Observation Peak

Unexpected is as fitting a description as I can think of for our visit to the Trapper Creek Wilderness in Washington. The first unexpected event happened before we even arrived at the trail head. I have mentioned before that we seem to see more large wildlife from our car than we do on the trail. As we were turning off the highway I noticed a large brown animal just a bit further up along the shoulder. I quickly turned around and got out the camera. It was an Elk just grazing on the side of the road. This was the closest we’ve been to seeing an elk on one of our hikes.
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We created the next unexpected event when we parked near Bubbling Mike Spring at an empty sign board. This turned out to be the wrong parking area, but the road ahead was gated closed and we failed to notice the small sign around the corner to our left that pointed toward the campground. We set off on a clear trail toward Trapper Creek which we knew we needed to cross at some point. That path quickly ended at the creek with no dry way to cross so we backtracked and headed up the gated road. We spotted one footbridge that had a do not use, danger sign posted on it as we passed several cabins that sat along the creek. The road veered away from the creek and just after crossing a small stream we decided to head back and work our way up the creek bank to see if we could find a crossing that way. No sooner had I recrossed the stream when I heard quite a commotion behind me. I expected to see Dominique on the ground since he is the most prone to losing his balance but instead it was Heather sitting in the middle of the stream. She banged her hand up pretty good but was fortunate not to have hit her head or hurt her legs. Her pinky though was already swelling and slightly discolored. We hadn’t even found the official trail yet and we had a “man down”. She decided she wanted to try and continue the hike so back we went to searching for a dry way across.

After wandering up and down we settled on trying a downed tree that appeared to be flattened on top for crossing. It led to the back of a couple of cabins on the far side of the creek so we quickly ducked past them onto the access road that led to them. Our map showed that this road would lead to the trail we had been seeking so we headed left and soon had found it.

We entered the Trapper Creek Wilderness and paralleled Trapper Creek through a dense forest. If you love old forests and the sound of flowing water this would be a great hike for you. If you are after views and wildflower meadows skip this trail and take the Observation Peak Trail from road 5800 as described in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes book. The trail went up and down occasionally offering glimpses of the creek below. After 2.5 miles the path crossed Hidden Creek and shortly after a pair of signs pointed to Hidden Falls. We decided we needed to check this out so we struck off on the faint trail up a ridge to a nice camping spot. Hidden Falls was below down a steep hillside which Heather and I picked our way down. We were able to make our way to the base of the secluded falls and then had to climb back out of the canyon.
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From Hidden Falls the Trapper Creek trail began to climb a long series of fairly steep switchbacks. We crossed the creek again after the first set of switchbacks and then launched upward again. A nice viewpoint along the way overlooked Trapper Creek Falls across the valley backed by Observation Peak. The trail eventually leveled out, recrossed Trapper Creek, and then came to a junction with a trail labeled “Shortcut Tr. 129B”. Dominique was all for taking any trail that had the word shortcut in it’s name so we turned up it. I don’t know how much of a shortcut it was, but we were soon at another junction, this time with the Observation Peak Trail.

We headed up toward the summit through a forest with large bear grass plumes and many other smaller white flowers. After about a half mile of climbing we reached the lower viewpoint. This first viewpoint was on a rocky outcropping dotted with white cats ear blossoms. It had been a nice day, with blue sunny skies and a occassional breeze that kept it from being too warm but we found that clouds were hanging around the Washington peaks covering each of them to some degree. Never the less the view was impressive and the view from the actual summit promised to be even better. We returned to the trail and continued up another .2 miles to the summit passing bear grass blooms and other various wild flowers. As we approached the summit, Mt. Hood appeared over the right shoulder of Observation Peak with a faint Mt. Jefferson nearly hidden by haze further to the south.

Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak
Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak

After a short rest we headed back down from the summit and turned right at the trail junction to begin our descent down Howe Ridge. We had a little over 5 miles down this pleasant trail to get back to the car. It gradually descended through the forest crossing numerous small streams and we were able to make good time. We spotted a small snake and later I came around a corner to find myself staring straight at an owl about 10 yards away. When I reached for my camera it flew to a nearby tree but I was able to get
a couple of decent pictures.
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Our feet were sore and legs tired when we finally reached Trapper Creek and we didn’t care about finding a dry crossing. Our car was almost directly across from us so we just walked into the water and crossed. What was supposed to have been a 13.3 mile hike turned into a 15.8 adventure. Despite a few mosquitoes (much less than our last hike) and Heather’s bruised hand it had been a pretty good day. There was only one way to end a day like this – with pizza 🙂 Happy Trails.

Photos – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201538005439185.1073741841.1448521051&type=3
Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157634535134225/

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