Wildcat Mountain

Greetings, I’m back again with another trip report from the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We were making a second attempt at Wildcat Mountain; which we had tried to do in May but had run into fresh snow on the road to the trail head. I’d seen a trip report on portlandhikers.org from 6/09/13 saying that the trail head was open and that in a couple of weeks the flower show should be going strong.

We were aware that there have been issues in this area with illegal shooting & off highway vehicle operation but the forest service and volunteers have been attempting to limit access and discourage the bad behavior. Evidence of this battle was everywhere on the drive to the trail head. Numerous “No Shooting” signs lined the road and almost every spur road was barricaded to block access. Unfortunately litter (mostly beer cans and empty shell casings) was visible in many areas as well. When we reached the new McIntyer Ridge trail head the parking area was covered in more of the same. It was a shame because the surrounding forest was beautiful.

We had a little difficulty finding the correct path due to our not noticing the small temporary trail sign at first. The OHV use was obvious given the width and condition of the trail. We followed this wide path for a mile to an opening which provided the first view of Mt. Hood. Shortly after the opening the tail narrowed leaving the OHV damage behind.

Rhododendrons bloomed in mass along the trail and we spotted several patches of avalanche lilies proving that snow had melted not too long before.

Avalanche lilies
Avalanche lilies

Next the trail entered a meadow of beargrass which was still, for the most part, not in bloom. I hoped that this would not be the case when we reached the next viewpoint in a meadow with a memorial bench.

The bench meadow did not disappoint. A good number of beargrass plumes rose up while paintbrush and penstemon added red and purple to the ground. The view of Mt. Hood was great and a pair of hummingbirds zoomed about visiting the flowers. One of them even landed long enough for me to get a couple of pictures.

Mt. Hood from the bench meadow
Mt. Hood from the bench meadow

Continuing along the path we reached a junction with the Douglas Trail and turned SE along it toward Wildcat Mountain. A short side trail led up to the summit where an old lookout tower once stood. In order to get a decent view we had to follow a very faint trail through rhododendrons toward Mt. Hood. When we reached an opening not only did we have a view of Mt. Hood but Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier now appeared to the NW. After returning to the Douglas trail we continued SE to another viewpoint on a rocky section of the ridge. More wildflowers covered this area and Mt. St. Helens and the top of Mt. Jefferson now joined the views.

Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden
Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden

We continued on the Douglas trail to it’s end at the Plaza trail and turned around. Clouds had begun forming around the mountains changing the views on the way back. We stopped again at the bench (I don’t think you could not stop here) where I took a few more pictures.
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We heard a few gunshots on the way back which sounded like they may have been coming from the Douglas trail head, and learned from a couple of hikers that they had run into a pair of OHVs (illegally) on the trail. We hadn’t heard them, but the presence was easy to see. The trail had been torn up and fresh damage done to several trees and plants along the path.

It’s hard to understand why some people just can’t follow the rules or how they could possibly leave such a mess without regard to anyone or anything else. If you were able to bring it in you can certainly pack it back out. That’s enough of a rant from me 🙂 Despite the depressing state of the trail head and OHV damage it was a great hike with wonderful views. The best thing that could happen to this area is to have more responsible/legal users. Maybe that would discourage the bad seeds and give the area a chance to recover from their damage. Happy (clean) Trails

Salmon Butte

It’s raining mice! We’ve all heard the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” but on our last hike it rained mice (well a mouse anyway). I’ll explain that later, but for now let me tell you where we were. For Father’s Day we headed toward Mt. Hood and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Our plan was to head to the top of 4877′ Salmon Butte where we hoped to have a view of about a half dozen Cascade peaks.

The trail head is located next to the Salmon River, a fork of which it quickly crosses on a old bridge. The river is left for good here as the path follows an abandoned road up toward a former trail head. The road was closed down due to repeated washouts which we could see evidence of as we passed over numerous small creeks. The roadbed was fairly overgrown with green grasses and many small flowers. After travelling on the road for a little over a mile we reached the former trail head and turned into the forest. Not long after entering the forest a we came to a sign announcing the boundary of the wilderness. This was our first visit to the 62,455 acre Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness which is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

The trail offered no real views for the first 2.5 miles as it steadily climbed up through the forest. Rhododendrons lined the trail, many of which were in bloom adding a splash of pink amid the green. Although the total elevation gain for the trail is almost 3200′ it was rarely steep and never for very long which was a welcome change to last week’s trudge up Heartbreak Ridge. At the 2.6 mile mark a viewpoint at a rocky ridge end opens across the Mack Hall Creek Valley and to Salmon Butte itself. The ridge end was home to a small but diverse number of flowers. There were a couple red paintbrush, a single lupine, a lone cats ear, a couple of yellow flowers, and a blue filed gilia which was a first for us.
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Leaving the viewpoint the trail reentered the forest and climbed along the west side of a ridge for 2 miles before we would reach the next viewpoint. Still there was plenty to keep us entertained which is where the mouse rain incident occurred. As we were walking along I saw something out of the corner of my eye and heard a “thump” on the hillside just to the left of us. My first thought was pine cone, but the thump was too loud and the color wrong for a cone so my next thought was that someone had thrown a rock at us. It nearly rolled into Heather. As she attempted to avoid it we realized it was an animal. The poor mouse got its bearings and scurried off the side of the trail and disappeared into the brush. We have no idea where it came from, if it just slipped or possibly escaped from a bird in the trees above, but we certainly won’t forget our first encounter with mouse rain.

At a switchback near the 3.9 mile mark a short side path extended out to a small but amazing hillside meadow. There was no view to speak of but the hill side was carpeted with plectritis, larkspur, and little yellow monkeyflowers.
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The trail eventually moved from the west side of the ridge to the east and shortly after reached a viewpoint with the first view of Mt. Hood. Here beargrass and rhododendrons lined the trail in various states of bloom. For the next half mile the trail climbedd gently along the top of the ridge before a couple of steep switchbacks reached a second abandoned road. This was the road to the former lookout tower that no longer exists on Salmon Butte. As the road curved up around the summit Mt. Jefferson came into view to the south followed by Mt. Hood to the north. After .3 miles we reached the summit and sweeping across the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness to the north, south, and east.

Although there were a few clouds in the sky we had an excellent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens were clearly visible in Washington and the North Sister was peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Jefferson to the south. With an assist from the binoculars we were finally able to identify Mt. Rainier as well. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch as the only people on the summit. We were not alone though. A couple of swallowtail butterflies flitted around the summit and a gray jay flew up to check us out. There was also a chipmunk busy eating seed on a tree trunk, obviously knowing this was a perfect spot for lunch.

We passed several hikers on our way back down but no more falling mice. When we rejoined the old road near for the final 1.2 miles the scenery had changed. Scores of white candy flowers had opened to the sun and now dotted the green grass along the path. This was a really nice hike and in the end didn’t feel like we’d gone 3170′ in 11.2 miles. Until next time – Happy Trails (and watch out for falling mice :))

Table Mountain

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After our recent string of cloud obscured views I was determined to break the streak. I had been watching the weather forecast all week and decided everything was lining up perfectly for a return to the Columbia Gorge and another attempt at a view of the Cascades. The nasty weather and the poncho attack on Hamilton Mountain needed to be avenged so for this hike I picked Table Mountain.

Table Mountain is located less than 5 miles east of Hamilton Mountain. It should have been what I was looking at from the saddle when I was sucker punched by the poncho during that hike. Much of Table Mountain collapsed into the Columbia River centuries ago leaving dramatic cliffs on the south face. With an elevation of 3417′ it is nearly 1000′ taller than Hamilton Mountain so the potential for views is great.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning but as we approached Portland an ominous cloud hung to the east of the city. The skies all around were blue and we hoped that Table Mountain was far enough to the east to be clear of the cloud. We formulated a plan b just in case when we reached Hamilton Mountain which was once again covered in clouds, but when we arrived at the trail head behind Bonneville Hot Springs the summit of Table Mountain was cloud free. With blue skies to the north and east we decided to give it a try.

The first 2.2 miles of the trail pass through a pretty forest, first on a volunteer created trail, then following an old road up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This first section was nice but unremarkable although we did come across some ripe salmonberries to sample. After a short walk on the PCT we reached the sign for the loop trail to the summit of Table Mountain. The aptly named Heartbreak Ridge Trail gains 1770′ in 1.5 miles. In order to do this the trail heads up with a vengeance. After 0.6 miles (and 800′ of elevation) the trail arrived at a saddle viewpoint. To my dismay the clouds that had been to the west were now heading east obscuring much of the view and had now covered Table Mountains summit. The trail then dipped down to the base of a 500 yard long rock slide where we spotted our first beargrass bloom of the year (on a hike not from the car).

The trail appears to end at the rock slide but the rocks are the trail. Following poles we scrambled up the rocks to the continuation of the trail. This part proved to be quite fun. Just a few tenths of a mile after reaching the trails continuation we reached the meadows on the summit. An all to familiar view greeted us here. We had come all this way and couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet due to clouds. The meadows were filled with various wildflowers creating a colorful display and many plumes of beargrass stood at attention along the meadows edges.

As we headed south along the summit trail toward the viewpoint at that end a faint window opened in the clouds and there stood Mt. Hood. The clouds had begun to slowly break up and by the time we reached the viewpoint better and better views were opening up.
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We could now see Mt. Hood and the tip of Mt. Jefferson at times. Below we could see the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and the Heartbreak Ridge trail as it crossed the viewpoint saddle. We spent awhile here waiting for the openings and then headed back down the trail to find a spot for lunch.

We chose a spot that offered a view to the north and east in addition to Mt. Hood to the south. As we ate glimpses of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier began to appear. We eventually traveled further north on the summit loop to a second viewpoint at that end. There we discovered a beargrass meadow and ever improving views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and also the rim of Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

We never quite got a clear view of any of the Washington peaks due to a pesky line of little clouds but after getting our fill of the view we headed down the west ridge. This trail was almost as steep as it made its way down and contained a lot of loose rocks. In addition it traveled close enough to the edge of the ridge that anyone with a fear of heights might really have a hard time. That being said the views from this trail were great. Mt. Hood lay ahead while behind was Table Mountain and the rock slide we had scrambled up.
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The going was slow but we eventually made it down to the PCT. I had no takers when I asked if anyone wanted to go around again when we reached the Heartbreak ridge junction so we returned to our car satisfied with the days views and ready to plan our next adventure. Happy Trail.

facebook photos: https://www.facebook.com/deryl.yunck/media_set?set=a.10201335132527489.1073741836.1448521051&type=3
way too many flickr photos: https://www.facebook.com/deryl.yunck/media_set?set=a.10201335132527489.1073741836.1448521051&type=3

Mount June

Ah the elusive view. One of my favorite rewards on a hike is reaching that spot where the view simply takes your breath away. It could be the sudden appearance of a giant snow covered mountain that looks so close that you could reach out and touch it or a wildflower meadow that seems to have been painted by the Creator himself or a panoramic view that is so immense that you can barely take it all in. We’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty of places to hike where these types of views are possible. Possible but not guaranteed. We were reminded of that once again on our recent hike up Mount June.

There are a number of things that can end your chances to have the view you had hoped for. Hazy skies, forest fires, fog and clouds can all conspire against you. Unfortunately it was fog and clouds that proved our nemesis on Mount June. We had heard that the area is known for it’s fog but had also heard that often the rocky summit of Mount June rises above it to offer a view of a string of Cascade peaks. The forecast had called for a partly cloudy/mostly sunny morning with clear skies starting around 1:00pm.

We were the first to arrive at the trail head on this morning and were immediately struck by the darkness of the forest as soon as we stepped on the trail. Within a short distance we entered the fog which we had heard about.
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We noticed a number of the same Spring flowers we had seen over a month earlier at lower elevations blooming here now. Trillium, sourgrass, and wood violets add color to the forest along with a good number of fawn lilies. Once again we were too early for the rhododendron & beargrass displays even though these were in bloom along the road at the trail head.

It appeared to be raining most of the time we were in the forest but upon reaching a series of meadows near Sawtooth rock we realized it was not in fact raining. The fog was so damp that the condensation was falling from the trees creating the rainy affect. The meadows here were filled with wildflowers glistening with water droplets. The foggy conditions meant no views and even made it hard to make out large Sawtooth rock at the far end of the meadows. We skipped a short side trail to it’s base hoping that on our way back the skies might be clearer.

We continued on the Sawtooth trail toward Hardesty Mountain. Our plan was to make a short loop on it’s summit and visit the sight of a former lookout tower. As we reached our furthest point a hint of blue sky seemed to be just a little further to the North just out of our reach. We had a snack at the former lookout site and then completed the loop and headed back hoping that blue sky might be waiting for us on Mount June.

This time we took the trail to the base of Sawtooth rock where the conditions were slightly improved. Many birds were now flying around the meadows and we spotted one with some bright yellow coloring. It turned out to be a yellow-rumped warbler.
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The fog had lifted some and there was even a short lived opening giving us a view of the forest below, but Mount June was still hidden in the clouds.

We took the .5 mile climb to Mount June’s rocky summit which was for some reason particularly tough on this day. I don’t know if it was due to it being toward the end of the hike or the cumulative effect of a week of hiking but it was a trudge. Much to our disappointment the we found the same clouds and fog on the summit as we had been in all day. We decided to have some lunch and hope that the sunny skies that had been forecast would materialize since it was just now 1:00pm. The clouds kept rolling past us and all we managed were a couple of very short glimpses of Mt. Bailey and the ghostly outline of Mt. Thielsen to the SE.
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The view had eluded us once again, simply teasing us with a small brief sample of what could have been.

It was a good example of just why the elusive view is one of the most rewarding things for me on a hike. The mountains and forests don’t move but there is never a guarantee that they will be there to be seen. The view must be pursued and caught to be enjoyed.

After lunch we returned to the car where fluffy white clouds floated by in the blue sky. As we drove away there was no missing Mount June, it was the only peak with a cloud draped over it’s summit. We have many more hikes planned where we will have a chance to capture the elusive view, and after Mount June it will be even sweeter when we finally do. Happy Trails

foggy photos on facebook:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201288913212035.1073741835.1448521051&type=1
flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633890026592/

Saddle Mountain

I am not sure we had completely dried out after our Hamilton Mountain hike (I know ours shoes hadn’t) but we were back in the “saddle” yesterday for another hike. Saddle Mountain state park was our destination, located in the NW corner of Oregon just 20 miles from the coastal city of Seaside. Saddle Mountain is known for it’s wildflowers and rare plants as well as being the highest point in northwest Oregon.

Once again we were we greeted at the trail head by a layer of low clouds which made for a damp morning. The good news was that there was no wind or rain this time. The trail started out amid salmon and thimble berry bushes in a forest of alders. The trail climbs 1603 feet in just 2.5 miles so the forest and plants changed often. A quick .2 climb to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint provided a view up toward Saddle Mountain’s cloud covered summit.
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We returned to the summit trail and headed up through the fog passing multiple meadows full of wildflowers and lush forests. Much like our previous hike, visibility was limited to a couple hundred feet due to the low clouds but the variety of plants and flowers we were encountering kept us entertained. The trail itself was fairly steep and much of it consisted of wire enclosed rocks which looked like it could be slick but we didn’t have any real problems. Several picnic tables were placed along the trail at switchbacks which allowed for breaks from the climb if needed.

As we approached the summit we noticed some very slight breaks in the clouds which gave us hope. We decided to have some lunch and spend some time at the summit hoping that some views would open up. The clouds were actually moving from east to west toward the Ocean which we could now occasionally see through the clouds. We spent over an hour watching the clouds pass by us as better and better views opened up on all sides. Many swallows zoomed about as we waited and a Junco and a crow also stopped by to check us out. As the view opened up to the west was the Pacific, north the city of Astoria, OR and the Columbia River flowing into the Ocean
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and to the south the coastal mountains. The only disappointment was that on a clear day the Cascade mountains from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Jefferson would have been visible to the East.

We headed back down now able to see the forest below. The wildflowers became even prettier as the increased light made their colors more intense. We took the side trail to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint again to get the cloudless view of Saddle Mountain before returning to the car.
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If you are a wildflower or plant enthusiast this is a great hike, especially from May-July when the flowers are on display. If you can find a clear day (which isn’t easy near the Oregon Coast) the view is a great bonus. Next up is Mount June and yet another attempt at a view of the Cascades. Until then-Happy Trails.

For more info on Saddle Mountain visit: http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=140
Photo albums-fb: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201276380778732.1073741834.1448521051&type=1
flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633845363594/