Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

One week after spending a day hiking in California at the Lava Beds National Monument (post) we visited our neighbor to the north, Washington. On our itinerary for the day were a pair of hikes north of Carson, WA. We started with a visit to Falls Creek Falls.

We parked at the trailhead at the end of Forest Road 57 where only one other car occupied the large parking area at 7:15am. The dim morning light coupled with some low clouds made it hard to capture the fall colors with the camera but our eyes had no problems appreciating them as we set off on the trail.
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We quickly passed a trail on the left which would be part of the loop we were planning on doing here and stayed straight toward the falls.
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At the .4 mile mark we arrived at a short suspension bridge over Falls Creek.
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Beyond the bridge the trail climbed gradually for a mile to a junction. Along the way there were several views of the creek.
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At the junction we stayed right and continued to gradually climb for another .3 miles to three tiered Falls Creek Falls. The first views are of the upper and middle tiers through some trees.
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The lower tier comes into view near the end of the trail at which point most of the upper tier is lost due to the angle.
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We spent a few chilly minutes admiring the falls before heading back to the junction.
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Here we veered uphill to the right climbing fairly steeply for about two tenths of a mile to the Falls Creek Trail.
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Before continuing on the loop we turned right on the Falls Creek Trail to visit a viewpoint or two above the falls. After .6 miles on this fairly level trail we spotted a side trail heading out to the first viewpoint. We started to head out this spur but then noticed a tent set up there (we found the owners of the other car) so we continued another quarter mile to the second viewpoint.
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The view from the top was just out over the valley, but a steep scramble trail led down to the top of the falls from here. We checked to see if the ground seemed muddy or slick, but it turned out to be in good shape so we made our way down to the creek just above the falls.
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From the viewpoint we returned to the loop and continued down the Falls Creek Trail 1.7 miles to another bridge over Falls Creek which we hadn’t seen since the viewpoint. Despite the creek not being visible from the trail the scenery was not lacking due to the surrounding forest and fall colors.
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At the far side of the bridge we turned left for a little over half a mile completing the loop and returning to our car, and a much fuller parking lot.
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After the 6.3 mile hike here we were ready for the second hike of the day to the Indian Heaven Wilderness and Red Mountain. We drove back toward Carson and eventually (after missing the turn the first time) turned east on Warren Gap Road (Road 405) at a pointer for the Panther Creek Campground. We followed this road for a little under two miles to Forest Road 65 where we turned left for 8 miles, passing the parking area for Panther Creek Falls (post) along the way, to a junction with FR 60. We turned right here and followed this road for two miles to the Pacific Crest Trail and a small campground.
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We followed the PCT north climbing gradually through the forest which looked quite different from the forest along Falls Creek just a few miles away.
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A little over 1.75 miles from the trailhead we passed one of the small Sheep Lakes.
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A quarter mile later we entered the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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Although there wasn’t as much fall color along this trail as there had been along the trails at Fall Creek there was some and there were also some interesting mushrooms to be seen.
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As we hiked through a meadow we spotted the lookout tower on Red Mountain to the SW which was to be one of our stops on the hike.
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We turned left off of the PCT 1.2 miles after entering the wilderness at a sign for Indian Racetrack.
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This trail led a half mile through the forest to the large meadows at Indian Racetrack where up until 1928 tribes indeed raced horses.
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We turned left in the middle of the meadows toward a trail sign for the Indian Racetrack Trail.
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This trail climbed for .8 miles, steeply at times, to a road on the shoulder of Red Mountain. An opening just above a saddle along the way provided a nice view of Mt. Adams to the NE.
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We followed the road uphill for .3 miles to the lookout gaining views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along the way.
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Near the lookout Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson could be seen to the south in Oregon.
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We took a nice long break at the summit gazing at Washington’s trio of volcanoes and talking with a fellow hiker from Vancouver who had tried to reach the lookout earlier in the year but had been turned back by snow.
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From the lookout we headed back down the road and followed it all the way back down to FR 60 a total of 3.4 miles from the tower.
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We were a half mile from the Pacfic Crest Trail so we road walked, uphill, back to our car. In hindsight it might have been nicer to do the loop in reverse in order to start with the road walks and finish the hike with a gradual descent. Either way it was a great hike, but we had been expecting it to be a 7.5 mile loop based on our guidebook, but our GPS (and our legs) put it at 9.2 miles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

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Salmon Creek Falls

On Columbus Day morning we left Klamath Falls and headed home to Salem. We were planning on hiking on the way home, but we weren’t sure what hike we would be doing. If the weather was decent we were hoping to hike up The Twins near Waldo Lake and if it wasn’t we’d try the Salmon Creek Trail to Salmon Creek Falls near Oakridge.

It was dark at 5am as we headed north on Highway 97 but the stars where visible in the sky above. The stars were still out as we turned onto Highway 58 and began to head NW toward the Cascade Crest. The possibility of The Twins was still on the table, but by the time we had reached Crescent Junction the stars had been replaced by rain clouds. Salmon Creek Falls it was.

Just prior to reaching Oakridge we turned right onto Fish Hatchery Road and drove it’s length to Forest Road 24 where we turned right for .8 miles to the Flat Creek Road. Here we turned right and parked in a large gravel parking lot next to a small gazebo.
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The Salmon Creek Trail began a short distance down the road from the gazebo.
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After just a tenth of a mile we came to an unsigned junction where we turned left.
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A steady light rain was falling from the low clouds overhead as we followed this trail east past the Flat Creek Work Center and along Salmon Creek.
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It was an interesting trail in that it split in several areas only to rejoin a short distance later. A sort of pick your own adventure trail if you will. It also spent some time along the shoulder of FR 24 in areas where Salmon Creek had eroded the bank substantially.
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At other times the trail followed roadbeds.
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This led to a little confusion about the correct route, but it really didn’t matter as long as we kept heading east because the creek and FR 24 acted as rails on either side.

After a little over two and a half miles we arrived at a wide junction.
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A right turn here brought us to the site of a washed out bridge that used to connect to another trail on the south side of Salmon Creek.
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Just under a mile beyond the washed out bridge we arrived at the Salmon Creek Campground.
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We headed through an empty camp site and followed a path down to the creek and 10′ Salmon Creek Falls.
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It was a good day to visit the falls, the autumn colors were nice and there were no crowds around. After spending some time by the water we headed back keeping our eyes open for the small things that are easy to miss in the forest.
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It was a fairly easy 7.8 mile round trip hike and even though it rained almost the entire time we didn’t feel soaked. It was about as nice a hike as one could hope for on that kind of day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon Creek Falls

Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend was the only day of the four where the forecast in the Cascade Mountains looked promising so on that morning we headed west from Klamath Falls on Highway 140 to visit a pair of lakes near Mt. McLoughlin.

The skies over Klamtah were pretty much clear as was the case for most of the drive, but as we crossed over the Cascade Crest we found ourselves in a fog bank. We turned off the highway at sign for the North Fork Campground between mileposts 28 and 29. We parked at a small trailhead parking area a half mile down this road on the left.

It was a chilly morning in the fog as we set off on the Fish Lake Trail, but it wasn’t raining.
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The trail began by passing through a nice fir forest with occasional views of North Fork Little Butte Creek.
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After .6 miles we came to a signed spur trail which we followed 100 yards to the Fish Lake Dam.
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For the better part of the next mile the Fish Lake Trail veered away from the water as it curved around some private summer homes.
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When the trail did make it to the lake there wasn’t much to see due to the fog.
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The trail stuck closer to the lake shore for the next .8 miles before arriving at Doe Point and the Doe Point Campground. As we made our way around Doe Point the fog began to lift revealing some of the blue sky we had seen on our morning drive.
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A quarter mile after rounding Doe Point we arrived at the Fish Lake Campground and boat ramp where a variety of woodland animals were busy harvesting chinkapin.
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Our guidebook suggested turning around at the Fish Lake Resort, but we wound up losing the trail near the picnic shelter and decided not to try and walk through the campground to find the continuation of the trail and turned around.
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It was a different hike on the way back as the fog had entirely lifted from the lake and was breaking up overhead.
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By the time we were hiking back along the creek the sky was a beautiful blue.
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Typically having a hike only clear up near the end is a bit of a bummer, but we had another hike to go and with the clear skies we knew we should have a good view of Mt. McLoughlin from Lake of the Woods.

From the Fish Lake Trailhead we drove back east on Highway 140 to a sign for Fish Lake. We turned right at the sign and followed this road for a mile and a half to the Dead Indian Memorial Highway where we turned right again. The suggested starting point for this hike in our guidebook was at the Sunset Campground which was a mile down this highway. When we arrived at the entrance road we found it was gated so we turned around and wound up parking at the Rainbow Bay Picnic Area near the Lake of the Woods Resort after obtaining a $6 parking pass.
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From the parking lot we headed SE along the lake shore around Rainbow Bay where some ducks were enjoying the wonderful weather.
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The first mountain to come into view was Brown Mountain across the lake.
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Shortly after rounding the bay we arrived at the Sunset Campground where we did indeed have a nice view of Mt. McLoughlin. The mountain was sporting a dusting of new snow at its summit.
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We could picture the route up to the summit that we’d taken a couple of years before (post).
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Satisfied with our view we turned around and headed back toward the Rainbow Bay parking area. We weren’t done hiking though and we veered behind the parking lot on the Sunset Trail toward the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a three way junction we turned right onto the Family Trail Loop.
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The Family Trail Loop crossed the paved road we’d been on earlier after a tenth of a mile.
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Just after crossing the road the Mountain Lakes Trail split off to the right while we stayed left.
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Several interpretive signs were set up along this trail.
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We stayed left ignoring a tie trail that would have looped us back to the Mountian Lakes Trail junction and arrived at the Great Meadow .6 miles from the road crossing.
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At a junction with the High Lakes Trail at the Great Meadow we turned left skirting the meadow in the forest for .7 miles to another road crossing across from the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a junction on the other side of the road we went right keeping on the High Lakes Trail which led around Lake of the Woods to the NW. This section of trail passed some golden aspen trees and a leaf covered slough where ducks, geese, and a heron were spending their Sunday.
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We followed this trail past an old Forest Service complex and planned on turning around at the guidebooks suggested location, a small canoe launch.
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The canoe launch wasn’t much, but there was a nice view of some of the peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness (post) across the water.
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A solitary duck was swimming around in the launch and it apparently expected us to have some food because she came right up to us.
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We did our best to explain that we don’t feed the wild animals and she waddled back to the water. At that point Heather asked about something on a plank in the water that I had originally thought was another duck but then decided it was just a rock set on the wood. She had taken it for something inanimate as well but then thought she saw it move. Upon closer inspection we discovered that it was a muskrat (initially we thought nutria but it was cuter than that invasive species).
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It wasn’t particularly concerned by us but eventually it disappeared into the water. Then a dragon fly showed up and hovered over the water just below me.
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After our unique little interaction with nature it was time to start back. We returned to the Aspen Point Campground and followed paths near the lake shore back to the Lake of The Woods Resort.
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Our hike here was 6.3 miles long while the hike at Fish Lake had been 7 miles giving us a nice 13.3 mile day. After the cold, foggy start the day had turned out beautiful. We would be heading home the next morning (with a stop along the way of course) and this was a perfect way to end our time in the Klamath Falls area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Lava Beds National Monument

We spent the second day of our Klamath Falls trip in California visiting the Lava Beds National Monument. It had started raining Friday afternoon and continued overnight, but by morning the clouds were beginning to break up leaving scattered showers to make their way across the landscape. This made for some dramatic scenery on our drive from Klamath Falls to the National Monument, especially along Tule Lake. We took advantage of a couple of the numerous pullouts that are part of the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge to admire the colorful sky and numerous waterfowl on the lake.
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The fee booth (currently $20/per car) was closed at the north entrance of the Monument so we had to drive to the Visitor Center to obtain a pass which was 9.7 miles away.
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It was a little before 8am and the Visitor Center didn’t open until 9am but we were able to pay with a fee envelope. What we couldn’t do was obtain a cave permit though, which are required to visit any of the area caves. The threat of White Nose Syndrome has made screening by Park Rangers necessary. We’d need to come back for that but in the meantime we headed back north to the Black Crater Trailhead.
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From this trailhead there were two destinations, Black Crater and an overlook of the Thomas-Wright battlefield.
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Each destination shares the first tenth of a mile of trail. The overnight rain had brought out the sweet smell of sagebrush to which Heather pointed out that smell is one thing that you can’t capture in photos.
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We decided to visit Black Crater first and took the right hand fork when the trail split.
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This trail passed over a lava flow arriving at the start of a short .3 mile loop that climbed up and around part of the splatter cone. We took notice of a peak to the NW that appeared to have a cloud stuck to its summit. It turned out to be Mount Dome, and for much of the rest of the day we kept watch on this peak to see if it would ever be cloud free.
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Although not nearly as large, Black Crater did remind us a little of Coffee Pot Crater which we’d visited in June (post).

After completing the loop we headed for the battlefield. It was just over a mile from the fork to the viewpoint and the trail spent this time passing volcanic formations and a few lingering wildflowers.
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The Thomas-Wright battle took place on April 26, 1873 when an Army patrol was defeated by the Modocs.
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After reading up on the battle we headed back to the trailhead and drove back to the now open Visitor Center. We spent some time looking at the displays inside before obtaining our cave permit. We hung the permit in our car and headed for Mushpot Cave. After initially starting to drive Cave Loop Road we realized that Mushpot Cave was actually right next to the Visitor Center so we turned around and parked back once again at the center.

At the far end of the center we spotted the sign for the cave.
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A .2 mile paved path led to the entrance of the lava tube.
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This is the only lighted cave in the Monument and also featured a paved path lined with interpretive signs.
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The lava tube is 770′ in length and does have a spot or two where we needed to duck under the low ceiling. We exited the cave and returned to our car. Since we were only there for the day we skipped the rest of the caves along the loop (a few were closed for bat mating season). Instead we drove north, once again, from the Visitor Center to a sign for Skull Cave where we turned right. After a mile we pulled into a small trailhead parking area for Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave.
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The short trail here passes several collapsed sections of a lava tube and offers a good view of Schonchin Butte.
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We turned left at a sign for Big Painted Cave.
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The signed cave entrance was only about 100′ along the spur trail.
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More of an overhang than a cave, a path led down to the entrance.
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We honestly couldn’t make out any of the pictographs, the colored rocks made it difficult to tell what was natural and what wasn’t. It’s been a common theme for us when visiting pictograph sites.

We returned to the main trail and continued the short distance to Symbol Bridge.
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Again a short path led down to the cave entrance, but this time the pictographs were clearly evident.
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We headed back to the car happy to have finally been able to make out some drawings. After completing the two mile hike we continued driving north to a sign for Merrill Cave where we turned left for almost a mile to the shared Whitney Butte and Merrill Cave Trailhead.
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Up until this point we had been following the recommended hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” 3rd edition, but these were from Bubba Suess’s “Hiking Northern California” book.
We started with the short path to Merrill Cave. An interpretive sign at the entrance told a familiar story, warming temperatures have led to the loss of ice in this cave like many others. 😦
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We descended the metal staircase and followed a metal walkway through the cave.
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Near its end there was a metal ladder dropping down into an opening.
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The rails actually did have a little ice on them as we climbed down into the lower chamber where the path quickly ended.
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We climbed back out of the cave and then started down the Whitney Butte Trail. One exciting prospect of the Whitney Butte Trail was that it would take us into the Lava Beds Wilderness.
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This was by far the longest hike we’d tackle on the day but was still just a little under 7 miles round trip. The Whitney Butte Trail began by passing through open sagebrush then skirted around an old lava flow.
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For much of the hike out, Mount Dome lay almost straight ahead and it was still holding onto its cloud cover. The trails namesake, Whitney Butte, stayed hidden for the first mile and a half before revealing itself to the left of the trail.
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Approximately 2.2 miles into the hike we passed a trail signed for Gold Digger Road.
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The clouds had actually increased a bit during the day and we were feeling occasional rain drops which weren’t a big deal, but the cloud cover did put a hamper on the views. Many lower buttes were visible but the higher peaks were hidden.
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As we passed by Whitney Butte we began scouting out a route down. Our plan was to follow a suggested off trail visit to the top of the butte described in the guidebook. The most gently sloping ridge appeared to come down the eastern side of the butte.
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We stayed on the Whitney Butte Trail until it ended at the Callahan Lava Flow.
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From the lava we turned left and headed up Whitney Butte.
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It was a relatively easy scramble which provided some nice views despite not being able to see Mt. Shasta or Mt. McLoughlin due to the cloud cover. On the other hand Mount Dome finally broke free of the last of its clouds.
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In addition to the views we spotted some wildlife.
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On top of the butte we stayed left around a pair of craters and attempted to descend on the ridge we’d picked out on the way by.
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We actually overshot it a bit but still had no problem coming down the old cinder cone and reconnecting with the Whitney Butte Trail. The clouds were now breaking up again as we headed back to the trailhead. Our next destination, Schonchin Butte, was visible for most of the hike back.
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After finishing the hike we once again drove a short distance north to a signed gravel road for Schonchin Butte. After a mile of good gravel we parked at the trailhead and started up the Schonchin Butte Trail.
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The trail was well graded and the views were great making the climb feel fairly easy.
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After .6 miles the trail split allowing for a loop around the crater and past the Schonchin Butte Lookout.
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As we made our way around the loop we got a view down to the Symbol Bridge Trail.
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The lookout tower was perched on lava rocks that looked like bricks.
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Along the deck were identifiers for the area landmarks, some visible and some not.
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After identifying the landmarks that were visible we completed the loop and returned to our car. From Schonchin Butte we drove back to the fee booth at the northern park entrance and turned right onto Rim Road for 3.2 miles to a signed pullout for Captain Jack’s Stronghold.
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Here two loops (short and long) explore the area where a small force of Modoc held out against the U.S. Army in 1872-73.
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We unfortunately did not grab a trail guide for the interpretive trail which we greatly regretted. After climbing a small hill a trail sign pointed out the shared beginning of both loops.
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The trail led through lava formations with narrow passages and small caves. Numbered signs along the way marked items that we could have read about if we had grabbed a guide.
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At the .3 mile mark the loops split with the shorter return route to the right and the longer loop to the left. We went left.
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The long loop was a mile and a half versus a half mile for the short loop option. The extra mile was well worth it even without the companion trail guide. Near the end of the loop we spotted a pair of deer munching on some leaves.
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We had one final stop planned before leaving the Monument for good so when we got back to our car we continued east on what became County Road 120 following signs for Petroglyph Point. Along the way we briefly reentered the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge where we wound up stopping again to gawk at the wildlife.
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We left County Road 120 when prompted by the signage and soon found ourselves pulling into a large parking area near the base of Petroglyph Point.
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Here we walked along a fence (to protect the thousands of petroglyphs)for .3 miles marveling at all the designs.
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The cliffs above were fairly impressive on their own.
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After spending quite a while contemplating the art we headed back to Klamath Falls. It was a full day for sure having spent over 10 hours in the Monument and logging around 16.5 miles but well worth the time and effort. Even with all of that there is still much left there to explore on our next visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lava Beds National Monument

OC&E Woods Line State Trail

We had planned our final multi-day trip for the year over Columbus Day weekend. We were hoping to have it be the backpacking trip around and up Diamond Peak that we’d planned on doing in September but changed due to the weather. Much like that long weekend the forecast was for rain or snow showers off and on over the four days. Diamond Peak will have to wait until next year at the earliest, but in the meantime we needed to find a less damp alternative.

After looking over our list of future four day trips and checking the forecast for each area we landed on the Klamath Falls area. There were still chances of rain in the forecast but it didn’t look like it would be much more than some light scattered showers.

We started our trip off with a pair of hikes along the OC&E Woods Line State Trail.

Our first stop was at the Switchback Trailhead located along Bliss Road 4 miles south of the community of Sprague River (the way we came) or 12 miles north of Highway 140 coming from Klamath Falls (drive Hwy 140 17 miles east from K-Falls to reach Bliss Rd.).

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The weather was good as we set off on the trail with some blue sky still to be seen.

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At this section of railroad the trains used to have to back up along the tracks in order to climb the mountain.

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From the trailhead there was a good view down to the location of the old track below, but the scenery was dominated by a grove of aspen that were in full Fall color.

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On the far side of the aspen was our goal for the day, Devil’s Garden, a volcanic landscape a bit off of the official trail.

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We followed the trail downhill to where it leveled out beside a bit of a meadow.

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About three quarters of a mile from the trailhead we turned right off of the trail onto a dirt track.

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Using the GPS in conjunction with the map in our guidebook we made our way slightly SW onto a second, fainter track through an open ponderosa pine forest.

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As the dirt track curved to the west we left it and continued south crossing a small gully.

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On the other side of the gully we passed through a stand of pines and turned to the SE.

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Soon we were entering the volcanic landscape of the Devil’s Garden.

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We were now heading east with the pine trees on our left and the golden leaves of the aspen grove beyond the rock formations ahead.

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It was an interesting cross country walk through the different formations.

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As interesting as the rocks were we were drawn to the aspen grove.

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We made our way to those trees and decided to pass through the stand and attempt to loop back to the OC&E Trail.

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We had to recross the gully which had deepened immensely but remained crossable.

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After navigating a second, shallower gully, we emerged from the aspen and turned left using the GPS to navigate back through the sagebrush and pondorosa to the trail.

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We turned right onto the trail thinking that it was a loop, we both had pictured it that way in our minds and there had been a dirt road coming uphill from the south near the trailhead which we took for the return route.

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After being back on the trail for almost three quarters of a mile though we noticed that we had passed below the trailhead and were now heading away from it. We took a quick look at the map on the GPS and noticed that it did not show any road or trail connecting up to make a loop. We then checked the map in the guidebook and sure enough it also did not show the hike as a loop, but rather an out-and-back. We were a bit confused because we were both certain it was a loop and I could even picture it on a map. In any case we backtracked to a point below the trailhead and headed cross country uphill.

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A .2 mile climb brought us to the road we’d seen when we set off earlier. It was later when looking at the area on Google Maps that we realized where the loop idea had come from. The dirt road and the OC&E Trail do meet but that junction was another 300+ yards away and not shown no the GPS map. With our exploring and the extra out and back at the end our distance for this hike was 3.6 miles.

For our second hike on the OC&E Trail we returned to the community of Sprague River and turned east onto Sprague River Road for 10 miles to Highway 140. We then turned left onto this highway and followed it into Beatty (5 miles) where we again turned left onto Godowa Springs Road. Just over a half mile down this road we parked near a green gate. (There are gates on both sides of the road marking the trail.)

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Here the plan was to hike east for 1.2 miles to a fork in the trail where we would complete a two mile loop, with a side trip to Brown Cemetery, before returning to Godowa Springs Road. This section of the OC&E Trail passed through pasture with the Sprague River just to the north.

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At the .6 mile mark the Sprague River bent north and Spring Creek took over it’s position to the left of the trail.

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We crossed Spring Creek on a bridge where we spotted something in the water.

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At first we thought it was a nutria given that we see them in fields near water quite often but after looking at the pictures later we discovered that it had actually been a mink.

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After watching the mink disappear into the bank we continued on to the fork where we stayed right on a fainter track.

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We crossed the Sprague River on another bridge and then three tenths of a mile later arrived at a junction of dirt roads.

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At the junction we made a nearly 180 degree left turn and took a right fork uphill.

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As we followed this roadbed uphill we could see that the wet weather was finally on its way.

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After following this road for .3 miles we turned right onto another road which led us to the Brown Cemetery in an additional .2 miles.

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A couple of deer bounded away from the cemetery as we approached. We briefly explored the different grave sites then returned to the other road on continued on the loop under a light rain.

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Four tenths of a mile from the cemetery entrance road we arrived at an abandoned railyard where we turned left and passed through another green gate.

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In another .7 miles we had completed the loop and were on our way back to the trailhead.

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The rain had let up and we remained relatively dry which was a win for us. Seeing the mink was a nice surprise and the fall colors at Devil’s Garden had been unexpectedly beautiful. Not a bad way to kickoff a last minute trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: OC&E Woods Line State Trail

Devil’s Peak

The end of September/beginning of October brings us a pair of birthday celebrations, my Grandma on 9/30 and our Son on 10/1. We planned a joint celebration dinner in Portland but before the festivities we headed out on a hike to work up an appetite.

Due to the plans we needed a hike near Portland in the 8 to 10 mile range and hiking up the Cool Creek Trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout fit the bill perfectly. We headed out early to the Cool Creek Trailhead. Oddly our guidebook had us turn on Road 20 at the east end of Rhododendron, OR instead of west of Rohododendron on Still Creek Road which is how the Forest Service directions have you go. We followed the guidebook directions only to be turned back by a closed bridge and had to go back to Still Creek Road. After finding the open route to the trailhead we parked along the shoulder of the road and set off on the Cool Creek Trail.
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The trail started with a steep incline, a reminder that it needed to gain over 3000′ over the next 4 miles. Not far from the trailhead we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail is mostly forested with a few glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees.
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The best early view came just over a mile along the trail. For about two tenths of a mile the trail passed along an open hillside with a view across the valley to Mt. Hood.
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The trail then passed around to the other side of a ridge where it pretty much remained for the next two miles. The forest here still housed a good number of red and blue huckleberries.
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There were sections of more level trail in the forest which gave a nice break from the climbing, but also meant that the elevation would need to be made up on the sections of uphill.
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Approximately 3.25 miles from the trailhead a spur to the left led to a rocky ridge top which provided what turned out to be the best viewpoint of the day.
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IMG_3232The rocky ridge

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From this point four Cascades were visible, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
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IMG_3207Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3209Mt. Rainier

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Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (post) was also clearly visible to the NE.
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Beyond the ridge viewpoint the trail traversed the hillside on the west side of the ridge climbing for another quarter mile past one more viewpoint of Mt. Hood to its end at the Hunchback Trail.
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A spur trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout is just 500 feet after turning right onto the Hunchback Trail.
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The lookout is a little over 200 feet up this spur.
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The tower is available for use on a first come, first serve basis so there was a possibility that it was occupied but it turned out to be empty.
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Mt. Hood was visible from the lookout.
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I had gone ahead of Heather and Dominique who had joined us for the hike so I explored Devil’s Peak while I waited for them to arrive.
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IMG_3263Mt. Jefferson in some haze to the south.

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IMG_3272Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

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IMG_3300Clouds coming up the Salmon River Valley

IMG_3339Butterflies on the lookout.

IMG_3346One of several birds foraging in the bushes near the lookout.

It turned out that I had gotten quite a bit ahead and wound up spending about an hour and a half at the tower watching the clouds break up above while they also moved in below.
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After they joined me at the lookout they took a break as well then we headed back down. At the ridge viewpoint the view of Mt. Hood was better than it had been earlier, but not for the other Cascades.
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We continued back down stopping to gather some huckleberries to take to my Grandmas house. We wound up passing beneath the clouds losing Mt. Hood for the last mile and a half.
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It was a tough 8 mile hike given the elevation gain but the views were well worth the effort. That effort was also rewarded with a nice birthday dinner and a tasty piece of cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Peak

Fawn Lake – Diamond Peak Wilderness

A week after scrapping a planned four day backpacking trip in the Diamond Peak Wilderness due to weather we found ourselves heading to that same wilderness because of weather. Our one available day for hiking this week coincided with the one wet day in the forecast. When that happens we usually look at several different areas to find the one with the best chance to stay dry. This time that appeared to be Fawn Lake in the Diamond Peak Wilderness with just a 30% chance of showers. With our plans set we drove to the Fawn Lake Trailhead near Crescent Lake. To reach the trailhead we turned SW onto NF 60 at a sign for Crescent Lake between mileposts 69 and 70 along Highway 58 (in Crescent Junction). After 2.2 miles we continued on NF 60 where it made a right turn at a sno-park. After an additional .3 miles we turned left at a sign for the Crescent Lake Campground/Fawn Lake Trailhead.

It is an interesting trailhead, the parking area is a day use lot located next to the Crescent Lake Campground. A trail sign at the far end of the parking lot pointed to the Fawn Lake Trailhead.
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We followed this path and in a tenth of a mile came to a crossing of NF 60.
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Another pointer for the Fawn Lake Trailhead lay on the far side of the road.
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A short distance later we arrived at a sign for the actual Fawn Lake Trail and a signboard with self-issued wilderness permits.
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The Fawn Lake Trail set off in a mostly lodgepole pine forest and just after a 4-way junction with the Metolious-Windigo Trail entered the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
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After entering the wilderness the trail climbed gradually for approximately three quarters of a mile through a mix of lodgepole and fir forest to a fork.
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This was the start of a loop past Fawn and Pretty Lakes.
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We went right heading for Fawn Lake which was just over 2.5 miles away. The trail contoured around a ridge end climbing gradually through a nice forest.
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The trail split again at Fawn Lake.
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The left fork was the upper end of the loop, but before we started on the loop we had plans to visit a couple of other lakes in the wilderness so we went right stopping briefly to visit the shore of Fawn Lake. We had driven through a number of showers on the way to the trail but so far the hike had been dry. From the lake Redtop Mountain to the SE was cloud free while Lakeview Mountain to the SW was not.
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IMG_3048Lakeview Mountain (to the right behind clouds)

We continued on around the north end of the lake to the end of the Fawn Lake Trail at a junction with the Crater Butte Trail.
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Here we stayed left and climbed above Fawn Lake.
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A mile from Fawn Lake we came to the Stag Lake Trail.
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It was clouding up at this point and a light mist was falling. We decided to wait on the side trip to Stag Lake which lay at the base of Lakeview Mountain hoping that it would be a little clearer on the way back.
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We followed the pointer for Saddle Lake and continued uphill through the forest.
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After .6 miles the trail steepened as it climbed out of a gully to a saddle.
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After .3 miles of switchbacks we arrived at the saddle where the trail leveled out for a tenth of a mile to Saddle Lake.
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A steady light rain was now falling but not enough for us to need to break out the rain gear.
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The weather and the scenery really let us know that Fall had arrived.
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After a break at Saddle Lake we headed back to the junction with the Stag Lake Trail and turned left onto it.
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This fairly level .4 mile trail passed a small pond before arriving at Stag Lake.
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The clouds had not lifted so our view of Lakeview Mountain was fairly obscured.
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We would get a much better look at the mountain from the car as we were trying to leave (more on that later).

After visiting Stag Lake we returned to the Crater Butte Trail and headed back toward Fawn Lake. Shortly before reaching the lake we turned right on a path we had noticed earlier hoping to pass around the west side of the lake and hooking up with the Pretty Lake Trail to the SW of the lake.
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The open forest made cross country travel relatively easy.
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Using our GPS we made our way to the SW shore of Fawn Lake where the Pretty Lake Trail was just a few feet away in the forest.
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Once we were on the Pretty Lake Trail we turned right for a fairly level .4 miles to the start of a short .3 mile climb.
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The trial then crested a low pass and descended slightly for another .3 miles to Pretty Lake.
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It was a little under 2 miles from Pretty Lake back to the Fawn Lake Trail junction. The trail descended a ridge with a bit of a view of Odell Butte to the north.
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We completed the loop then followed the Fawn Lake Trail back .8 miles to our car. With the side trips to Saddle and Stag Lakes this was a 12.7 mile hike with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It would have been nice to have had better views of Lakeview Mountain, but it was still a nice hike and we have a good excuse to go back and redo this hike someday.

The only real negative to the day was as we were headed home. A train was stopped blocking NF 60 and we were informed that it could be a couple of hours before it was able to move. We didn’t have a sufficient road map to figure out which forest roads might bypass the train and after a failed attempt to find an alternate route we returned to the stopped train and waited. As we were driving around though we noticed that Lakeview Mountain was now entirely free of clouds. After sitting at the tracks for a little over an hour the train was finally on its way and so were we. Happy (train free) Trails!

Flickr: Fawn Lake

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.