Whetstone Mountain

One of the hikes we wanted to do this year was a repeat of a hike we’d done back in 2010 when we were just getting into hiking. The goal of that hike was Whetstone Mountain. When we were done with that hike we had no idea how far we’d gone, we just knew that it kicked our derrieres. We wanted to revisit this hike to find out just how far it was and to also see how we would fare now being more prepared and experienced.

The previous hike had ended with Heather and I jogging down the closed portion of forest service road 2209. We weren’t jogging for fun, we were jogging because we couldn’t walk any longer and we desperately wanted to be back at our car. We were heading back now armed with 4 years of experience and a Garmin to find out just how difficult this hike really was. The starting point for this loop was the Opal Creek trail head which was already full of cars when we pulled up at 6am. The trail head is the main gateway into the Opal Creek Wilderness and Jawbone Flats a former mining camp turned ancient forest center. A gate at the trail head blocks any unauthorized vehicles from reaching the center.

We set off down road 2209 and followed it across Gold Creek.
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Shortly after the bridge a sign and wilderness registration box announced the Whetstone Mountain Trail heading up on our left. We turned up it and quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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The trail climbed steadily through rhododendrons and beargrass. Neither Heather nor I remembered much about this portion of the hike from our first visit. It may be that we suppressed the memory of this difficult climb :). It wasn’t until we reached a small saddle with an open view of Mt. Hood to the north that anything looked familiar.
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Another notable item that we remembered was an anvil shaped rock outcrop that could be seen through the trees as well as view of Mt. Jefferson.
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On our first visit we had been disappointed with the mountain views. We had been told to look for a trail that forked off to the left and led to a nice view, but we never found it that first trip. We had our eyes open again this time determined to find this trail to a view, but this time we didn’t need to look very hard. A nice new sign had been put up pointing directly at a well maintained trail. It’s hard to believe either was there on our previous visit. The sign was surely new and we couldn’t believe we would have missed such an obvious trail.
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The views kept getting better as we climbed toward the former lookout site. The trail passed a nice meadow below the rocky summit before winding up on top where a 360 degree view awaited.
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Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson and Battle Ax Mountain
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Mt. Hood
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Broken Top, Coffin Mountain and the Three Sisters
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Three Fingered Jack
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Rainier
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Mt. Adams
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We would have liked to have stayed up on the summit for awhile but it was crowded up there. Mosquitoes were beginning to swarm us and there was no breeze to keep them at bay so we didn’t stick around very long and headed back down to the Whetstone Mountain trail to continue our loop. Not far from the summit we passed another lovely meadow filled with larkspur and paintbrush.
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The trail down the east side of Whetstone Mountain had a gentler grade than the side we had come up. We didn’t remember this section either until we reached the bridge less crossing of Battle Ax Creek. On our last visit we removed our shoes and socks and made sure our pant legs would stay dry. Our attitudes about creek crossings have changed since then and this time we just plunged in.
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Shortly after crossing the creek we popped back up on the old road 2209 at a trail junction. We turned toward Jawbone Flats and headed down the abandoned mining road. As we were walking I spotted a snake trying to get out of the way. It didn’t seem too concerned with us and posed for several pictures. Nique and I moved on and soon realized we’d lost Heather. When she caught back up she told us that the snake had come over to check her out.
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About a mile from Jawbone Flats are the remains of the Ruth Mine. We took a moment this time to check out the old equipment and shafts.
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Just before Battle Ax Creek reaches Jawbone Flats there is a nice open rocky area where we could get an up close view of the clear water that the Opal Creek Wilderness is known for.
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We had gone straight through Jawbone Flats crossing Battle Ax Creek on a footbridge on our previous visit but we had made other plans this time. The bridge had recently collapsed so there was no direct route through the old camp. Instead we would take the Kopetski Trail which would take us across the Little North Santiam River and by the Opal Pool.

Closed bridge:
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Old mining equipment:
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Little North Santiam River:
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Opal Pool:
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Despite the number of cars in the parking lot that morning we had only seen one group of people up until we reached the Opal Pool. From that point on we were passing another group every couple of minutes. Since we had hiked this trail in 2012 and we’d already been hiking for over 6 hours we didn’t bother with exploring all the possible access points to the river. After a mile and a half we recrossed the river on another bridge and were back on road 2209. We had one last stop to make. There was a waterfall that we had yet to find along the trail. We knew it was somewhere behind the old Merten Mill but we had yet to actually see it. Determined to finally see Sawmill Falls we turned off the road at the old mill and followed a path next to the building. This time we found the falls easily and it was worth the side trip.
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After a brief rest we returned to the road and began the home stretch. Nique and I began snacking on the Salmonberries that were ripening along the trail (Heather finds them too sour) and we passed a good patch of flowers growing in an exposed rocky section.
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We ended up with the Garmin showing a 16.3 mile hike which would explain why it had seemed so hard 4 years ago, it was hard :). We’d probably gone closer to 15 that day since we hadn’t found the summit trail or taken time to explore the Ruth Mine, Opal Pool, or Sawmill Falls but up until then 7.1 had been our longest hike.

It is really a beautiful area with lots of options, but if you don’t like crowds avoid weekends, especially nice ones. When we got back to the parking area the number of cars had more than doubled. If we were to ever do this loop again I’d go the opposite direction to minimize crowds and to take advantage of a more gradual climb. Happy Trails!

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Clear Lake

We wanted to get one last hike in on the way home from Central Oregon. Originally we’d planned on hiking up to the summit of the Middle Pyramid on the Three Pyramids Trail, but we were greeted with clouds and rain as we came to Santiam Pass. Knowing there wouldn’t be any views we changed our plans and headed to Clear Lake 10 miles south of the Santiam Jct. on Highway 126.

The McKenzie River begins at Clear Lake where old lava flows created the lake by covering and damming the river. On a clear day The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington can be seen from various points around the lake but with the clouds we would be content with the clear, colorful water of the lake.

We began our counter-clockwise loop at a picnic area near the Clear Lake Resort.
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The trail passed through a nice Douglass Fir forest with glimpses of the lake to our left where we spotted our first on trail beargrass of the year.
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At about the one mile mark on an arm of the lake which feeds the McKenzie we got our first taste of the draw of Clear Lake.
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A footbridge led us over the outlet of the McKenzie River to the eastern shore of Clear Lake.
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The trail on the eastern side spent more time in the open and closer to the lake as it crossed over several lava flows. Here we spotted several birds, ducks, and colorful wildflowers.
Ouzel
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Penstemon
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Tiger Lily
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Merganser and her ducklings
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Wild Rose
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Stellars Jay
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Barrow’s Goldeneye
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Washington Lily
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Another family of ducks
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The water in the lake became more colorful as we arrived across the lake from the resort.
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Shortly after passing the resort on the far shore we came to the Great Springs which feed the lake with 38 degree water allowing the lake to remain unfrozen all year. They emptied into a beautiful small pool reminiscent of the Tamolitch Pool which lies further down the McKenzie.
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After the Great Springs the trail crosses Fish Lake Creek on a footbridge. This creek only flows during the Spring snow melt.
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Finally we swung out around an arm of the lake where Ikenick Creek flows into the lake.
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Back on the west side of the lake we were again in the fir forest where many white woodland flowers were in bloom.
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We quickly reached the resort area which was busy with campers. The picnic area was just on the other side and before we knew it our Central Oregon hiking tour was over (for now). Happy Trails!

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Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
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By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
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We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
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Scarlet Gilia
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Lewis Flax
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Prairie Star
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Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
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Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
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and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
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We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
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We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
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It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
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It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
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Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
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Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
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From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
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Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
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Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
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Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
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Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
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And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
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We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
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By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
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We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
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Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
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Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
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A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
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To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
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It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

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Upper Rogue River Trail and Boundary Springs

Hike #2 on our mini-vacation was a visit to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Crater Lake National Park. The plan was to start at the Mazama Viewpoint on Hwy 230 and first visit Boundary Springs which is where the Rogue River begins. Then we would hike down the Rogue River to Rough Rider Falls. We would have turned around there but my parents decided to come along and start at a different trail head and hike up the Rogue to the falls. They dropped us off at the Mazama Viewpoint before heading down to the lower trail head. This allowed us to continue past Rough Rider Falls and meet them at that spot.

It was a cloudy morning and we’d driven through a little rain/snow mix on the way there. An occasional light rain would continue all day long with a glimpse of blue sky thrown in every now and then. We started off on the Upper Rogue River Trail from the Mazama Viewpoint and followed the trail half a mile to a junction with the Boundary Springs Trail. Shortly after joining this trail we started getting glimpses of the Rogue flowing through the forest.
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We crossed the boundary of Crater Lake National Park and continued on toward the springs. The river was increasingly scenic as we went.
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Near Boundary Springs was a pretty waterfall:
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The river just below the springs:
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The largest of the springs:
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After poking around the springs we returned to the Upper Rogue River Trail and turned left to head down river to Rough Rider Falls. The trail started out far above the Rogue as it flowed through an interesting canyon.
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We came upon a couple of deer that were too quick for pictures and a pair of noisy woodpeckers that didn’t seem too pleased with one another.
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We also saw the best candysticks we’d come across:
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And a strange mushroom thing:
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The trail descended back down to the river which was amazingly clear where the water was calm.
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Once the trail lowered into the canyon it became a bit messy. Many downed trees created tricky obstacles and the trail was in need of some maintenance.
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It was 4.2 miles from the Boundary Springs Trail to Rough Rider Falls. A sign above the falls announced them.
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It was pretty above the falls but we couldn’t get a good feel for them until we descended below them.
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After Rough Rider Falls we passed a pretty little waterfall coming from a hillside into the river.
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A little island with whitewater on each side:
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And finally an unnamed waterfall:
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The strangest thing of the hike was the amount of climbing we felt like we did considering we were supposedly traveling downhill with the river. When we arrived at my parents car we discovered that they had just finished about 15 minutes earlier. There were some mosquitoes around the car so we quickly tossed our gear in the back and hopped in. We had hopped to stop by Crater Lake on the way home since Dominique has never seen it and it had been years since my parents had. We were there in 2012 but smoke from a fire had obscured most the views. With the weather flipping between blue sky and rain showers all day we weren’t sure if we would be able to see the lake but my parents had their National Park Pass with them so we decided why not give it a try. As we drove up to the north rim we entered the clouds and some more rain/snow mix. The visibility was worse than our previous visit so I took a couple of pictures to show we were then we turned around and headed home.
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We plan on heading back this Fall for another try and maybe then we’ll be able to actually see the lake. Happy Trails!

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Lookout Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

We recently returned from a long weekend in Central Oregon. We had a few hikes that we were wanting to try in June in that area starting with Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest. Roughly 26 miles east of Prineville, OR the summit of Lookout Mountain is the 2nd highest point in the Ochoco Mountains. The summit is part of a broad plateau of sagebrush and wildflowers which also offers a 360 degree view.

There are a couple of options for reaching the plateau. For our visit we decided to start at the Round Mountain Trailhead on road 4205 just after turning off of road 42. We could have shaved nearly 2 miles form the hike by continuing up road 4205 to the Independent Mine Trailhead but the road is quite rough and I would rather be hiking than bouncing around in a car. The 0.9 mile path between the trailheads was pleasant enough with a number of wildflowers and a deer sighting.
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We accidently left the trail and wound up on road 4205 across from signs for the Independent Mine and the Baneberry Trailhead.
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Our version (2008, 2nd edition) of 100 Hikes in Eastern Oregon didn’t give any information about this trail but a sign at the Round Mountain Trailhead made mention of extensive trail work and renaming starting in 2010. Our book did show an old road leading down to the mine though so we decided to check it out. We reached the Baneberry Trail before getting to the mine and saw that it was an interpretive nature loop. Thinking it would loop us around to the mine we turned on the trail and began the loop. It was evident why the trail was named Baneberry as the forest was full of the plant.
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Many benches and interpretive signs were located around the trail telling of the mining activity, forest, and wildlife.
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As we continued on the loop it became evident that we were not going to loop to the mine site but instead were heading around in the opposite direction. When we had almost completed the loop a trail shot off uphill to the left which we took thinking it might take us up to the Independent Mine Trailhead. We lost the tread in a small meadow but we could tell the trailhead was just on the other side so we followed what looked like it might be the trail through the meadow and popped out at the trailhead.
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From the trailhead we had more options. Straight ahead up the shorter steeper trail 808A, right on what was now named trail 804 or left on trail 808. We chose 808 based on the suggested route in the book. The trail passed through several meadows full of hellbore with views nice views to the north with Mt. Jefferson visible on the horizon.
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The trail then turned south and we climbed up onto the sloped plateau. From here the trail climbed through open ground covered with wildflowers and sagebrush and the occasional stand of trees.
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Big-headed Clover
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Brown’s Peony
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Looking ahead from the lower plateau
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We crossed Brush Creek
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and found some leftover of snow
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There were some small lilies in this area as well as a few shooting star and mountain bluebells.
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We came out of a clump of trees into another sagebrush covered meadow where we could see the summit of Lookout Mountain.
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There were more flowers as we climbed through the sagebrush toward the summit. Balsamroot, paint, larkspur, and columbine dotted the landscape. There were other flowers both known and unknown to us as well.
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Old Man’s Whiskers
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The lupine was yet to bloom.
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A sign stood at a trail crossroads giving directions.
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From the summit we could see Cascade Peaks from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt. Hood in the North.
Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance:
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We also spotted a very strange plant on the summit which thanks to some detective work form the folks at portlandhikers we identified as balloon-pod milk-vetch.
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On our way down we stopped by a snow shelter built by the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Forest Service in 1989.
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We spotted another deer on the way down and the butterflies started coming out as the day wore on.
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Just before reaching the Independent Mine Trailhead on trail 804 we passed a left over mining building and an abandoned mine shaft.
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We saw what must have been the same doe on the way down as we saw on the way up. She came out of the exact same group of trees and we wondered if she might not have a young fawn bedded down in them. We didn’t want to disturb it if there was so we continued on back to the Round Mountain Trailhead and our car. Day one had provided a great 10.3 mile hike and we had three more days to go. Happy Trails!

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Tire Mountain

June wildflowers and a “possible” waterfall were are goal for our recent trip to Tire Mountain near Oakridge, OR. Our guidebook showed a 7.6 mile hike starting from the Alpine Trailhead, linking up to the Tire Mountain trail, and turning around after reaching the summit of Tire Mountain. Looking at the forest service maps of the area I noticed that the Tire Mountain trail continued west beyond the junction with the summit trail to a trailhead on road 5824. Along that portion of the trail was a creek crossing where it appeared there might be a waterfall. Thinking that a 7.6 mile hike was a little short for a 2 1/2 hour drive I thought we could investigate the possible waterfall for a little extra exercise.

The Alpine trail started off uphill on a forested ridge where the path was lined with small rocks. The usual woodland flowers were present including vanilla leaf, solomonseal, candyflower, and bunchberry. We also spotted some wild ginger.
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Just a bit over half a mile in the trail entered the first of the meadows. The flowers did not disappoint and as an added bonus several cascade peaks were visible from this meadow.
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The flower show continued as we passed through more meadows on the way to the junction with the Tire Mountain trail. Along the way The Three Sisters joined the view.
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At the 1.2 mile mark we found the Tire Mountain trail and turned right. We passed through several smaller meadows which were home to a variety of different flowers, some of which were unknown to us.
Columbine
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Plectritis & Larkspur
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Plectritis & Yellow Monkeyflower
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Camas
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Paintbrush
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Coastal Manroot & ?
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Another unknown
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Possibly Oregon Sunshine
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Giant Blue-Eyed Mary, Plectritis & unknown
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Buttercups
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Wild Iris
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We were amazed at the number of flowers and we could see that there were even more higher up on the hillsides.
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After the series of smaller meadows the trail entered the largest meadow of the day. Here balsamroot joined the flower bonanza.
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Ookow
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Wallflower
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Unknown
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Blue Gilia
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When we left the meadow I remarked that we hadn’t seen any lupine at all. As soon as we hit the next small meadow that was no longer the case.
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From this meadow we also got a good view of Tire Mountain and Diamond Peak again.
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The trail then entered the forest before splitting. To the left was the 1/2mi path to the summit while the right fork headed down toward road 5824. We headed up to the summit to check out the former lookout site. The trail was nice despite there being a few downed trees to maneuver around.
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When we reached the brushy summit we found a number of additional flower types.
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Unknown
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Fawn Lily
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Unknown
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Wild onion
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Phlox
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Buscuitroot
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Despite being a former lookout site there was no view from the summit. In fact the lookout had been placed up in a tree in order to have a view of the surrounding area. We explored a bit before heading back down to the trail split and starting our search for the waterfall.

From the split, the Tire Mountain trail descended fairly quickly through a series of switchbacks. Several bridges crossed seasonal streams amid the large trees.
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It was a lot further down to the creek I was looking for than I had anticipated and we were all dreading the climb back up. We finally rounded a ridge end and spotted the bridge that crossed the creek I was looking for. There was indeed a waterfall but after seeing it we knew why the guidebook doesn’t mention continuing on to it. It was a pretty sad display lol.
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After soaking in the torrent we started our climb. We did our best to focus on the ever present bird song as we trudged along. Grey jays, varied thrushes, and at least one woodpecker flew from tree to tree. The woodpecker was the only one that stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.
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The meadows were just as impressive on the return trip. The only real bummer for the day was seeing a layer of smoke over the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor. Alas the fire season started early this year with the Two Bulls Fire burning near Bend, OR. 😦
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Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come. Happy (and fire free) trails!

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Mary’s Peak, Beazell Memorial Forest & Ft. Hoskins County Park

Every once in a while it can be fun to change things up a bit. For our latest day of hiking we did just that. Instead of one longer hike we decided to knock a few shorter hikes off our to-do list. We had a graduation open-house that we wanted to stop in at that afternoon in Dallas, OR so we headed down to the central coast range for a trail triple header.

We started at Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in the Oregon coast range. We had visited the peak in 2009 when we were just starting to get into hiking. That day we had taken a 2.5 mile route from Conner’s Camp to the 4097′ summit. It was the most challenging hike we’d done up to that point and we felt every bit of the 1530′ climb. Our plan was to redo that hike (at least on the way up) to see how we would fare now that we’ve been hiking for several years.

There are several ways to get to the summit varying in length from just over a mile to almost 11 miles round trip. The East Ridge trail would be our route up from Conner’s Camp. The trail sets off from the parking area in a forest of old-growth Douglas Fir which tower overhead. The forest is very open despite the giant trees due to the lack of lower branches which allows for an abundance of green undergrowth. Vine maple, salal, fern, and many other plants contribute to a lush green understory. Low clouds were hanging in the tree tops while many white woodland flowers dotted the forest floor.

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The trail climbs steadily for 1.1 miles to a junction where the East Ridge Tie trail continues on to the North ridge trail making a loop possible. We would be retuning from that direction but in order to recreate our 2009 climb we turned left to continue up the East Ridge trail. The trail steepens after the junction and it was this section that seemed to go on forever the first time we hiked it. It proved to be a stiff climb but we quickly reached a second junction, this time with the North Ridge trail. Forking to the left we continued up a short distance to the lower meadow and blue(ish) skies. 🙂

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The trail wraps around a hillside through the meadow, which was yet to really start blooming, before reaching a gravel service road in a saddle. The clouds were lapping up over the hillside from the north creating what can only be described as a “fog rainbow”.

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The gravel road winds up to the summit around the south side of Mary’s Peak, but a more direct (and steeper) trail leads up to the upper meadow from the far side of the road. Since that was the way we had gone before we crossed the road and headed up again (and again wondered why). When we emerged from the narrow swath of trees that divides the two meadows we found that the upper meadow was also yet to bloom. Clumps of lupine had yet to even begin to bud and only a few scattered flowers dotted the slope.

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The sky was blue though and we had the peak to ourselves so we climbed through the meadow to a picnic table at the summit. We were above the clouds but it appeared that Mary’s Peak was the only peak which had managed to rise above them. Even the 10,000′ Cascade peaks to the east were hidden. To the west the Pacific Ocean blended in so well with the layer of clouds and blue sky that it was difficult to make out where one ended an another began.

The view west:
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After setting our stuff down at the table we began exploring the summit. To the west where the road came up from below we began to find flowers. Purple larkspur and yellow biscuit root covered the ground.
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We started to head down the road following the flowers and as we rounded a bend we were greeted with a color explosion. We’d found the flowers. They were all on the south side of the peak. Phlox, larkspur, paint, and various yellow wildflowers covered the slopes on this side.
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After taking a few pictures (okay lots) we went back to the table to gather our packs and headed back down the road. As we made our way down we found some blooming lupine and penstemon as well.
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To get back to the car we took the 1 mile section of the North Ridge trail from the upper junction to the East Ridge Tie trail and turned right on it for 1.2 miles back to the first junction and finally back to Conner’s Camp.

From there we drove back to U.S. Highway 20 and headed west to the Kings Valley Highway Junction. Turning right we continued 4.8 miles on Highway 223 to the Beazell Memorial Forest. The forest consists of 586 acres gifted to Benton County by the former owner, Fred Beazell, as a memorial to his late wife Dolores. Our plan here was to hike a 3.2 mile loop using the South Ridge trail.

The trail begins at a footbridge behind a restored barn which was being readied for a wedding reception on this day. After crossing Plunkett Creek on the bridge the trail joins an old road for half a mile. The forest is dense and scenic in a narrow valley. At the .5 mile mark the trail splits off to the right and recrosses the creek twice before rejoining the road at a junction in another half a mile.

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Here the South Ridge trail leads to the right up the side of the valley. A sign was posted warning of a logging operation and trail closure from October 2013 through April 2014. Being that it was June we continued on. The trial switchbacked up 350′ through increasingly open forest with wild iris and some flowers we had not seen before.
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At the top of the hill a short spur trail leads to a small meadow with a nice view across the valley.
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After leaving the meadow the trail drops down over the west side of the hill where signs of the logging operations could be seen. After joining a logging road for a bit the trail again split off to the right, passing an old cistern before returning us to the barn and our car.
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We had one more hike planned for the day so we hopped back into the car and continued another mile and a half north on Hwy 223 to Hoskins Rd. Following signs to the left for Fort Hoskins County Park we drove another 1.8 miles to the park entrance on the right. The park is at the site of an 1856 outpost.
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We started our hike here by taking the half mile interpretive loop past the old fort site and historic buildings. This path looped around a lovely meadow where daisies and foxglove bloomed and a few apple trees remained from an old orchard.
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While we were inspecting the Commander’s House a Bald Eagle flew past and began circling overhead.
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The path then passed the foundation of the Hoskins School before climbing back to the parking area where a longer loop began on the far side of the road.
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The longer 1.3 mile loop climbed over 300′ through a hillside meadow filled with wildflowers.
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The day turned out better than I had expected. We managed to get 12.3 miles of hiking in while visiting some interesting places and still made it to the graduation party on time. Happy Trails!

flickr photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644555553479/
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