
IMG_6684Bleeding heart

IMG_6686Violets

IMG_6689Fairybells

20200619_082454Royal Jacob’s ladder

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IMG_6710Western meadowrue

The further into the meadow that we got the wetter the ground became. Near the first of a series of short boardwalks there was a great display of shooting stars and buttercups.
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There were also a number of elephants head beginning to bloom.
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The boardwalks helped a bit but in between the gaps the ground was muddy and wet. A perfect mixture for frogs.
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IMG_6751Paintbrush

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IMG_6766Looking back at the route through the meadow.

We left the meadow and dropped down to the footbridge to complete the loop then returned to the car. We passed a few hikers on their way up to the basin and these would be the only people we would encounter all day.

From the Echo Basin Trailhead we returned to Highway 20 and continued east 2.2 miles to Hackleman Creek Road (FR 2672) on the right for our third stop of the day along the Old Santiam Wagon Road. The wagon road crosses FR 2672 about a hundred feet from the highway and there is an unmarked trailhead down a short dirt road on the left.
IMG_6777The trailhead off of FR 2672.

There was an amazing patch of coral root at the trailhead.
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We walked past a green gate and found a post indicating that this was the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
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This was a deviation for Sullivan’s hike description as he would have you start at the Fish Lake Day Use Area but the entrance to the day use area remains gated due to COVID-19. From this trailhead we could follow the wagon road 2.2 miles to the Pioneer Grave and Fish Lake. There wasn’t a lot to see along the way, a few scattered flowers was about it. The road was in fairly good shape with a few downed trees near the beginning but as we got closer to Fish Lake it was obvious that there had been some clearing done.
IMG_6788Iris

IMG_6799Beargrass

IMG_6816Santiam Wagon Road

IMG_6811Bunchberry

Musk monkeyflowerMusk monkeyflower

We stopped at the grave site where there is a semi-obstructed view of the Three Sisters.
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Just beyond the grave site is the Fish Lake Remount Station which served as the headquarters of the Santiam National Forest in the 1910’s. Two cabins are available for reservations in Winter. We were not entirely sure of the status of the area as I mentioned before the Forest Service website mentioned that the Day Use are gate was still closed, but the Day Use Area was .4 miles from the grave site and there were no signs indicating that the remount station was off-limits. We followed the wagon road through the station but avoided using or touching any facilities.
IMG_6832Hall House

IMG_6838Commissary Cabin

IMG_6839Commissary Cabin innkeeper?

IMG_6841More from the remount station

Fish Lake dries up annually leaving a meadow but there was a good amount of water present and we spotted a couple of kayaks or paddle boards across the water.
IMG_6867Browder Ridge (post) looming above Fish Lake.

IMG_6844Interpretive signs for the remount station.

An old lava field sits between the station and the day use area which we walked through until we could see the day use area (where there was at least one car and no gate, curious.
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We returned the way we’d come for a 5.2 mile out-and-back giving us a grand total of 8.6 miles for the day (1.1 at Hackleman Grove and 2.1 at Echo Basin). Despite the hikes being very close to one another they each had a different feel making for a fun and interesting day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hackleman Grove, Echo Basin, and Fish Lake

Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park – 6/18/2020

We had the rare opportunity to have company on one of our outings on our vacation. Four of Heather’s running buddies (we won’t name names but you know you you are) were open to our 5am start time so we swung by and had them follow us to the first of two stops at the Memaloose Lake Trail.

The trailhead is along Forest Road 45 which runs between Highway 242 and Highway 211. The 2014 36 Pit Fire forced the closure of FR 45 at Highway 224 after damaging a section of the road. This was the recommended way to the trailhead as the fist 11.2 miles were paved and the final mile was good gravel. While the repairs are nearly finished FR 45 was still closed 3.5 miles from Highway 242 meaning we would need to take FR 45 from Highway 211. From that highway it was 23 miles to the trailhead and although most two digit forest roads are paved or at least good gravel FR 45 was not. There was a short section of pavement before turning to a pothole filled mess. For their part the Forest Service was in the process of clearing brush and debris along the road but there was still quite a bit of work to do as some downed trees had been worked on just enough to allow vehicles to get by. We picked our way slowly around (and sometimes through) the obstacles and eventually made it to the trailhead.
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The Memaloose Lake Trail starts uphill into the Mt. Hood National Forest and quickly enters the Clackamas Wilderness.
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The 1.4 mile trail gained 700′ as it climbed through a lush green forest.
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IMG_6252Bunchberry

IMG_6266Salmonberry

The trail crossed a couple of small streams before climbing to a more substantial crossing of Memaloose Creek.
IMG_6282First little stream crossing.

IMG_6288Another stream crossing, this one with skunk cabbage.

IMG_6296Memaloose Creek crossing.

IMG_6298Memaloose Creek above the crossing.

The crossing was made just a bit tricky by a downed log in the middle of the creek which required some awkward steps on potentially slick rocks.
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Beyond the creek the trail made a long switchback up to Memaloose Lake.
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IMG_6313Skunk cabbage, shooting stars, and marsh marigolds across the lake.

There were some rough skinned newts in the water that we watched for a bit.
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After a short break at the lake we continued on crossing the outlet on some logs.
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The Memaloose Lake Trail ends at the lake, but a user maintained trail continues uphill for a mile to the summit of South Fork Mountain.
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The trail was in good shape for an “unmaintained” trail. There were a few trees down including a spot where we were forced to dip down on a hillside to get around one. The footing wasn’t bad but it could become an issue if not addressed.
IMG_6330Typical obstacles for the trail.

I was hoping for a few flowers on the summit but aside from some trillium a bit below the summit and some small parsley up top there weren’t any.
IMG_6339Trillium

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What there was though were views of volcanoes. It was pretty much cloudless and we had unimpeded views of the Cascades from Mt. Rainier down to the Three Sisters.
IMG_6352Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams (with Goat Rocks the snowy patch just to the left), and Mt. Hood

IMG_6360Mt. Rainier

IMG_6358Goat Rocks to the left with Mt. Adams

IMG_6364Mt. St. Helens

IMG_6354Mt. Hood

IMG_6368Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

IMG_6371Mt. Jefferson

IMG_6381Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6377Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters

I am often surprised by views of Broken Top forgetting that it is quite a bit east of the Three Sisters. I hadn’t clued into the fact that it was visible behind Mt. Washington until I was writing this post.

After exploring the summit and taking another short break we headed back down to the trailhead and prepared to drive back down through the potholes to Highway 211.

The hike to Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain was 4.75 miles so when I was planning our outing I was looking for another hike in the 6 to 8 mile range in the area. Luckily Milo McIver State Park offered a couple of loop options that fit the bill.

I had chosen the Riverside Loop Hike described in the Oregonhikers.org Field Guide.

We parked at the Riverside Day Use Area near the Clackamas Fish Hatchery and set off on the Dog Creek Loop Trail at the far end of the parking lot.
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We took a quick detour to visit the Clackamas River and watch a duck on a rock.
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The trail crossed Dog Creek twice on footbridges before arriving at the fish hatchery after .2 miles.
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We stayed right here and continued to stay right at junctions for 1.2 miles to the start of the Vortex Loop which we had originally considered taking, but the junction with the trail on the right was simply marked with a hiker symbol and no trail name. It appeared to be heading back down to the trail we just came up so we continued on until coming to a viewpoint of the Clackamas River below.
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IMG_6434Red elderberries

IMG_6441Youth-on-age

IMG_6443A phacelia

IMG_6445Hedgenettle

IMG_6448Tiger lily

IMG_6453Fringecup

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Beyond the viewpoint we arrived at a meadow with a grassy track joining on our right we reread the description and realized that this was the other end of the Vortex Loop and we had missed the turn.
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We decided to save the 2 mile Vortex Loop for another time and stayed on the Rivermill Trail which skirted the meadow before crossing a pair of roads, the second of which was near a horse staging area.
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The horse staging area was located at another meadow which we turned right at skirting the edge on a wide track which was the Bat Trail (the Rivermill Trail was further to the right in the trees).
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This led us to the Bat Barn and had a view of Mt. Hood which was now sporting some clouds.
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It was too early in the day for bats but we did see a hawk with lunch.
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Beyond the barn the Bat Trail rejoined the Rivermill Trail where we turned left and descended along a row of blackberry bushes.
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This section of the Rivermill Trail hosted a horse training circuit which the six of us took turns training on.
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The park had a serious issue with identifying trails. Most of the junctions indicated whether or not they were open to horses or just hikers, but the vast majority didn’t give the name of the trails or any indication of what might be down the trail. There was a sign for the Estacada Lake Trail though which we turned onto when we arrived at it.
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We were now descending back down toward the river through a forest where a pileated woodpecker was busy working on a log.
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When we arrived at a muddy pond we wondered if this could be the lake.
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IMG_6534Dragonfly near the pond.

A quick look at the hike description let us know that this was indeed just a pond and that Estacada Lake was actually on the Clackamas River behind a dam. The Estacada Lake Trail dropped us onto South River Lake Road where we turned left along the river to the lake.
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We picked up the Rivermill Trail again just beyond the dam viewpoint and followed it back to the Riverside Day Use Area and our cars. This loop came in at 6.5 miles giving us a nice 11.2 mile day. It was an interesting day in that the first hike had been in a wilderness area and we had seen no other people while the second hike was in a developed state park where there were other people and horses about. The scenery was very different but both hikes had their place.

It was also nice to share a hike with some other people. Most folks balk when they hear what time we leave in the morning (and sometimes when they hear how far we’re planning on going). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park

Spirit, Pinard, & Moon Falls with the Swordfern and Row River Trails – 6/17/2020

Our knack for picking vacation weeks that coincide with wet weather was on display once again as we started a week of day hikes. In January the plan had been to travel to the Pendleton and John Day areas for this vacation but in February Umatilla County experienced severe flooding which damaged many roads and trails and then COVID-19 began shutting everything down so we settled on day hikes from Salem instead. Our vacation got off to a rocky start when Saturday’s forecast was for a lot of rain and so was Monday’s with less on Sunday and Tuesday then it looked like the rest of the week would be better. We bumped our hike to Henline Falls and Mountain (post) from Saturday to Sunday and planned our next hike for Tuesday.

By Monday afternoon the Tuesday forecast had gone from partly sunny to showers and a chance of thunderstorms so we adjusted our plans again bumping Tuesday’s hike to Wednesday. Wednesday morning we set off for Cottage Grove, OR to visit three waterfalls in the Umpqua National Forest. The hikes to Spirit, Pinard, and Moon Falls were one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we still needed to do but for various reasons we had not been able to work them into our schedule yet.

We started our day at the Spirit Falls Trailhead.
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A short but muddy .4 mile path descended to the 40′ waterfall.
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The one positive of the recent rains was that there was plenty of water feeding the falls.
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Our next stop was the Pinard Falls Trail.
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The Pinard Falls Trail is just over a half mile long following an old road bed for the first .3 miles before turning into a true trail.
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Pinard Falls is a 65 foot tall horsetail waterfall.
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Our last waterfall for the day was Moon Falls. The road to that trailhead was blocked by a large downed tree a little less than 100 yards from the trailhead.
IMG_5999Downed tree across the road.

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Like the trail to Pinard Falls the Moon Falls Trail was also just over a half mile long and followed an old roadbed for the first .3 miles.
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We had unintentionally done the hikes in order of waterfall height from smallest to largest. Moon Falls is an 80′ fan which turned out to be our favorite of the three.
Moon Falls

The three waterfall hikes were excellent but short so by the time we were done with them we had hiked just a little over 3 miles. We took the opportunity to add a couple of additional stops to the day starting with the Swordfern Trail located at Rujada Campground. This 2-mile loop was on our way back from the waterfalls so we thought we’d give it a try.
The Forest Service website said the trail was open but the conditions were unknown as of 5/8/2020 but a sign at the trailhead cautioned about severe winter damage.
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We figured if it was still open it couldn’t be that bad and since the loop was only 2 miles a few obstacles wouldn’t hurt. The trail set off along Laying Creek and passed by a picnic area.
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It wasn’t long before we got a taste of the severe damage.
IMG_6073Looking back at some of the obstacles.

IMG_6082More obstacles ahead.

When there wasn’t nearly constant obstacles the trail was nice.
IMG_6084Ferns along the Swordfern Trail.

When the trail began to loop away from the creek we completely lost the tread under forest debris.
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We used the GPS to attempt to relocate the tread but to no avail which was probably for the best given the return would have been on the same hillside just a little higher up. We cut down from where we were to relocate the portion that we had already hiked and made our way back to the trailhead. Instead of a 2-mile loop we did a 1.8 mile out-and-back.

Knowing that even if we had done the 2-mile loop as planned we would still have only been around 5 miles for the day we had planned on a fifth and final stop on the way home at Bake Stewart Park.
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A wide path led through a meadow (with a little poison oak) to the Row River Trail, a converted rail line.
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IMG_6109Self heal

IMG_6117Pale flax

20200617_114902Poppy

IMG_6124Looks like something in the mallow family.

IMG_6127Red beetle

20200617_115015Sneaky poison oak

The .3 mile path brought us to the paved Row River Trail where we turned left.
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The trail passed several fields with flowers and butterflies before arriving at Dorena Lake, a reservoir created by damming the Row River.
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IMG_6141Approaching Dorena Lake

20200617_120844Bachelor button

IMG_6148No idea what this is, possibly non-native.

There seemed to be a good amount of water in the reservoir which made it look more like a lake than reservoirs often do.
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At the 1.5 mile mark we came to Smith Creek.
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Beyond Smith Creek there were good views across a marshy wetland popular with geese, ducks and herons.
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IMG_6176Canada geese

IMG_6227A great blue heron with at least one duck in the grass.

The trail then passed through a few forested sections and past one rocky cliff where a viewpoint looked out across the lake.
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IMG_6190You can see a bit of the rocks on the opposite side of the trail.

A mix of flowers, mostly non-native brightened the viewpoint.
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IMG_6199Brodiaea

IMG_6205Poppy

20200617_124801Scarlet pimpernel

We had decided to make Rat Creek our turnaround point which was 3.5 miles from the parking area in Bake Stewart Park. Just before reaching Rat Creek we passed through Harms Park, another possible trailhead.
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IMG_6211Dorena Lake from Rat Creek

IMG_6213Bug on the Rat Creek bridge.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for anything new on the way back. In Bake Stewart Park we spotted some really tall bluehead gilia and a nice little clarkia.
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With the 7+ miles on the Row River Trail we had finished our day with a total of 12.4 miles. The three waterfalls were great short hikes and each would be a worthwhile stop on its own. If the Swordfern Trail receives some much needed maintenance it also seemed like it would be a nice short hike although not as impressive as the falls. For a paved trail near town along a reservoir we were pleasantly surprised by the Row River Trail. We will certainly be keeping it in mind for another visit. Most likely when the higher trails are inaccessible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spirit, Pinard, & Moon Falls, Swordfern Trail, and Row River Trail

Henline Falls and Henline Mountain – 06/14/2020

While 2010 is the year we consider the year we started hiking there were a few outings prior to 2009 that prompted our desire to become hikers. It took us a while to find our groove and 2009 was a good example of this. We were interested in hiking but didn’t really know what we were doing. We had a single guidebook (printed in 2004) that contained 280 hikes throughout the state but was light on the details of each hike. The book did have a very helpful 10 page section on hiking tips though that we took to heart. We had hoped to hike more regularly in 2009 but had a hard time deciding on where to go, often leaving it up to the day before of even the day we were thinking of hiking to decide where to go. That often resulted in a deferral to “next weekend” leaving us with only a couple of outings.

The only 2009 outing that we have photos from was our hike to Henline Falls in the Opal Creek Wilderness. Ironically this hike wasn’t in our guidebook but was suggested by a co-worker. At 2 miles round trip this was a hike we knew we could do, but being new to hiking it didn’t occur to us at the time that a July 27th outing was a little late in the year to see Henline Falls with anywhere near peak water volume.
Henline Falls

We were less than impressed with the waterfall that day and decided to also try the nearby Henline Mountain Trail which was also mentioned by my co-worker. We didn’t get far up that trail at all before the climb took it’s toll on certain members of our group (I won’t name names but you know who you are. :)) balked at the difficulty and we turned around.

Ten years and 10 1/2 months later it was finally time go back and finish the Henline Mountain Trail and revisit Henline Falls when there would be more water. The forecast called for a 30% chance of showers early, but later in the day for mostly sunny skies. Since starting early is what we do we were ready for some potentially wet conditions but it didn’t seem too bad as we drove through Elkhorn and to the junction of FR 2209 & 2207. The trailheads for Henline Falls and Henline Mountain are on FR 2209 but we had planned on making a quick stop at Sullivan Creek Falls along FR 2207 before starting our hikes.

We turned onto FR 2207 and followed it for 3.8 rough and wet miles to a pullout opposite Sullivan Creek Falls.
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There were scramble trails on either side of the cascade with the one on the right hand side leading to a view part way up the falls.
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IMG_5468The scramble trail.

It may have been possible to continue higher but it was really wet and slick so back down to the car I went. Heather was putting on her rain gear which I also did before driving back to FR 2209 and continuing to the Henline Falls Trailhead.
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We set off on the Henline Falls Trails which quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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We were watching for the Ogle Mountain Trail which was approximately a half mile along the Henline Falls Trail. We were thinking of exploring this trail a bit after visiting the falls so we wanted to make sure we knew where it was. After passing a small trail that led into the brush we spotted the obvious Ogle Mountain Trail marked by an orange-red sign with an “X” on it.
IMG_5487Not the Ogle Mountain Trail.

IMG_5488The Ogle Mountain Trail on the right.

For now we kept left and continued another relatively level half mile to Henline Falls.
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This time we could see why the falls were popular. The water was blasting down into the splash pool generating a lot of wind and mist. We skipped visiting the old mine shaft that is near the fall this time due to the slick rocks.
Abandoned mine shaft

After enjoying the falls we started back, briefly turning uphill on a steep trail that we thought might connect the Henline Falls and Ogle Mountain Trails, but we quickly turned around after consulting our GPS and seeing how much higher up the Ogle Mountain Trail was from where we were. We went back down to the Henline Falls Trail and followed it back to the junction with the Ogle Mountain Trail which we then turned up.
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The Ogle Mountain Trail used to extend all the way to the Ogle Mountain, but the mine is on private property and the trail now effectively ends at the forest boundary. We were wanting to scout it out for a possible hike some other time to attempt to visit some of the “Family of Falls” located above Henline Falls on Henline Creek. The trail climbed much more steeply than we had anticipated but we seemed to be starting to level out a bit after .2 miles which is when I spotted a fair amount of poison oak encroaching on the trail. That combined with the climb convinced us to let the Ogle Mountain Trail remain a mystery, at least for now. We retreated to the Henline Falls Trail and returned to our car which we then drove to the Henline Mountain Trailhead.
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It was still foggy but the rain had pretty much stopped as we started our climb up the Henline Mountain Trail. While there was some poison oak along the lower half of this trail it wasn’t crowding the trail like it had been on the Ogle Mountain Trial.
IMG_5559Penstemon with poison oak in the background along the trail near the trailhead.

This trail also quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness as it climbed relentlessly for 3 miles to the site of a former lookout.
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At the lower elevations we spotted a couple of flowers that we had yet to see this year.
IMG_5563Little prince’s pine

IMG_5567Twinflower

After a little over three quarters of a mile we came to short spur trail that led to a viewpoint above a talus slope which we had crossed earlier.
IMG_5584Looking up at the viewpoint from the talus slope.

IMG_5606Spur trail to the viewpoint.

We still weren’t anywhere near the mostly sunny segment of the day so there was a very limited view from the rocky outcrop.
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IMG_5611The trail passing through the talus slope below.

A quarter mile later we came to a second, larger viewpoint.
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IMG_5624Penstemon at the viewpoint.

IMG_5628Oregon sunshine

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IMG_5634I believe that is Rocky Top behind the clouds.

IMG_5639Blue sky to the west.

We continued climbing from this second viewpoint trading the occasional poison oak in for the more enjoyable beargrass and rhododendron blooms.
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Despite the Sun making an occasional appearance we remained mostly in fog as we climbed. We kept our eyes out for different flowers along the way.
Neottia banksiana - Northwestern twaybladeNorthwestern twayblade

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IMG_5667Penstemon

IMG_5679Paintbrush

IMG_5682Bunchberry

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IMG_5692Trillium

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IMG_5705Penstemon (cliff beardtongue)

IMG_5708Oregon sunshine

At a switchback at the three mile mark we took a spur trail to the right to the former lookout site.
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Instead of sitting at the summit of Henline Mountain the lookout was near a ridge end a mile from the summit and over 400′ lower.
IMG_5730The ridge end beyond where the lookout was.

IMG_5731Looking back toward the summit of Henline Mountain (it is beyond and above the visible trees).

There had been increasing breaks in the clouds, enough to give us some good looks at the seasonal Elkhorn Mountain Falls across the valley.
IMG_5734The falls are obsucred here by the clouds to the lower left.

Elkhorn Mountain FallsElkhorn Mountain Falls

IMG_5738Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_5740Mountain Ash

With no immediate end to the clouds in sight we returned to the Henline Mountain Trail. The official trail ends at the lookout but a volunteer maintained trail continues 1.1 mile to the actual summit so we turned right onto this trail and continued on. This section of trail finally had some downhill sections, which only meant uphill on the way back but we welcomed the change.
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The reason for the ups and downs was that the trail followed a narrow ridge for a half mile. A section of the ridge was open offering views although we were still dealing with the clouds.
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IMG_5749Oregon sunshine and cat’s ear lilies

IMG_5753Phlox

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raceme pussytoesRaceme pussytoes

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IMG_5768Paintbrush

The trail crossed from the east side of the ridge to the forested west side before crossing again to the east into a little meadow with a fair amount of phlox.
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The trail steepened again for a bit before dropping one final time to a saddle before making its final ascent to the summit.
IMG_5802Heading uphill after the little meadow.

IMG_5806Snow in a basin below the trail.

IMG_5810Fawn lily

IMG_5814Jelly fungus

IMG_5816Heading down to the saddle below the summit.

The actual summit of Henline Mountain was a little rocky opening with lots of huckleberry bushes.
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The trail continued an additional two hundred feet before petering out.
IMG_5824The end of the trail.

IMG_5822Bleeding heart near the end of the trail.

We took a decent break at the summit and had a snack. As we were just starting to leave a bit of a view broke out. It wasn’t much but it was something.
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The cloud situation began to improve quite a bit as we headed back to the lookout site. By the time we arrived at the open section of ridge there was a good deal of blue sky overhead.
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IMG_5847Looking west down the Little North Santiam River.

IMG_5852The high point to the left is Whetstone Mountain (post), the flat topped mountain straight ahead is Battle Ax Mountian (post), and to the right the double humps are the Marten Buttes (post)

IMG_5854Closer look at Battle Ax Mountain.

We stopped at the lookout site again and took another short break now that we could see a little more of the surroundings.
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IMG_5861Rocky Top still with a little cloud and Elkhorn Mountain in the foreground.

IMG_5865Looking back at Henline Mountain’s summit.

IMG_5868Whetstone Mountain (center high point) with Bull-of-the Woods (post), Schreiner Peak, and North and South Dickey Peaks over its shoulder to the left.

IMG_5871Looking west

IMG_5875Yellow rumped warbler at the lookout site.

We continued down under increasingly blue skies.
IMG_5883Looking up at the ridge end of the former lookout site from below.

IMG_5889Chipmunk drying out on the rocks.

We also stopped again briefly at the larger viewpoint to see the difference there now.
IMG_5896Looking east

IMG_5902Looking south

IMG_5899Looking west

Rusty saxifrageRusty saxifrage at the viewpoint.

We had encountered three people between the Henline Falls Hike and the summit of Henline Mountain. It was a different story on our way down as we passed a number of hikers coming up. When we got back to the trailhead we noticed several cars illegally parked outside of the designated area along FR 2209 and it was the same at Henline Falls despite the presence of posted signs. It’s disappointing to see how many people are willing to ignore the rules. Please don’t be one of those people, either arrive at your hikes early or have backup plans if things don’t work out at your first choice. Disregarding the rules (even if you think they’re dumb) sets a bad example. Let’s do better. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Henline Falls and Henline Mountain

East Fork and Saddle Trails – 6/6/2020

There haven’t been many times in our 10 years of hiking that we haven’t been able to do the hike (or at least the vast majority of it) that we set out to do that day. Many of the failed attempts came early in our hiking years when we didn’t do as much research on current conditions as we do now, but even with the extra research sometimes things just don’t work out. Our attempt to hike the nearly 6 mile long East Fork Trail in the Willamette National Forest happened to be one of these times.

We had switched to this hike earlier in the week due to a rainy weekend forecast. Our plan was for an out-and-back hike starting at the East Fork Lower Trailhead and turning around at the East Fork Upper Trailhead.
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The large parking area (with restrooms) for the lower trailhead is located at the NE end of Cougar Reservoir where the East Fork South Fork McKenzie River flows into it.
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We set off on the East Fork Trail without looking closely at the signboard where it was clearly posted that the first of two footbridge leading across the river was out.
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This bridge was only three tenths of a mile from the trailhead so it didn’t take long for us to discover it missing.
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Fording the river was an option, it looked like it would have been an easier ford than the Indian Creek ford we had done on our first day backpacking the Middle Fork Willamette River (post). With that being said neither of us were keen on soaking our feet this early in the hike and knowing that the plan had been to go to the upper trailhead and back we simply decided to go back to the car, drive up to the upper trailhead, and hike down from there to the other side of the river and back which would allow us to cover the whole trail sans the missing bridge.

We were familiar with the upper trailhead having parked there in 2018 when we hiked to Horsepasture Mountain using the Saddle Trail (post). While the Saddle Trail headed uphill on the north side of FR 1993 near a small pullout, the East Fork Trail headed downhill on the south side.
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Anemones and bunch berries were blooming near the trailhead.
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This time we noticed the caution posted on the trailhead signpost.
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The trail quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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For first .6 miles from the trailhead the East Fork Trail made its way downhill through a green forest before reaching the East Fork South Fork McKenzie River.
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IMG_5132Vanilla leaf

IMG_5138False solomonseal

IMG_5142Star-flowered solomonseal

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IMG_5149Junco

IMG_5151Trillium

IMG_5154We saw a lot of this type of mushroom.

IMG_5159Fairybells

IMG_5165East Fork South Fork McKenzie River

Once we arrived at the river the trail turned west following it downhill toward the reservoir. As is the case for most river trails we were sometimes a ways above it and at other times right along it.
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There were a number of woodland flowers in bloom and lots of slugs to watch out for.
IMG_5169Vanilla leaf, valerian, and a slug.

IMG_5174Oregon grape

IMG_5178Salmonberry

IMG_5211Baneberry

IMG_5217Violets

IMG_5234Sour grass

IMG_5271Queen’s cup

IMG_5222Fern unfolding

IMG_5226Mushrooms

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IMG_5261Maidenhair ferns

IMG_5209We also watched out for the nasty Devil’s Club and its thorns.

The trail didn’t appear to see much use and was increasingly overgrown and also suffered from a fair amount of blowdown.
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We made it approximately 3 miles before the blowdown got us. A large tree was down across the trail as it traversed along a hillside above the river. The tree was far to big to simply step over and there were no limbs or other footholds to assist in getting over. To make matters worse the trail on the opposite side of the tree was washing out a bit. That made it look like it might be difficult to get safely off of the tree if we were able to get over it without sliding down the trunk (they can be surprisingly slippery). We could also see other trees down just a little further up the trail.
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Our options were to scramble up and around the root ball that was a good 30 to 40 yards uphill or turn back. The fact that the trail had been getting more and more “wild” didn’t give us any confidence that the going would get any easier, especially considering that if we made it to the upper footbridge the forest on the south side of the river burned in a low intensity fire in 2018. We decided that the smart thing to do was to turn back here so we did.

On the way back we had a bit of excitement when we heard a ruckus off to our left. When we looked over we saw something brown charging down at us through the brush. It stopped several feet away for us which allowed us to identify it as a grouse. She was all ruffled up and yelling at us. We could hear other grouse still uphill so we guessed this was a mother protecting her young. After getting our attention she flew onto the trail then ran ahead in an attempt to lead us away from what we assumed were her young.
IMG_5272The grouse is the blurry brown thing ahead and to the left of the trail.

She led us for a quite a bit before she was apparently comfortable with the distance and she disappeared into the forest. As we continued we discussed our options for the rest of the day. We decided that as long as the weather held out that we would set a turnaround time and hike up the Saddle Trail a bit since it was right there where we’d parked.
IMG_5279Start of the Saddle Trail at FR 1993

We gave ourselves an hour as we began climbing this steep trail (1400′ elevatin gain over 2 miles). We were excited when we spotted some blooming beargrass and paintbrush.
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IMG_5295A penstemon starting to bloom

IMG_5296A line of paintbrush

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There were a number of other flowers blooming along the trail.
IMG_5311Rhododendron

IMG_5309Rhododendron

20200606_114636Pacific coralroot

IMG_5313Northern phlox

IMG_5315Pinesap (I think)

IMG_5325Oregon grape

IMG_5327Strawberry

IMG_5329Yellowleaf iris

IMG_5333Sticky cinquefoil

IMG_5338Spotted coralroot

IMG_5449Nightblooming false bindweed

IMG_5453Largeleaf sandwort

We had made it about 1.5 miles up the trail when our hour was almost up. We were at a switchback which the trail launched steeply up from and Heather decided she was going to call it there. I decided that we were close enough to the end of the trail that I wanted to continue up to the junction with the Olallie Trail so Heather started back down while I continued uphill. Two tenths of a mile where we parted ways I came to a rocky viewpoint off a switchback. The view was not nearly as clear as it had been on our July 2018 visit, but there were flowers present this time that had not been then.
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IMG_5351Subalpine mariposa lily

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IMG_5357Phlox

IMG_5360Rosy pussytoes

I almost called it at the viewpoint but then remembered that there was a meadow just before the end of the Saddle Trail so I continued uphill hoping that there would be a decent wildflower display. I was not disappointed as there were quite a few flowers in bloom including large swaths of blue-eyed mary.
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IMG_5379

IMG_5376Larkspur

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IMG_5385Biscuitroot

IMG_5387Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_5391Woodland star

IMG_5397Serviceberry

IMG_5406Monkeyflower

IMG_5439Royal Jacob’s ladder

IMG_5433Something in the pea family.

IMG_5437Alpine pennycress

IMG_5445Junco amid the flowers.

IMG_5435Bear scat in the meadow.

The trail left the meadow then quickly arrived at a saddle and the Olallie Trail.
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Other flowers bloomed near the junction.
IMG_5430Tall bluebells

IMG_5424Trillium

IMG_5431Wild ginger

IMG_5418Bleeding heart and tall bluebells.

IMG_5420The Olallie Trail

After tagging the junction I headed back down. About halfway down I ran into Heather heading back up, she had been going up and down between switchbacks in an attempt to stay warm as the rainy weather that had been forecast had finally arrived along with a chilling breeze. Even though the day hadn’t gone a planned we managed to get in a little over 11 miles of hiking and enjoyed some nice sights and surprisingly pleasant weather (for the most part). As an added bonus we saw exactly zero other people on the trails which has become a rare occurrence. Happy Trails!

Flickr: East Fork and Saddle Trails

Pigeon Butte – 05/31/2020

A cloudy weekend forecast had us looking for a hike that was not only open with the ability to properly social distance, and was also not view dependent. This led us to revisit the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge which is open except for the main entrance road, Finley Refuge Rd; was closed to vehicles. We had hiked some of the trails at the refuge in October 2017 (post), but left others unexplored. For this hike we planned to start at the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead located .9 miles along Bruce Road and hike up Pigeon Butte and then continue on a loop that had yet to be determined. We had a few possible options and were playing it by ear based on the weather and how we were feeling as we were still recovering from our first backpacking trip of the year the over Memorial Day weekend.

We had downloaded copies of the refuge map which we learned pretty quickly didn’t show everything present at the refuge. The map showed two parking areas prior to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead so after passing two parking areas we pulled into the third small gravel lot.
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If I had been paying more attention I would have realized that this couldn’t be the right trailhead based on a marsh being on our right instead of Muddy Creek and there not being a view of Pigeon Butte from here. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a heron that flew by right as I was getting out the car which disturbed an egret on the opposite side of the road. I grabbed the camera and was trying to get to a spot where I could see the egret or where the heron might have landed. I couldn’t make anything out through the reeds in that direction but then I looked at the marsh on the side of the road we had parked on and there was another blue heron just about right in front of me.
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There was also a rough-skinned newt on the bridge and a duck leading her ducklings away through the marsh.
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It also may have had something to do with it having been just before 6 am when we’d arrived but in the excitement of seeing all the wildlife my critical thinking had no chance and we set off on the grassy path which was not leading by Cheadle Marsh but rather McFadden’s Marsh.
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We hiked through the wet grass for .6 miles before starting to think we might be on the wrong path. It was here that we crossed a drainage ditch coming from Muddy Creek and feeding into the marsh. That prompted a look at the GPS which seemed to indicate that we were in the wrong spot, but I didn’t believe it at first because we’d parked at the third parking area and the map showed that Cheadle Marsh was the third.
IMG_4726Lupine along McFadden’s Marsh

IMG_4727Small bird in the grass.

IMG_4731I am almost never sure on yellow flowers like these which one it actually is.

IMG_4733Mallard at McFadden’s Marsh.

IMG_4738Ditch draining into the marsh.

Wood duck and ducklingWood duck and duckling speeding away down the ditch.

IMG_4743Watch your step in the grass!

IMG_4747Another heron standing in the marsh.

We went another quarter mile before I was able to convince myself that we were indeed on the wrong path and that I shouldn’t have trusted the map. It’s a love hate relationship with maps. You should always have at least one map of the area with you but they aren’t always accurate so sometimes you have to use other available information to get the full picture. We walked back to the parking area and decided to just leave our car there and walk up Bruce Rd. to the correct trailhead which was a little less than a quarter mile away.
IMG_4751Walking over Muddy Creek on Bruce Road.

IMG_4759A pair of California quail and a rabbit on Bruce Road near the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead.

Now that we were at the correct trailhead we did indeed have a view of Pigeon Butte.
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We passed a gate and followed another grassy track between Cheadle Marsh on the left and the hidden (thick vegetation) Muddy Creek on the right.
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There wasn’t as much activity at the smaller Cheadle Marsh but there was a lone duck paddling about in an apparent effort to unveil breakfast.
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There were also numerous smaller birds which was a theme throughout the whole visit. Most were so busy flying from tree to tree or reed to reed that only quick glimpses could be had while hiking, but we could see that settling down in one spot to bird watch would likely be productive.
IMG_4769Red-winged blackbird that did pose for a moment.

We followed this grassy path for almost a mile as it headed north past the marsh then turned west toward Pigeon Butte.
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Just before the mile mark we came to a junction where a short grassy track headed uphill to the right just over 100 yards to the historic Cheadle Barn. Originally constructed in 1900 the barn is now on the Benton County Reister of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
IMG_4783Note the rabbit in the foreground, this was a theme on the day.

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After visiting the barn we returned to the junction and continued what was now south on the grassy track for another 110 yards to another junction near a pond. Continuing south would lead us back to Bruce Road not far from the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead allowing for a short (around 2 mile) loop. We turned right passing by the pond on what was now a gravel track.
IMG_4808The pond and Cheadle Barn.

Pied-billed grebe familyPied-billed grebe family at the pond.

20200531_072839Ookow

IMG_4809Heading toward Pigeon Butte.

We followed this path to the edge of Pigeon Butte where it turned north again and climbed a bit along the butte’s shoulder.
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We turned left on another grassy track at the edge of the tree line and headed up the 543′ butte. The road was fairly busy but not with other hikers.
IMG_4814Snail on a stick.

IMG_4820Rough-skinned newt

IMG_4825Spotted towhee that wouldn’t look at us.

IMG_4836Quail on the road near the quarry.

This old road bed led past a quarry to a viewpoint on the SW side of the butte.
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With all the clouds it wasn’t the greatest view and Mary’s Peak (post), the highest point in the Coast Range, was completely hidden by those clouds.
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There was a very overgrown trail leading up toward the summit from the viewpoint.
IMG_4832The trail is on the right of the mass of vetch blooming.

IMG_4842Checkermallow

After checking for any hidden poison oak, the trail was deemed clear and we climbed to the wooded summit.
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The trees obscured any view and thoughts of looping back down along the summit ridge were abandoned when we noticed the increasing presence of poison oak so after tagging the summit we returned to the viewpoint and headed back down the way we’d come. The side trip up Pigeon Butte was just a mile round trip with 180′ of elevation gain. When we arrived back at the junction on the buttes shoulder we turned left and continued north descending past some fields .
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Amid the fields to the left we passed a shallow pond where we spotted an American Coot and her young.
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Just under a mile from the path up Pigeon Butte we came to another intersection. This one had a big sign with pointers for various refuge features.
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From here the loop hike described in the Oregonhikers Field Guide would have us turn left (west) toward the Cattail and Beaver Ponds. We wanted to revisit Cabell Marsh and the Homer Campbell Boardwalk though so we continued north passing some big lupine plants.
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When we reached Cabell Marsh a half mile from the sign we were surprised by the lack of water.
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Later after returning home a little research revealed that the marsh had been drained to try and deal with some invasive species. We turned right at the Homer Campbell Boardwalk which was still as impressive as it had been on our first visit.
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IMG_4879With so little water there wasn’t really a reason to visit the blind.

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We arrived at the parking lot on the far end of the .4 mile boardwalk to find that despite no vehicles being allowed to the trailhead it was still busy.
Three rabbits along the side of the parking areaThree rabbits at the parking area.

IMG_4884Rabbit #1

IMG_4885Rabbit #2

IMG_4886Rabbit #3

IMG_4887Finley Refuge Rd from the parking area (the dark spot in the mowed grass along the far side of the road was another rabbit).

We had left open the possibility of doing a long loop by following this road left to the Woodpecker Loop and retracing much of our 2017 hike but better judgement (and tired feet) prevailed so we returned to Cabell Marsh via a gated grassy roadbed located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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While the lack of water had an impact on the number of birds at the marsh we did manage to spot a few (and a muddy rough-skinned newt).
Band-tailed pigeonsBand-tailed pigeons

IMG_4897Killdeer

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When we arrived back at the signed juction we turned right (west) and headed for the ponds.
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The roadbed headed west for a little over half a mile, passing a nice wooden bench with a view back to Cabell Marsh, before turning south for just under a half mile to a sign for the Cattail Pond.
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IMG_4920One of several male American goldfinches we spotted along this stretch.

IMG_4926Vegetation along Gray Creek.

IMG_4929Mushrooms

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IMG_4941Roses along the roadbed.

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IMG_4951Slug

IMG_4954Yep, another rabbit.

IMG_4956We started to think this rabbit wasn’t going to hop into the brush like all the others had.

IMG_4957Sign for the Cattail Pond.

A left turn here was one option for the loop but we wanted to see the Beaver Pond so we stayed on the roadbed for just a little longer to a sign for the Beaver Pond.
IMG_4959Cattail Pond from the roadbed.

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Common YellowthroatCommon yellowthroat

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We turned left onto a grassy track at the Beaver Pond sign and were soon passing by the pond.
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At the far end of the pond we found ourselves on an actual trail.
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The trail led us around the forested base of Maple Knoll a quarter of a mile to an unsigned junction.
IMG_4981The junction.

Here the maps failed us for a second time. We had expected to come to a junction with the path that had passed by the Cattail Pond at which point we would turn right and head back out to Bruce Road. The maps we had showed no other junctions so we turned right at this junction and followed it along the base of Maple Knoll.
IMG_4982Forest on Maple Knoll’s hillside.

IMG_4983Pinesap

The track we were on was sticking to Maple Knoll though and as it wrapped around the base we were quickly heading west again instead of due south to Bruce Road. After .4 miles we decided we had been fooled again and turned around. The detour hadn’t been a total waste as we got to see a hawk fly over and a group of ground squirrels plotting something nefarious from a stump.
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IMG_5000It’s the one peaking out from behind the stump that had us the most concerned.

When we got back to the unsigned junction we turned right and in 175′ came to a second unsigned junction. We turned right (south) here and this time it was nearly a straight shot along a roadbed for a half mile to Bruce Road and the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead.
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IMG_5007Northern flicker

IMG_5011Sparrow

It was a mile road walk back to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead (one and a quarter back to where we had parked). After the 4 mile paved road walk the weekend before (post) this one gravel wasn’t too bad. There were nice views of Pigeon Butte and quite a few flowers and birds to look at. We were especially excited to see a couple of yellow headed blackbirds, a bird we’d only seen one other time at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (post).
IMG_5018Pigeon Butte

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IMG_5028Red-winged blackbird

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IMG_5066Pollinators in a poppy.

IMG_5070Turkey vulture

IMG_5074Douglas spirea

IMG_5076Grand collomia

Our excursion (with the two accidental out and backs came in at 11.8 miles so we were more than happy that we hadn’t tried to do the longer loop along Finley Refuge Rd. For a cloudy day this was a great hike with a lot of wildlife sightings and a few flowers. The paths were wide enough that the poison oak was rarely an issue (there was a lot of it starting on the path along the base of Maple Knoll that we had mistakenly taken). The wide paths also would have been useful for social distancing, but we only passed one other hiker all day even though there were a lot of cars parked and driving along Bruce Road.

As we were preparing to leave I mentioned that the only bummer was having not gotten a good look at the egret that morning. When we started to drive across the marsh on Bruce Road I looked over to see if there might be an egret there now and sure enough there was.
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We are looking forward to some of the higher country opening up and melting out so that we can take some poison oak free hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pigeon Butte

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Days 2 & 3 – 5/24 & 5/25/2020

After the 14.5 mile hike to find our campsite the day before (post) we woke up a little before 6am and ate breakfast by the river. We were excited to spend a day without our full packs. Based on my calculations we were anticipating the mileage for the day to be close to 14 miles (it was more but we’ll get to that later) so a lighter weight pack was welcome.

We set off just after 7am and the trail began to climb away from the river not far from where we’d camped.Middle Fork Trail

There was still a bit of that pesky poison oak present when the conditions were just right but we could tell we were gaining elevation by the change in the forest and some of the flowers we were starting to see.Vanilla leaf along the Middle Fork Trail

Vanilla leaf

Arnica

Arnica

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River from the Middle Fork Trail

Viewpoint above the river.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Closer look at some stonecrop.

Just under 2.5 miles from camp we arrived at the lovely Rigdon Meadows near Sacandaga Campground (which I had begun referring to as Scandinavia because I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to be pronounced).Rigdon Meadows

Western buttercup and camasCamas and buttercups at Rigdon Meadows.

The campground remained closed due to COVID-19 and the road was gated but there were several campers parked near the meadows.Middle Fork Trail

Gate at the closed entrance to Sacandaga Campground.

We picked up the trail on the other side of the gate where it joined the route of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road.Middle Fork Trail at the start of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The wagon road was planned to stretch from Eugene, OR to Fort Boise in Idaho but much of it was nothing more than a rudimentary trail (Wikipedia) that allowed private companies to acquire public lands along the stretches of road that they “completed”.

This 1.2 mile section of the wagon road passed a small unnamed lake near its crest.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Unnamed lake along the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The other end of this portion of the wagon road was located near a meadow where some idiot had driven onto the grass from a nearby forest road.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Middle Fork Trail

About a half mile after crossing the road the trail crossed Noisy Creek.Unnamed Creek

A short distance later we crossed another muddy forest road and then came to a decent sized creek that wasn’t on either our paper or GPS maps.Middle Fork Trail

Noisy Creek

After the mystery creek we came to the signed Swift Creek which was the widest creek we’d crossed on the trip.Footbridge over Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Former bridge over Swift Creek.

The scenery really began changing beyond Swift Creek. We hadn’t seen any poison oak since the wagon road and now we were in a drier forest with huge ponderosa pines and cedars. We were also high enough now to see some blooming rhododendrons. I did manage to pick up my second tick of the trip somewhere in this area.Dogwood along the Middle Fork Trail

Ponderosa behind a dogwood tree.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron near the dogwood tree.

Tall cedars along the Middle Fork Trail

Cedar

The trail dropped down towards the river to a wetter area between Skunk and Found Creeks.Skunk Creek

Skunk Creek

Tall bluebells

Tall bluebells

Middle Fork Trail

Slug

The Middle Fork Willamette River was a narrower here and doing it’s best to erode the riverbank.Erosion along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

The narrower Middle Fork Willamette River

The trail soon began to climb above the river along some basalt cliffs where several springs flowed out from the rocks earning the moniker of Cliff Springs.Cliff Springs

Cliff Springs

Middle Fork Trail near Cliff Springs

On the far side of the springs the trail dropped again to a crossing of Indigo Creek.Middle Fork Trail

Before reaching the creek we stopped to listen to a wren signing.Wren

Bridge over Indigo Creek

Bridge over Indigo Creek.

Indigo Creek flowing into the Middle Fork Willamette River

Indigo Creek empyting into the Middle Fork Willamette River.

About a tenth of a mile from Indigo Creek we arrived at a junction where a trail to the left had a pointer for Indigo Springs.Trail to Indigo Springs

We turned up this short trail and climbed to FR 21 where we again turned left and followed the paved road a short distance to the entrance of Indigo Springs Campground.Heading toward Indigo Springs

Coming to FR 21.

The status of this particular area was a bit hazy. The 3 site campground was closed as well as the restrooms, but the Willamette National Forest had opened all day-use trailheads (not the restrooms at those with toilets). We walked up the access road to the 1 parking spot trailhead (which was occupied with a second car nearby). We were proceeding under the understanding that trails and trailheads were open and it was only using the campsites, restrooms, and picnic tables that was still prohibited so we followed the 0.2 mile loop clockwise around Indigo Springs.Indigo Sprngs Trail

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Creek

There were several springs feeding the creek amid mossy green rocks.Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Springs

Apparently the route of the wagon road passed here too.Another portion of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

After admiring the springs we returned to the Middle Fork Trail and continued up river toward Chuckle Springs.Middle Fork Trail

The trail dropped down to the river and spent a good deal of time right along it with a few easy access points, something that there hadn’t been many of thus far during our trip.Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Fariy slippers

Fairy slippers

There was a bit of an up and down though and we encountered the one significant tree down of the entire trip along one of the ups.Blowdown over the Middle Fork Trail

Large tree down

Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get around and we were soon headed back down to the riverbank.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Red rocks in the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Trail

After just over a mile we began to enter the scar of a 2010 fire.Middle Fork Trail entering the scar of a 2010 fire

Just after entering the fire scar a butterfly landed on the Garmin followed by a second landing on my right shoe.Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

These were much nicer insects to have on me than the ticks.

The trail had split here at one time but the right hand fork along the river was now blocked by a small log and appeared possibly abandoned although a footbridge remained in place.Closed alternate route of the Middle Fork Trail

The way to Chuckle Springs was to the left though so we headed left and soon began climbing up a narrow ridge above Chuckle Creek.Chuckle Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and continued up the ridge alongside the creek.Chuckle Creek

Cascade along Chuckle Creek

Middle Fork Trail

A quarter mile from the fork we arrived at another fork where the Chuckle Springs Trail joined from the left.Middle Fork Trail junction with the Chuckle Springs Trail

A very short trail led down to a picnic table where there were two groups of people talking. We had encountered two of them before reaching Cliff Springs and the other 3 were new to us. Given social distancing guidance we took a seat on some logs near the junction and waited for them to depart before heading down to the springs.Picnic table near Chuckle Springs

Sign for Chuckle Creek

Chuckle Springs

Not quite as impressive as Indigo Springs these were still a nice green oasis amid the burn area. We didn’t stay long just in case others were on their way and sure enough we ran into another couple on their way to the springs at the junction. We left the spring to them and headed back to camp.

The return trip was livened up by a couple of snakes. Heather is not the biggest snake person but she does pretty well with them all things considered. The first snake was a garter snake stretched across the trail in one of the ponderosa pine areas.Snake in the trail

Garter snake

This snake had no intention of moving to the point that we thought it might have been dead (it wasn’t).

Then as we were passing Rigdon Meadows I walked right by a good sized gopher snake laying in the middle of the road bed. Heather spied it though and stopped in her tracks.Gopher snake

Gopher snake

Gopher snake

This snake also seemed intent to stay put until Heather started to go around it. Every time she took a step it would move just a bit closer to her. After about 3 rounds of this game I moved forward and the snake took its cue to head off into the grass and let Heather pass.

We stopped about one and a quarter miles from camp along the river to cook dinner and refill our water supply which had gotten fairly low. I had managed to miscalculate the distance for the day which we had clued into on the way back. For some reason, I apparently was unable to double the first portion of our hike from camp to Sacandaga Campground. I had estimated that we were roughly 2 miles from the campground and by not doubling those 2 miles I was coming up with 13.8 miles instead of 15.8. We were actually closer to 2.5 miles from the campground which would have boosted the mileage to 16.8. Add in a little extra wandering and we wound up just over 17 miles for the day.

The spot we’d found by the river had a nice view and we were joined by a caterpillar and had a brief visit from an ouzel.Middle Fork Willamette River

Caterpillar

Ouzel

We were pooped by the time we made it back to camp and we both had developed some impressive blisters. My best was on my right pinky toe and Heather’s was on one of her big toes. It was clear that we’d be spending some time applying moleskin and bandages in the morning before heading back to the car.

We turned in for the night thinking about the long hike out. I was thinking about the way we were feeling, the extra distance due to the reroute, and the ford of Indian Creek and worrying that by the time we got to that ford the combination of the sore feet and tired legs would make it even more difficult than it had been on Saturday. Additionally coming from the opposite direction might also be trickier. On Saturday getting into the creek was fairly easy and the trickiest part was just after passing the center (and strongest current) there were several large rocks which we had to step up onto. Coming from the other direction we would need to drop off of those rocks into the strongest current. I wasn’t loving that idea so Heather and I started talking about options. Both the reroute and the fords were along the same section of trail between FR 2134 and FR 2127. We got the idea to see if it looked like road walking FR 21 between the two bridges would be any shorter and from the look of it on the maps it would be so we decided that was our plan for the hike out.

We woke up at first light and packed up our little campsite and then ate breakfast along the river before throwing our packs on and heading back.Leaving our breakfast site on the last day of our trip

Our little meal site along the river.

We stuck to the plan and when we arrived at FR 2134 we hopped up onto the shoulder of FR 21 and started pounding the pavement.FR 21 at FR 2134

The road walk was pretty brutal on our already sore feet, but there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we got to see some different things this way. It was also close to 2 miles shorter than if we had stuck to the trail.Youngs Rock Trail at FR 21

Youngs Rock Trail – A hike for another time.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Oregon geranium

Oregon geraniums

Oregon sunshine

Oregon sunshine

Plectritis and larkspur

Plectritis and the only larkspur we spotted all trip.

Boulder Creek Falls

Boulder Creek Falls

When we finally arrived at FR 2127 we took a break on the bridge.Road signs along FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

The highlight of the final leg of our hike was spotting a pair of harlequin ducks floating on the river. It’s only the second time we’ve seen these colorful ducks.Harlequin ducks

Harlequin ducks

Our distance for this final day was 12.1 miles giving us a total of 43.7 miles over the three days. I said to Heather “Leave it to me to turn a 4.4 mile easy hike into a nearly 44 mile hike.” I’m not sure if she found that as funny as I did. 😄

If I were to do it over (and the bridge over Indian Creek was replaced) I would have started at FR 2127 instead of 2120. That first 5+ miles didn’t have quite the scenery of the other sections, and it had the most poison oak. It also would have allowed us to camp closer to the springs making that day more reasonable. The view at Little Pine Openings sure was nice though.Middle Fork Willamette River

Overall though it was a good trip and it was just nice to be out again. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Day 2 & Day 3

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.