Gordon Lakes Trail

We continued our recent trend of choosing our hikes based on the weather forecast and wound up picking the Gordon Lakes Trail for our most recent hike. We chose this trail because it stayed mostly in the forest with very limited view opportunities that wouldn’t be spoiled by the rainy forecast. The Gordon Lakes Trail covers a little over 7 miles between eastern and western trailheads. We began our hike at the west trailhead located on Forest Service Road 325 outside of Sweet Home. There was some disagreement on how to reach road 325 between our field guide, the Forest Service, and Google Maps. They all agreed that from Sweet Home we needed to drive Highway 20 east 19 miles to milepost 46 and turn right on a forest service road for approximately 5 miles. Our field guide gave this road the number 2031 while the Forest Service numbered it 2044. Google Maps showed 2032 as the number which was the number we found on the stake as we turned onto this road. We managed to follow this winding road fairly easily to a hiker symbol on the right across from road 325. The signless parking area was 100 yards uphill to the left on road 325.
Gordon Lakes Trailhead//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Our next bit of confusion came as we got ready to set off. There were no signs indicating the location of the trail. Two old roads led off from the parking area in the same general direction, one downhill and the other uphill and the hiker sign was back downhill across road 2032. The road leading uphill looked like it was a trail, but the map I had looked at for the trail appeared to show a trail switchbacking downhill from the trailhead which I later realized was my misreading the topographic map. After several minutes of exploring the uphill road and consulting the GPS we decided that it was in fact the trail and began climbing.

The trail left the road behind and began switchbacking uphill through a previously logged area where we could see a little of the valley below.


Thimbleberry leaves lined the path with color.

After the switchbacks the trail entered older forest and crossed a pair of roads where there were still no signs indicating where or what the trail was.


The first feature we were looking for was Falls Creek which the trail would parallel much of the way. There wasn’t much water in the creek but it was still pleasant and the fall colors and various mushrooms and fungi along the trail made it feel very much like Autumn.









Yellow mushrooms//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js



Chocolate and vanilla mushroom//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


We finally saw our first trail signs right around the 3.5 mile mark at a junciton.


Shortly after the first junction we came to a second junction at the edge of Gordon Meadows.

Described as “marshy” in our field guide the meadows were much larger than we had expected. Being late in such a dry year the meadows seemed rather dry as we passed by on the trail.


The trail had been climbing very gradually since leaving the switchbacks behind near the beginning of the hike but we began encountering some steeper climbs beyond the meadows. The trail climbed up and over a series of ridge ends as we headed for Gordon Lakes. Just over 3 miles from Gordon Meadows we arrived at a fork in the trail near the lakes.

The signs pointed us toward the right hand fork while the GPS unit showed the left hand fork as the official trail. We went right following the signs to the northern Gordon Lake.

The rain that had been in the forecast had not materialized and we were enjoying some sun breaks in the clouds as the trail crossed the small outlet creek that flowed down into the lower southern lake.
Cloud in the creeklet between the Gordon Lakes//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


We spent a little time on a log at the edge of the lake watching dragonflies zoom about.

Northern Gordon Lake//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


After having a snack we left the northern lake and passing over the ridge between the two lakes and heading down toward the southern lake.


Southern Gordon Lake//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We crossed the creek between the lakes and picked up the trail shown on our Garmin on the opposite side.

We followed the path uphill where we discovered that there were a few downed trees across the trail which may have been why the signs had pointed to the other fork of the trail, but we made our way past the blowdown and climbed back up to the fork. We headed back making our way over the ridge ends, past Gordon Meadows, and started back down the switchbacks. We still hadn’t experienced any rain but the clouds in the valley were on the move.


It finally started to rain when we were back on the old roadbed heading down to the parking area less than 5 minutes away. Our total mileage clocked in at 15.4 miles, but Gordon Lakes can be reached from the eastern end of the trail in less than half a mile by starting at the trailhead on Forest Service Road 230. Happy Trails!

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Dickey Creek Trail

Once again the weather wasn’t cooperating with our overnight plans so we turned to plan B for our latest hike. Plan B wound up being the Dickey Creek Trail in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on what turned out to be a great hike on a beautiful day. We began our hike at the Dickey Creek Trailhead located in forest service road 140 near Ripplebrook, OR.

The Dickey Creek Trail followed a decommissioned road for about half a mile to the former trailhead parking area.


The trail continued to follow the old roadbed for .3 miles and then suddenly heads downhill.



The descent was steep for the next half mile and included several sections of steps. It was one of the most fun sections of trail we’ve been on as it twisted and turned on it’s way down toward the creek. When the trail leveled out we were within earshot of the creek but the trail remained in the forest with the creek out of sight. The old growth forest in the valley was beautiful. Green moss carpeted the ground while large trees towered above. Rough skinned newts seemed to be everywhere and we had to step carefully to make sure we didn’t harm any.




The old growth forest briefly opened up near a dry pond. The fall colors were on display around the pond and made a nice contrast to the green ground left over from where the pond water had been.




We arrived at the bridgeless crossing of Dickey Creek after almost 3.5 miles.

On the far side of the creek we spotted some interesting fungi.


We were heading for Big Slide Lake which was a little over 2.5 miles from Dickey Creek. From there we would decide whether we would continue on to Big Slide Mountain or turnaround depending on how clear the skies were. After a few switchbacks the trail climbed gradually up the valley toward the lake. Views opened up across the valley to North and South Dickey Peak. Ahead were the cliffs of Big Slide Mountain and the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods, the wilderness’s namesake.




After crossing a large rock field the trail split. We headed downhill to the right to visit Big Slide Lake where we encountered the only other people we’d see the entire day.



It was approximately 6 miles to Big Slide Lake from the trailhead so turning around here would have made for a decent enough hike, but the weather was great and there were only a few clouds in the sky so we decided to head up to Big Slide Mountain to see how the view was. We climbed back up to the Dickey Creek Trail from the lake and continued uphill toward a saddle on the ridge between Bull of the Woods and Big Slide Mountain. After about a half mile of good climbing we arrived at the saddle and a trail junction.

We turned left past a nearly dry pond.



On the far side of the pond was a second trail junction. We stayed to the left on trail 555 and began to gradually climb Big Slide Mountain. Views opened up almost immediately on this section of trail. Mount Jefferson was the first of the Cascade peaks to come into view.


Followed by Three Fingered Jack.

Then came Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the North and Middle Sisters.

Finally the South Sister made an appearance.


After almost a mile and a half of climbing the trail crested at a saddle between the summit of Big Slide Mountain and Knob Peak. The trail then headed over the saddle and downhill to its end at Lake Lenore a half mile away. In order to get to the summit of Big Slide Mountain we needed to do some cross country climbing. From the saddle we headed uphill along the ridge toward the summit making our way up as best we could. We managed to find sections of faint trail and pick our way up the rocky slope to the summit. The views from the summit were great. Big Slide Lake lay below us to the West.

To the North was Lake Lenore, Schriner Peak, Mt. Hood, and the shy Mt. Adams.




To the southeast cascade peaks dotted the horizon while Welcome Lakes lay below in the wilderness.

The peaks of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness rose to the south including Battle Ax and Bull of the Woods.

Table Rock rose above the Table Rock Wilderness to the southwest.

We took a long break on the summit watching the clouds in the sky and soaking in the sun before heading back downhill. On the way back we had one final stop to make. We wanted to check out an unnamed lake that lay off-trail below Big Slide Mountain. A short steep climb through some thick rhododendron bushes brought us to the edge of the small lake.

The water was crystal clear with some excellent reflections of Big Slide Mountain.

After fighting our way back through the rhododendrons we regained the trail. On our way back we stopped to check out a few interesting mushrooms, one complete with a newt.



When we arrived back at the dry pond the sunlight was lighting up the deciduous trees.




As we neared the end of our hike the only disappointment was having not seen a wilderness sign that morning. I try and get a picture of a wilderness sign for every wilderness we visit and I had been unsuccessful on our first two visits to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. After making the steep climb away from the creek and back up to the old roadbed we began watching for signs that we may have missed on our way by earlier. Just before reaching the former trailhead we spotted the sign up on a tree.


It was a great end to a great hike. Happy Trails!

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Indian Point and Pacific Crest Falls

My Grandmother recently celebrated her 91st birthday and we wanted to take her out for a birthday dinner in Portland so we planned a trip up to the Columbia River Gorge to check another of the many area hikes off our to-do list. We chose a pair of hikes beginning at the same trailhead for the Herman Creek Trail.

Our plan was to start at the Herman Creek Campground near Cascade Locks visiting Pacific Crest Falls and then hiking out to Indian Point. We set off on the Herman Creek Trail and followed it for .6 miles to a fork where we headed right on the Herman Bridge Trail toward the Pacific Crest Trail.


The Herman Bridge Trail descended .4 miles to a footbrdige over Herman Creek. This was the only place that we would encounter the creek on the trails.


We reached the Pacific Crest trail in another .8 miles passing through some nice forest and getting some decent views.


The views improved after we turned right on the PCT with Table Mountain and Greanleaf Peak visible across the river.

Greenleaf Peak

Table Mountain

We weren’t sure what we would find when we arrived at Pacific Crest Falls just .4 miles up the PCT. It was October in an unusually dry year so we weren’t too surprised when we arrived at a nearly dry creek bed. We couldn’t see the falls as we approached but we could hear them up the narrow canyon. From the far side of the creek we could see the two tiered fall back in the canyon and we decided to scramble up the creek bed for a closer look.




Despite there not being much water the musical sound of the cascade was relaxing. As we were making our way back from the falls we spotted a frog that really blended in with the fallen leaves.



We had gone a little under 4 miles when we arrived back at the fork with the Herman Creek Trail which is why we had made Indian Point our second goal for the day. We took the Herman Creek Trail uphill toward a large trail junction .7 miles away.


Several trails arrived at the trail junction near Herman Camp. The left hand trail was the Gorge Trail which led to Wyeth while the right hand trail was the continuation of the Herman Creek Trail. We took the Gorton Creek trail which was the middle trail .

This trail climbed gradually offering occasional glimpses across the Columbia River to Washington.



Along the way we had a momentary standoff on the trail with a rough skinned newt that wasn’t about to budge.

We arrived at the Ridge Cutoff Trail after 2.6 miles which we would take for a loop back to the junction near Herman Camp, but before heading uphill on that trail we continued a short distance on the Gorton Creek Trail to an unsigned path on the left.

The side path led steeply downhill to a ridge which we followed out to a rocky saddle below Indian Point.


Several prominent landmarks were visible from the saddle.
Wind and Dog Mountians

Mt. Adams

Mt. St. Helens

We declared victory at the end of the saddle directly below Indian Point and enjoyed a surprisingly wind free break before climbing back up to the Gorton Creek Trail. We then returned to the Ridge Cutoff Trail and headed uphill toward the Nick Eaton Ridge Trial. The cutoff trail climbed for a bit then leveled off before reaching the Nick Eaton Trail in a total of .6 miles.

We turned right on the Nick Eaton Ridge Trail and continued our loop heading downhill at an impressive clip. The trail popped out into some grassy hillside meadows before beginning a series of unrelentingly steep switchbacks.




It quickly became obvious why our guidebook recommended doing the loop clockwise as we descended the seemingly never ending switchbacks. After two miles of downhill hiking we arrived back at the Herman Creek Trail just a few hundred yards from Herman Camp. After retracing our steps back to the trailhead we drove to Grandma’s house ending our day with a nice visit and dinner. Happy Trails!

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