Parker Falls and Adams Mountain Way

Our 2016 hiking season officially started with a pair of hikes in the Umpqua National Forest. Both trailheads are located along Brice Creek, SE of Cottage Grove, OR. We had visited the area in 2014 to hike the more popular Brice Creek and Trestle Falls Trails https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/brice-creek-trestle-falls/ and were back now to tackle some of the other nearby trails.

We began the day at the Parker Falls Trailhead which is 2.3 miles beyond the Upper Brice Creek/Trestle Falls Trailhead.
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The trail runs along Parker Creek up to Lower Parker Falls and finally Upper Parker Falls. Spring wildflowers lined the trail.
Fawn lillies
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Fairy slipper
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Anemone
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At a signed junction we took a short path down to Lower Parker Falls.
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After admiring the lower falls we went back to the junction and headed for the upper falls. The upper falls were more of a slide and the trail stayed up along the canyon wall above them.
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We were not entirely certain that this was indeed the upper falls as the trail continued on so we kept going. It led to the creek bank above the upper falls. At this point I checked our GPS and it appeared that the trail should have continued a short distance up the creek. There was a faint path leading further but it quickly vanished beneath debris that had fallen into the canyon. We were only able to go a short distance before facing the choice of getting wet or turning back. I decided to hop into the creek and continue. I had gone about a hundred yards when I came to a small slide in a narrow mossy drop.
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I was on a small gravel bar inhabited by some coltsfoot.
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I could see a little way upstream and saw no signs of any additional falls and didn’t see an easy way past the small cascade ahead so I headed back to Heather and we returned to the car. We decided that Upper Parker Falls must indeed have been the slide we had passed before reaching the creek (That was confirmed by waterfallsnorthwest.com).

The signed mileage is 1/2mi to the lower falls and 3/4 to the upper falls while the Forest Service website lists it as 1.1 miles. Our GPS registered a round trip of 2.4 miles which, given my short excursion up the creek, makes the 1.1 miles more likely.

From the Parker Falls Trailhead we drove back the way we’d come to Lund Park which was about 10 minutes away.
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Our loop hike started here and we faced a choice. We could begin on any one of three trails- Adams Mountain Way, Marten Flume, or the Crawfish Trail. The Adams Mountain Way Trail started on the opposite side of Brice Creek Road just east of Lund Park while the Marten Flume Trail started just west of Lund Park and connected to Adams Mountain Way after .6 miles. The Crawfish Trail was 1.2 miles further west along Brice Creek Road meaning we would either start or end our hike with a road walk. We decided to start with the road walk thinking we were less likely to run into traffic since it was still before 9am and a road walk at the end of a hike is never very exciting.

As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad passing Marten Creek on the left and having Brice Creek off to our right.
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Brice Creek
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There were also plenty of wildflowers along the way.
Valerian
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Dogwood
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Bleeding heart
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Fairybells
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Skunk cabbage
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Red flowering currant
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Big leaf maple
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We made it to the Crawfish Trail without encountering any vehicles and began a 5.5 mile climb to the Knott Trail.
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It was obvious that the lower portion of the Crawfish Trail is popular with mountain bikers as there were more tire tracks than footprints along the way. It probably is not a trail one would want to hike when bikes were barreling down the trail at you, but we were early enough in the day and season to not encounter anyone; hiker or bicyclist.

The trail was well signed along the way as it crossed a couple of roads (or the same road multiple times).
Crawfish Trail

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There weren’t many places along the trail with opportunities for views but when the trail passed over a saddle to the SW side of a ridge there would have been some if not for the low clouds that were present.
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Things got a little confusing when we came to National Forest Road 2234 where a trail sign pointed three different directions for the Knott Trail which was to be our connector between the Crawfish Trail and Adams Mountain Way.
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After consulting our map we decided that we wanted to follow the .7mi Knott Trial pointer and cross NF 2234. The other pointers were for the road itself which would have led us back to the Knott Trail in either direction but not after some needless travel.

As we continued on the Crawfish Trail time seemed to move backwards and the flowers of Spring gave way to chilly winds and patches of snow.
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Orange jelly fungus
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When we finally reached the Knott Trail Junction we turned left and climbed some more.
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The trail led up to open meadow that might have had a decent view on a clear day and probably some nice flowers in a month or two.
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Beyond the meadow the trail began to descend along a ridge toward the Adams Mountain Way junction. On this side we encountered more snow.
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The trail was in decent enough shape with some blowdown and debris along the way, nothing too difficult to get around, but in several sections it needed to be brushed out.
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We reached the Adams Mountain way junction in a forested saddle.
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The Adams Mountain Way Trail began gently enough traveling along a ridge towards Brice Creek Road.
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Signs of Spring began to pop up again in the form of huckleberry blossoms, wild strawberry blooms, and even a pink rhododendron.
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Strawberry blossoms

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When the trail finally decided to head down, it did so with a vengeance. The descents rivaled some of the steepest trails we’d been on making us glad we hadn’t chosen to come up that way. We were feeling the elevation loss in our legs when we reached the Marten Flume Trail junction just a few hundred yards from Brice Creek Road.
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I had not been able to find much information on this trail so we were curious about it and decided to go ahead and check it out. It headed up Marten Creek and then forked. There was no sign at the fork and we weren’t sure which way to go so we took the right hand fork down toward the creek thinking that the flume might be down there. We had chosen poorly and would have needed to stay left at the fork to see the flume. At that point we were down at the creek where the loop trail crossed.
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We decided not to climb back up to the fork and waded the creek to finish up the loop.
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Trillium and Wood Sorrel bloomed along the path.
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Near the end of the loop we encountered the only other trail users we’d seen all day. A pair of rough skinned newts.

One of the newts.
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This was a good conditioning hike given the 11.7mi distance and 3000+ feet of elevation gain/descent. It is definitely not a hike for those looking for big views or extensive wildflowers, and depending on the mountain bike traffic it could be a little dangerous given the steep narrow tread in sections. For our visit though we were able to enjoy the solitude of spending five and a half hours completing the loop without running into anyone else.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667500424465

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Minto-Brown Island Park and the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

We didn’t have any hikes planned for awhile after our visit to Tamanawas Falls due to Heather having a half-marathon to run on April 10th. Her half-marathon wound up being an opportunity for a pair of short hikes on race weekend though.

On the day before the race we made the short trip to Salem’s Minto-Brown Island Park for a short walk to help make sure Heather stayed loose. We’ve spent quite a bit of time in the park, sometimes walking and other times passing through on runs. This was the first time I’d brought the camera along to get some photos though.

The area used to be islands in the Willamette River but flooding changed the course of the river so that the former islands are connected to the rest of Salem. At more than 1200 acres, the park contains 19 miles of trails, a playground, a 30 acre off-leash dog area, and fishing opportunities.

The paths are a mix of paved and soft surface trails making the park a popular place to run, walk, or bike. High water does close some of the trails at times but there is almost always a few that remain passable. Later this year a footbridge connecting this park to Salem’s Riverfront Park will make it possible to visit both of these parks as well as Wallace Marine Park without setting foot on a road.

We parked at the Shelter Parking Lot at the end of Minto Island Road SW and set off toward the shelter following signs for the Blue Heron Loop. The park has plenty of signboard maps as well as trail pointers throughout.
Signboards at the parking lot near the gazeebo.

Rabbits are plentiful and often spotted in the strips of grass along the paths.
Lots of little rabbits in the park

The Blue Heron Loop leads across a footbridge between a pair of sloughs where we spotted a Great Blue Heron searching for snacks.
Slough in Minto-Brown Island Park

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron going after a treat

Shortly after crossing the bridge a sign for the Blue Heron Loop led us off the paved path and onto one of the parks soft surface trails.
Trail in Minto-Brown Island Park

This portion of trail passed another slough on the right where we spotted Canadian Geese, a pair of wood ducks (not pictured due to fast swimming), and an Osprey sitting in its nest.
Canada Geese

Osprey in its nest

We left the wooded path and came to a trail sign at a junction near one of the many fields in the park.
Trail signs in Minto-Brown Island Park

We left the Blue Heron Loop here and headed for the Brown Island Landfill (the park has a little of everything it would seem). We skirted around it to pick up the Turtle Loop running along the north side of the landfill.
There are several connector trails running between the Turtle Loop trails making several different distances possible. We took one of these through the field to rejoin the Turtle Loop along the Willamette River. Here we found some recent beaver work.
Minto Brown Island Park

Recent beaver work

We followed the Turtle Loop back along the river to the shelter parking lot and our car. Even though the park is in Salem its size and the variety of trails makes it a nice spot to “get away” and you are almost certain to see some wildlife along the way.

On race day we headed to the Banks Middle School in Banks, OR where Heather’s race would finish and she would catch a bus up to the starting line at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The race would follow the Banks-Vernonia State Trail which is a converted rail bed, Oregon’s first rail-to-trail. Heather hopped on a bus at 7am and I had a couple of hours to kill before the race would start at 9am. So I took the opportunity to hike a section of the trail. I had decided to be at the Buxton Trailhead, one of several possible traileheads to access the trail, which was near the 6 mile mark of the half-marathon.

The trailhead had a large parking area with picnic tables, and a shelter.
Buxton Trailhead

Buxton Tressel from the trailhead

Building and sign at the Buxton Trailhead

I had calculated that Heather would be passing by that spot a little before 10am so I had about 2 1/2 hours available to hike. I took a path to the left of the parking lot down to a creek crossing below the Buxton Trestle.
Footbridge over Mendenhall Creek

Mendenhall Creek

Buxton Trestle

The path then led uphill joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail just beyond the trestle.
Trail heading up to the Buxton Trestle

My plan was to head east toward the Banks end of the trail for an hour and then head back to the trestle to wait for Heather, but before I headed down the trail I wandered out onto the trestle.
Buxton Trestle
Buxton Trestle

View from the Buxton Trestle

The entire 21 miles of the trail are paved which makes it popular with bicyclists, runners, walkers, and it also sees some equestrian traffic. It was still pretty early though so for the first 45 minutes I saw more wildlife than people.
Starling

Stellars Jay

Wren

The highlight happened as I passed a draw to my left and noticed something moving up the hillside through the brush. It was a decent size but it had its head down making it hard to tell what I was seeing. When it finally raised its head I could see it was a coyote. It blended really well with the brush and wouldn’t stop moving making it extremely difficult to get a decent picture. I finally made a little noise to get its attention hoping it would pause long enough for a photo, but it was quicker than I was and darted off as soon as we made eye contact.
Coyote

In addition to the wildlife there were plenty of Spring wildflowers along the trail. The forested hillside was dotted with trillium, bleeding heart, pioneer violets, and a few fairy bells.
Trilliuims

Bleeding heart

Violet

Fairybells

From the trestle the trail had gradually descended to a gravel road crossing where it left the trees and leveled out as it began to pass between pastures.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Birds were abundant, mostly sparrows, swallows, and robins but across one of the fields I spotted a bald eagle flying between trees.
Sparrow

Sparrow

Bald Eagle

I also spotted a single tough leafed iris and a couple of camas blossoms.
Wild iris

Camas

By 8:30am the trail had become quite a bit busier, especially as I neared the Manning Trailhead which I reached just as it was time to turn around and head back.
Manning Trailhead

I had just crossed the Buxton Trestle when the first runners passed by on their way to Banks. These were the sub 6 minute milers so I figured I had about 15 to 20 minutes before Heather would be passing by. I grabbed a snack and waited along the trail for her to pass by which she did right on schedule.
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After cheering her on I hopped back in the car and headed for the finish line to meet her. Her goal for this racing season was to break 2hrs in a half-marathon which she managed to do finishing in 1:52:42. With the race completed and her goal accomplished our attention now turns to our hiking season which will last for the next 6+ months. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minto-Brown- https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666808908512

Banks-Vernonia – https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666857451492

Tamanawas Falls

It is our goal to eventually visit each of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” series of guide books.  One of the things that I have been working on during our current off-hiking season is figuring out how to accomplish this.  One of the difficulties is that some of the hike distances are such that the amount of time we would spend on the trail is quite a bit less than the amount of time we’d spend driving to and from the trailhead.  At first glance the hike to Tamanawas Falls fell into this category for us.  At a little over two hours away the 3.8 mile round trip was too short and an alternate return route suggested by Sullivan would only extend the hike to 5.9 miles which was still likely too short to balance out the driving time. While rereading the description in the book and reviewing the accompanying map I found the solution which was to extend the hike along the East Fork Trail southward.

This trail incurred heavy damage during a flood event and no longer  ties into the Robin Hood Campground to the south.  It continues as far south as the Nottingham Campground but there is no bridge at that point making it the unceremonious end of the trail. We just needed some extra distance on a trail though so this would give us the ability to hike south at least a mile or two and increase our hiking time enough to top our driving time.

Now that the we had a plan that fit this hike into our hike-to-drive ratio requirement we needed to figure out when to visit.  The hike to Tamanawas Falls is very popular given its shorter length and its location along Highway 35 on the east side of Mt. Hood. We decided that early Spring might be our best bet when the wildflowers had begun blooming in the Columbia Gorge and there would still be some snow along the Tamanawas Falls Trail.

We arrived at the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead just before 7am (our other trick for avoiding crowds) on what promised to be a beautiful mostly sunny day.

Tamanawas Falls Trailhead

It was a crisp 37 when we arrived and the remaining snow was packed and a little slick on the way down to a footbridge across the East Fork Hood River.

Footbridge over the East Fork Hood River

Footbridge over the East Fork Hood River

From the bridge a small waterfall cascaded down into the river and a pair of Harlequin Ducks paddled about along the far bank.
East Fork Hood River

Harlequin Ducks

We were headed north on the East Fork Trail toward a junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail. The trail climbed a bit and was still covered in snow in sections.
East Fork Trail

After .6 miles we reached the signed trail junction and turned left on the Tamanawas Falls Trail.
East Fork Trail junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail

We were now heading downhill toward Cold Spring Creek and another footbridge.
Footbridge over Cold Spring Creek

We then followed the trail up along picturesque Cold Spring Creek for almost a mile to a trail fork.
Cold Spring Creek

Tamanawas Falls Trail and Cold Spring Creek

Cold Spring Creek

The Tamanawas Falls Trail continued straight ahead at the fork, passing through a rock field while the Tamanawas Tie Trail headed uphill to the right. We would be taking the tie trail on our return trip but first we headed into the rock field and onto the slickest portions of trail we’d encountered.
View from the junction

The snow had been packed down to ice in sections and we were glad to have had our trekking poles with us. We also had brought along some traction devices for our shoes which Heather used in this section on the way back.
Tamanawas Falls Trail

We felt the falls before we could see them. As we made our way up the trail a faint breeze met us. The air had the unmistakable feel of waterfall, cool and containing a hint of moisture. I admit to not expecting much from the falls themselves. For some reason the pictures I’d seen had left me with the impression that the falls were smaller than what they turned out to be. I was pleasantly surprised when they first came into view.
Tamanawas Falls

Tamanawas Falls

We hung around for awhile exploring and having a snack. We were the only people at the falls but we were joined by an Ouzel.
Tamanawas Falls

Ouzel

After admiring the falls we made our way back to the junction with the Tamanawas Tie Trail. We turned uphill on this trail and began the short climb up to the Elk Meadows Trail.
Tamanawas Tie Trail

Sign at the junction with the Elk Meadows Trail

We followed the signs for the Polallie Campground and began descending a forested ridge. The Elk Meadows Trail had obviously seen less traffic and some sections still had a decent amount of snow. There was also some light blowdown to step over or around and lots of small pine tree limbs on the trail.
Elk Meadows Trail

Elk Meadows Trail

Although the ridge was forested we did get our only glimpses of Cascade peaks along this trail.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

The trail had gradually made its way toward the Polallie Creek Canyon and we headed off trail just before the trail took a sharp right-hand turn around the ridge end to check out it out. A reported 80 foot deep flash flood scoured the canyon and washed out miles of Highway 35 in 1980 but there was no sign of that kind of power in the creek now.
Polallie Creek

After a brief descent we arrived at yet another trail junction. This was the East Fork Trail that we had been on before turning up the Tamanawas Falls Trail earlier in the morning.
Elk Meadows Trail junction with the East Fork Trail

We turned right to complete our loop. Along this 1.1 mile stretch we could often see the highway below, but it wasn’t without its sights including a neat little spring that flowed out of the ground into a small pool then quickly disappeared once again.
Spring along the East Fork Trail that disappeared back underground after a couple of feet

The trail had a few ups and downs before finally dropping down to Cold Spring Creek.
Cold Spring Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and climbed back up to the junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail that we had passed earlier. We had not seen anyone else on the trail yet that day but now that we were back on the main route we began to see a handful of others. When we arrived back at the East Fork Hood River crossing we stayed on the West side of the river and continued on the East Fork Trail to get our needed time in.

This section of the East Fork Trail alternated between being along the river and above it in the forest.
East Fork Hood River

East Fork Hood River

East Fork Trail

After about a mile the trail headed further uphill away from the river and entered an old snowy clear cut where the trees were much younger.
East Fork Trail

When the trail reentered older forest it switchbacked up just below an abandoned road. We had decided that we would continue on from here until the trail began to drop back down toward the river because we didn’t want to have to climb back up. We left the stand of older trees and entered another old clear cut where the trail did begin to head downhill. From this area we had a nice view of the Lookout Mountain area across Highway 35 to the East.
Looking toward Lookout Mountain from the East Fork Trail

A quick glance at the time told us that by the time we were back at the car we’d have hiked long enough to surpass our driving time so we declared victory and headed back. The parking area at the trailhead was packed but we’d encountered less than a dozen others on the trails.

All in all it was a great final off-season hike and the next time we head out our 2016 hiking season will be officially under way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666743878315