Lewis River and Curly Creek Falls

After our vacation in Gold Beach, OR we began our next hike 300 miles away along the Lewis River in Washington’s Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. The Lewis River Trail is one of those very popular trails that we had not yet been to. We hoped an early start would help avoid the bulk of the Memorial Day Weekend crowds. We parked at the Lower Falls Recreation Area just a short distance from the first of the days waterfalls.
Trail sign at the Lower Falls Recreation Area

We walked down to a platform overlooking the Lower Falls. This was another waterfall that was much larger in person than it had looked in pictures.
Lower Falls viewing platform

Lower Lewis River Falls

We then headed down to river level to see what the falls looked like from that angle.
Lower Lewis River Falls

Lower Lewis River Falls

After getting the view from below we climbed back past the first platform and headed NE along the Lewis River Trail. A second viewpoint looked down from above the falls.
Lower Lewis River Falls

A couple of wooden staircases led down to little beaches along the river.
Stairs to the bank of the Lewis River

Lewis River

We followed the trail between the river and the Lewis River Campground then deeper into the forest toward the Middle and Upper Falls.
Trail sign along the Lewis River Trail

As we were crossing a footbridge Heather noticed something along the side creek. She said she almost mistook it for a statue because of how still it was standing but then the doe began heading back up the creek.
Deer along a small creek


As she retreated we noticed more movement in the underbrush. A pair of wobbly young fawns had been with the doe.

After snapping a couple of quick pictures we continued on so mom could get back to her fawns.

A section of trail was closed near Middle Falls but a detour was in place using the Middle Falls Parking Area.
Trail reroute due to slides

We had been planning on taking this route anyway since it passed another waterfall along Copper Creek.
Copper Creek Falls
Copper Creek Falls

When we were back on the Lewis River Trail we followed a sign for Middle Falls.
Lewis River Trail

Middle Lewis River Falls

Middle Lewis River Falls

Middle Lewis River Falls

In addition to the waterfalls the Lewis River had some beautiful colored water due to the presence of rock shelves which created some deep green pools.
Lewis River

Lewis River

Before continuing on to Upper Falls we headed for the bridge over Copper Creek. The trail closure was posted at the bridge but below the bridge was a scenic water slide.
Slide on Copper Creek

Continuing on the Lewis River Trail we passed some large cliffs covered in green lichen.
Lichen covered rocks along the Lewis River Trail

Lewis River Trail

Another section of cliffs were of particular interest. Several trees were perched along the cliff edge with exposed roots high in the air. The rock showed clear signs of having been worn by the river which seemed to indicate that the roots of these trees had once been under the river bank, but as the river eroded the banks and deepened it’s canyon, the roots were left exposed. Given how far above the current river these trees were, we wondered how old they were.
Tree roots showing where the Lewis River once was.

Tree roots showing where the Lewis River once was.

The Upper Falls was another impressive, thundering waterfall.
Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

We made our way out onto a gravel bar for a better view and found a few flowers as well as some elk sign.
Tall bluebells

Upper Lewis River Falls

The trail then climbed up to an upper viewpoint via a wide arc around some rock outcroppings.
Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Continuing on we passed a spectacular green pool before reaching Taitnapum Falls.
Lewis River

Taitnapum Falls

Taitnapum Falls

We turned around after reaching the end of the Lewis River Trail and NF Road 90. The Quartz Creek Trail continued on the far side but for us it was time to head back and get to our second hike.

We had seen a handful of people on our way out along the trail and wound up having each of the falls to ourselves, but on the way back it was a steady stream of people. The Recreation Area parking lot was packed as we left making us glad we had started with this hike. We drove back towards Cougar, WA on forest road 90 turning right on road 9039 at a sign for the Curly Creek Trailhead. We parked in a gravel lot just before reaching a bridge across the Lewis River. The trail was on the far side of the bridge so we crossed on foot and headed downstream to the West. A platform along the trail offered views across the Lewis River to the unique Curly Creek Falls with its pair of rock arches.
Curly Creek Falls

Curly Creek Falls

Curly Creek Falls

Just a short distance further was another viewpoint. This time for Miller Falls.
Miller Falls

Miller Falls

One of the reasons we had not done these hikes before was due to the length of the drive vs. the amount of  hike time. At 3 hours one way the 9-10 miles would cause us to spend more time in the car than on the trail. Our solution was to visit the Bolt Camp Shelter after Curly Creek and Miller Falls. To do this we returned along the trail to the road 9039 bridge, crossing the road and continuing on the Lewis River Trail.

Lewis River Trail

Lewis River Trail

This portion of the Lewis River Trail was along a calmer section of the river offering plenty of access to the river.
Lewis River

Lewis River

We stopped for a short rest along the river at the Bolt Camp Shelter before returning to the trailhead.
Bolt Camp sign

Bolt Camp Shelter along the Lewis River

When it was all said and done we’d spent 6 hours and 42 minutes on the trail which meant we hadn’t violated our rule of not spending more time driving than hiking. It was easy to see why this area is so popular, but even with all the people we had still found some solitude along the trails and at every waterfall we’d visited. We couldn’t have asked for more. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668708267141

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor North

Saturday we were heading home, but before we headed north we had one more hike to do. We had hiked much of the southern portion of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor on Thursday and now we were going to spend some time in the northern portion.

There had been chances of rain for the previous couple of days and this morning we were greeted by a rainbow as we left the hotel.

We hadn’t been rained on yet but driving down to the trailhead we were getting rained on pretty good so when we arrived at the Arch Rock Picnic Area we donned our rain gear.

The rain pants helped keep the moisture that was on the plants at bay, but the jacket wound up being overkill since it never actually rained on us while we were hiking.

A short loop trail from the parking area led past picnic tables to a viewpoint of Arch Rock.




After completing the loop we headed south on the Oregon Coast Trail.

A short distance from the Arch Rock Picnic Area we came to the Spruce Island Viewpoint parking area.


The next marker was supposed to be a pair of viewpoints before reaching Thunder Rock Cove. We arrived at a first viewpoint along with a small snail.



We got ourselves confused here when we came to a junction with a wide path coming downhill from our left. A gentleman was doing trail maintenance on that section. We had spoken to him on Thursday during our other visit to the park and just assumed that he was working on the trail we wanted to take. We ignored the trail that appeared to be leading down to the little beach we had seen from the viewpoint thinking it was just a way down to the ocean. We followed the wide path up to an unsigned parking area.

The problem was no visible trail continued south from there. We thought that the trail might follow the road for a bit as it would do a little further along so we began walking along Highway 101 looking for some sign of the Oregon Coast Trail. It wasn’t until we reached the Thunder Rock Cove Viewpoint Parking area that we picked up the trail again.


We should have gone right down to the beach instead of uphill at the previous junction but we were back on the trail now and after a short climb around a hill we arrived at another parking area. This one was for the Natural Bridges Viewpoint.


The next 1.1 mile section of trail alternated between grassy meadows along the highway and forest with an occasional viewpoint.


Red valerian



After a short walk along the Highway the trail reappeared heading downhill toward China Beach.


We spent a little time down on this beach. There were plenty of rocks in the water including one tall pillar covered in birds. It was just far enough out that we couldn’t tell what kind of birds they were, just that there was a lot of them.



To continue on the trail we would have needed to follow the beach south around a small headland that was already pressed by the ocean. We didn’t want to get stuck on the far side where we would be forced to walk along the highway to get back, so we stopped here and got ready to head back. On our way back we stopped at a couple of viewpoints we had passed by initially.




We also managed to stick to the section of Oregon Coast Trail we’d missed when we took the wrong turn earlier near Thunder Rock Cove.

Along this section we discovered an option for a loop trail to the beach and waterfall.

The loop trail passed more nice viewpoints before dropping down to a view of the waterfall.







The trail then climbed up past another stunning viewpoint before returning to the Oregon Coast Trail.


We followed the trail back to the Arch Rock Picnic Area ending our vacation hikes. This hike ended up being 9.2 miles according to the GPS bringing our total for the 7 days to 95.2 miles. It had been a great vacation despite being our “Plan B” option. The weather wound up great and the views and wildflowers were spectacular. It was another good reminder of just how much our State has to offer in the way of great hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668656866396

Illinois River Trail and Indian Sands

Our wildest hike came Friday. We had planned on a 17.2 mile hike along the Illinois River Trail going 8.6 miles to Silver Creek and back. The description in our guidebook said to look out for poison oak and to check for ticks at the end so we were prepared for a bit of an adventure. Our hike began at a trailhead near the end of Oak Flat Road. To get there we took Jerrys Flat Road from Gold Beach 27 miles then turned right on Oak Flat Road road for another 3.1 miles.

The trail set off through an open forest with lots of yellow and purple wildflowers and some poison oak.




As we neared our first marker, Nancy Creek, we spotted a pair of deer that had already seen us and were heading back into the forest. Just beyond Nancy Creek we came upon a nice patch of columbine flowers. The only ones we would see during our vacation.

Other flowers here included catchfly and henderson’s stars.


The next creek up was Rattlesnake Creek. A short distance before reaching this small stream we spotted a black bear in the woods below the trail. It saw us at about the same time and promptly turned around. For some reason I failed to even reach for the camera as we watched it go back downhill through the trees.

Beyond Rattlesnake Creek the trail entered an area where the trees had been lost to the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

There continued to be a lot of flowers as well as the occasional patch of poison oak.
Pink honeysuckle

chaparral false bindweed
chaparral false bindweed

Bridges’ brodiaea
Bridges' brodiaea

With the trees mostly burned this section of trail was crowded by brush.

The amount of poison oak increased in the area of Ethels Creek and we started picking up ticks. Heather was the first to notice. She made an alarmed sound behind me and I turned around to see several ticks climbing up her legs. Looking down at my own I immediately spotted three. We brushed them all off and started to hike again. We had not gone far at all before Heather exclaimed again. We both had multiple ticks on our legs again. This had gone on for about a mile when we reached the Buzzards Roost, a rocky outcrop, at the 2.5 mile mark of our hike.

A short scramble path went out onto the Buzzards Roost but we could see poison oak along that path and were too preoccupied with looking for and knocking off any additional ticks. We were discussing what to do as the number of ticks that we’d already brushed off was more than we could have imagined and it was giving us the willies. Things didn’t get any better when one of my trekking poles slid off the log I had propped it on. I had made the mistake of leaning it on the log without checking the area around the log. We watched it fall and bounce on some little poison oak plants. We used some wipes to pick it up (along with yet another tick) and then wiped it down as best as we could. I had also left my gloves in the car which would have come in handy since it was the grip that had made contact with the poison oak.

After a thorough cleaning we decided to at least try and go another 2 miles to Indian Flat and Indigo Creek and see if the tick and poison oak situation got any better.

It did improve some beyond the Buzzards Roost where the trail had rounded the hillside and was now on the southern facing slope which was drier with less brush crowding the trail. The flower display along this section was impressive.
Henderson’s Stars


Silver puff


Blue gilia in the foreground


Mariposa lily




Narrowleaf blue eyed mary

California lady-slippers

Western wallflower


About 1.7 miles from the Buzzards Roost an old roadbed split off to the left. This led .2 miles to the meadow at Indian Flat.





We continued on the Illinois River Trail and descended to the bridge across the lovely Indigo Creek.




On the far side of the creek we stopped to do a more intensive tick check. There were just a couple of stragglers to knock off and we decided to try and continue at least another .7 miles to Fantz Ranch. The trail began to climb uphill to reach a saddle above the ranch. As we climbed the switchbacks the amount of poison oak began to increase again. When it appeared that there was going to be no way past one patch without going through it we finally gave in and decided to call it. We’d made it a little over 5 miles and had seen a lot of neat stuff despite everything.

As we made our way back we stopped regularly to brush off the inevitable ticks. There were other more enjoyable critters out along the trail as well including a large number of alligator lizards. We hoped that they were filling up on the little blood suckers. 🙂






Back at the trailhead we wiped everything down in an attempt to remove an urushiol we might have picked up from contact with poison oak and did a final tick check before heading back to Gold Beach. We stopped by our room to shower and soak in the hot tub to try and relax.

We decided that since we had cut our hike short we should go back out in the evening to check out Indian Sands in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. We had not gone that far on Thursday when we were hiking in the southern portion of the park so we drove back down and parked at the Indian Sands pullout.

We set off on the wide Oregon Coast Trail.

A confusion of paths led off toward the ocean and the dunes of Indian Sands from the trail. We weren’t sure which was the “correct” one but we just kept heading toward the Pacific until we could see sand and then headed for that.

We followed a path out to a wildflower covered viewpoint of a rock arch.

Sea figs


Seaside daisy

Sea thrift and paintbrush

Mariposa lilies



The sandstone cliffs here create the dunes making it an interesting area unlike anything else we’d seen in the park.


We made our way north following footprints in the sand.





We came to a saddle with a great view where a trail to the right led up through a brush covered slope back into the forest and onto the Oregon Coast Trail.



Turning right on the Oregon Coast Trail would have taken us back to the car but we decided to turn left and check out the Thomas Bridge Viewpoint. We’d driven over the bridge multiple times already and read that it was the highest bridge in Oregon at 345′. We left the Oregon Coast Trail at a split in the trail where it headed uphill toward the parking area for the viewpoint. We headed downhill to the left to find the viewpoint. The first viewpoint we came to was partly blocked by trees.

The trail continued out along a ridge so we followed it looking for a better view. We noticed another trail along the right that hopped over the ridge and headed steeply down into the trees. We ignored that and continued heading for the ocean. No view of the bridge had appeared as we rounded the end of the ridge but the trail kept going now heading downhill back inland. It did wind up leading to a better, but not great, viewpoint.

From this viewpoint we followed a path uphill that wound up being the same trail we had seen going over the ridge and down into the trees. When we crested the ridge we met another couple looking for the viewpoint. We pointed them in the right direction before heading back to Indian Sands.

In the end it worked out really well to have turned back on the Illinois River Trail in time for us to get the hike in at Indian Sands. It was definitely worth the visit. We appear to have escaped the poison oak without any ill effects (at least not yet) and haven’t had to brush off any ticks since leaving the Illinois River Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666245754163

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor South and Wheeler Ridge Bomb Site

On Thursday we headed for another State Park south of Gold Beach. The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor covers a 12 mile long stretch along the Pacific Ocean. Numerous day use areas and trails including the Oregon Coast Trail make the area very easy to explore. We planned on spending two days hiking in the park starting near the southern end at the Lone Ranch Picnic Area.


From the parking area we headed north on a paved path toward Cape Ferelo.

The Oregon Coast Trail crossed Lone Ranch Creek and headed up through the meadows of Cape Ferello before reaching the beach. We opted to visit the beach and take a different path up to Cape Ferrelo. We walked along the creek crossing on some drift wood nearer to the ocean.



We found the path leading up and followed it along the cape’s edge.

The open meadow allowed for great views to both the north and south and wildflowers dotted the grassy hillsides.



sticky monkey-flower


Possibly a ragwort

Coastal manroot



The path we were following rejoined the Oregon Coast Trail on Cape Ferrelo which then brought us to the Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint.

From that parking area, the Oregon Coast Trail passed through a more forested section of the park.


The views opened up again as we approached the House Rock Viewpoint (We never were sure which was House Rock).



Continuing from the House Rock Viewpoint the next .9 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail passed through a surprising variety of forest scenery.




The trail then split with a sign pointing us to the right.

We suspected that the left fork led down to the beach which we planned on walking along on our return trip so we made a mental note to see if this was indeed the spot where we would rejoin the Oregon Coast Trail later. A little further along was a sign for a “Waterfall Loop”.

We like waterfalls so we turned onto the loop trail. The first fall we passed was a bit hard to see from the trail but we wondered if we would have a better view when we were down on the beach.

The next waterfall was actually a series of three small cascades. These were more visible from a short side trail.


Next up was Whaleshead Viewpoint where an amazing field of foxglove was blooming.



From this viewpoint the trail dropped steeply down .2 miles to Whaleshead Beach.


We kept heading north passing through the Whaleshead Beach Picnic Area in .3 miles, crossing the entrance road to the picnic area in another .2 miles, and finally stopping at a viewpoint overlooking Whaleshead Island.
Buttercups in the picnic area.

Approaching the entrance road crossing.

The viewpoint.

Sea thrift and paintbrush

Looking north from the viewpoint.

Whaleshead island and sea figs

We headed back to Whaleshead Beach and headed south through the sand.

There were several highlights on the beach walk starting with a small opening passing through some rocks.



Then we followed Bowman Creek along the beach.

The first fork of the creek coming out of the forest was where the smaller cascades were located. We couldn’t see them from the beach but it looked like a more determined person could have hiked up the creek to a view.

At the second fork the larger waterfall that we hadn’t had a good view of was clearly visible.


The beach ended shortly after the third creek coming down to the ocean.

There were a bunch of oyster catchers on a rock here.

A post on the hillside on the far side of this creek marked the trail that would take us back up to the Oregon Coast Trail.

We hiked up the creek a bit to pick up the faint overgrown trail.


We just kept aiming for the posts as we passed some pretty wildflower displays.






We did wind up back on the Oregon Coast Trail at the junction we had suspected earlier and headed back toward Cape Ferrelo. This time we followed the Oregon Coast Trail over the cape. This led us to another viewpoint with a bench and some flowers we hadn’t seen along the other portion of trail.

Bachelor button



We had a little trouble finding the correct route through the vegetation near Lone Ranch Creek and wound up popping out in between the Oregon Coast Trail and the route we had taken that morning.

After returning to the car we drove into Brookings and headed for our second hike of the day at the site of a WWII bomb dropped by a Japanese pilot on Wheeler Ridge. To reach the trailhead we took South Bank Road for 5.2 miles and turned right following a pointer on Mt. Emily Road (road 1205) for 3.7 miles forking left at that point to stay on road 1205 until we reached the signed trailhead.

The trail is only a mile long but the interesting history behind the site makes the trip well worth it. The pilot, Nobou Fujita, took off from a Japanese submarine on September 9th, 1942 and flew inland to drop two bombs in hopes of starting a forest fire. One of the bombs did start a small fire that was spotted by the lookout,Howard Gardner, stationed on nearby Mt. Emily. He and a couple of other forest service staff located the fire and extinguished it finding the bomb crater and remnants of the ordinance.

Nobou Fujita traveled to Brookings in 1962 for the town’s Azalea Festival and presented his family’s samurai sword to the citizens as a token of peace. In 1992 he returned to plant a redwood seedling which unfortunately did not survive due to trampling by visitors. After his death a group of Japanese naval veterans planted a second tree at the site which still survives today.



The highlight of the trail was the bomb site and interpretive signs but there were also some big redwoods and a nice set of candysticks along the trail.



When we got back to Brookings we stopped for dinner at Kuhn Thai. We really enjoyed the food here once we finally settled on some choices. Another tasty end to a day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666232501494

Cape Sebastian

After our slow, bumpy drive to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on Tuesday, Wednesdays hike was only about five minutes from our hotel in Gold Beach. We would be following a section of the Oregon Coast Trail through Cape Sebastian State Park. We began our hike at a gravel parking lot just off Highway 101 along Bellview Lane. A gate and sign for the Oregon Coast Trail were located just across Bellview Lane from the parking area.


The trail was a grass and flower covered roadbed with some of the best salmonberries ever along the sides.



This section of the Oregon Coast Trail was well signed (we would discover later in the week this wasn’t the case for other sections).

This side path led 1.1 miles to a beach that we would visit on our way back.


At the 2.3 mile mark a sign directed us to our first viewpoint.




Beyond the viewpoint the Oregon Coast Trail climbed for .8 miles through the trees to a parking lot in Cape Sebastian State Park.



A 0.4 mile trail connected this parking lot with an upper parking lot with a better view, although we arrived just as a cloud was passing over. There was a small patch of poison oak marked with a stake along this stretch.



From this second viewpoint the trail passed through a windswept meadow then into a forest following an interesting ridge that ran parallel to the Pacific Ocean.


There was a viewpoint along they way with lichen covered rocks.

After .6 miles the trail began to descend through more open woods where a good number of flowers were blooming. Along with the flowers came a fair amount of poison oak.
Wild iris

Bridges’ brodiaea and poison oak



Columbian lily

Another lily

More Bridges’ brodiaea

There were also some nice views along this 1.3 mile section of the trail.


The trail eventually arrived at Hunters Beach but the final drop down to the actual beach was down a steep slope. Much of it had been worn away by the elements and a rope had been set up for assistance. To complicate the descent there was poison oak on both sides of the trail.

We made it down to the sandy beach where we joined a pair of deer, some birds, lizards, and a millipede.





Hunters Island dominated the view from the beach.



We returned the way we’d come being careful to avoid the poison oak retracting our steps all the way to the 1.1 mile side trail to a beach just a half mile from Bellview Lane. This path was along another old road that led down to an overgrown meadow.


A faint path led through the vegetation to a post on the beach.


On this beach we found several new types of flowers.
yellow sand-verbena

silky beach pea
silky beach pea

beach morning-glory

It was pretty windy and there wasn’t much cover to be found so after a brief stay we headed back up to Bellview Lane and our car. We picked this as our evening to find a local restaurant to try and picked the Barnacle Bistro in Gold Beach. The food was great and we each enjoyed a beer from Arch Rock Brewing Company.  I had the Pistol River Pale while Heather tried the State of Jefferson Porter. It was a great cap to the day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666235841743

Kalmiopsis Wilderness and Redwoods Nature Trail

Tuesday of our vacation week brought us our longest drive from Gold Beach to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We had a pair of hikes planned there followed by a quick stop on the way back at Alfred Loeb State Park to see some redwoods.

Our first stop was the Vulcan Peak Trailhead. To reach this trailhead we drove to Brookings and took North Bank Road along the Chetco River for 16 miles to a T shaped junction with gravel Forest Service Road 1909. We turned right following signs for the wilderness and began a tedious 13.3 mile drive. This wasn’t the worst road we’ve been on but it was arguably the longest stretch of bad road we’ve encountered. It took over 45 minutes to reach the trailhead on a short spur road with an outhouse.

For the first mile we were actually on the Chetco Divide Trail as it followed an old roadbed along a ridge surrounded by forest burnt in the massive 2002 Biscuit Fire.




At the 1 mile mark the Vulcan Peak Trail split off heading uphill while the Chetco Divide Trail veered to the right.

Shortly after leaving the Chetco Divide Trail we entered the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

It was pretty windy along the exposed ridge but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

The area reminded us of our trip to the Red Buttes Wilderness last October only here it was Spring and there were plenty of wildflowers.
Death Camas

Tolmie’s mariposa lily

Wild iris

A paintbrush


Sand Dune Phacelia


Wedgeleaf violet

Dwarf ceanothus

The trail wound its way up the hillsides before reaching a saddle with a nice view south to Preston Peak and the Siskiyou Mountains.


The trail then headed north to the summit of Vulcan Peak.


We followed the summit ridge north to a view of Little Vulcan Lake (one of our destinations on our next hike).


We declared victory there although the ridge continued on and would have eventually provided a view down to Vulcan Lake as well.

Our next trailhead was another 1.7 miles along road 1909. The final mile of this section made the first 13.3 seem like a nice country road. The trail began at a signboard where the road was blocked by some dirt mounds.

A short distance from the signboard the trail split. We took the right-hand fork uphill toward Vulcan Lake.

The lakes were on the other side of a ridge so we followed the trail up to a saddle with a view of both lakes and Vulcan Peak.

Vulcan Lake

Between the rocky terrain and the 2002 fire the trail grew fainter as we neared the lakes. Rock cairns helped mark the way though.


Vulcan Lake quickly ranked as one of our favorites. The colors of the water and surrounding rocks were amazing and lizards scurried along the shore while newts swam by in lake.





The water was cool but not cold and we sat on the rocky bank soaking in the scenery. We could have easily spent hours or even days there but we had other places to visit so we eventually pulled ourselves away and continued to Little Vulcan Lake.

To reach Little Vulcan Lake we located a trail sign for the Gardner Mine Loop near where we had left the main trail to go down to Vulcan Lake.


From there we could see another trail sign for the Trail 1110B.


Two tenths of a mile following more cairns and faint tread brought us to Little Vulcan Lake. As close as these two lakes were to one another they couldn’t have been much different.

Instead of red rock surrounding the water here we found Darlingtonia californica. Insect eating pitcher plants.




This was our first time seeing the pitcher plants and we found them to be really interesting. In addition to the pitcher plants there were a number of newts in the lake.

Six newts in Little Vulcan Lake.

From Little Vulcan Lake we returned to the Gardner Mine Loop trail and followed it as well as we could. Between cairns and our GPS we managed to stay mostly on course despite almost no sign of the actual trail tread.

We followed the cairns for .6 miles being eyed by lizards the whole time.


After the .6 miles of cairns we arrived at Sorvaag Bog.


From the bog the trail followed an old roadbed making it easier to follow. We passed the entrance to the Gardner Mine before reaching a junction in a saddle with the Johnson Butte Trail.



This junction was just .8 miles from where the trail had split and we’d taken the right-hand fork to Vulcan Lake. Before heading back though we had one final lake to visit and some rare flowers to look for so we turned right and headed deeper into the wilderness.

We were hoping to see some kalmiopsis leachiana in bloom. This rare flowering plant is found only in a few areas in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We knew that there were some along the Johnson Butte Trail so we were keeping an eye out only we weren’t entirely certain what they looked like. For some reason we hadn’t looked at any pictures online beforehand so the only information we had was the general areas we might spot them in and a belief that they were pink.

The Johnson Butte Trail followed another old road for 2.6 miles then turned to a simple trail. The whole time the trail alternated between ridges and hillsides often switching between the east and west facing sides at saddles.



There were plenty of flowers along the way including a surprise appearance of a single beargrass blooming.

Wild Rose

Wild iris

Narrowleaf blue eyed mary



Tolmie’s mariposa lily

We began seeing some pink flowers that we at first mistook for mountain heather, but after looking at them closer we realized they were something different. We eventually convinced ourselves that these must be the kalmiopsis leachiana which was confirmed later when we double checked online.

The best patches were found after the trail made a sharp right turn at a ridge end below Dry Butte.


A few other flowers we had not been seeing were found below Dry Butte.
Bleeding heart

Red flowering currant

Penstemon and solomonseal

A little over three miles from the saddle where we had set off on the Johnson Butte Trail we found a sign for the Salamander Lake Trail.

There was a campsite just below the ridge but the lake was further downhill hidden by brush and trees. The trail disappeared in the same brush and trees at the campsite and we momentarily considered not picking our way down to the lake, but that had been our planned turnaround point so down we went. We fought our way steeply down through the brush and blowdown to find the little lily pad filled Salamander Lake.


After the Vulcan Lakes this one was a bit of a letdown but we found some shade along the bank and took a short break that was interrupted by a few mosquitoes. We climbed back up to the Johnson Butte Trail and returned the way we’d come. At the saddle junction we kept straight following the trail along the old roadbed the .8 miles back to where we’d split off earlier and then completed the short walk to the trailhead.

It had been a very warm sunny day and we were pretty worn out when we started the drive back out along road 1909. It was nice to rest in the car for a bit as we slowly made our way back to North Bank Road. Once we were back on North Bank Road we drove 8.5 miles towards Brookings where we turned into Alfred Loeb State Park for our final hike of the day. The temperature gauge in the car read 87 as we pulled in.

We parked at a signed trailhead and took the .7 mile River View Trail.

This trail passed through a forest following the Chetco River. Lettered signposts corresponded to entries in a brochure that could be picked up at the trailhead.


The Riverview Trail led to a crossing of North Bank Road where the Redwood Nature Trail began on the far side.

This 1.2 mile loop trail passed through a mixed forest with some nice redwoods along the way.




We did the loop in a counter-clockwise direction which seemed to leave the steeper sections as downhill. After finishing the loop and returning to the car we walked down to the Chetco River because there really hadn’t been a great view of it along the River View Trail.

When it was all said and done our GPS showed a total of 16.6 miles for the three hikes. Three miles for Vulcan Peak, 10.7 for Vulcan and Salamander Lakes, and 2.9 for this final hike. It had been a long hot day and we decided that ice cream sounded good for dinner so we stopped at the DQ in Brookings splitting a chicken strip basket and each having a Blizzard. Such are the joys of being on vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668642744636

Humbug Mountain, Sisters Rock, and Otter Point

With our vacation plans changed due to the potential for rain in SE Oregon we had returned home after hiking in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to regroup. We swapped guide books and some or our supplies and headed for Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast on Monday morning. We took our first set of hikes on the way down Highway 101 starting with a climb up Humbug Mountain.

The Humbug Mountain Trail begins at the signed Humbug Mountain Trailhead across from the state park campground.

The trail promptly crosses a creek then climbs through the forest for a mile to a split in the trail.



Wild iris

Hedge nettle

Wild iris


Two routes led to the summit, the 1.4 mile West Trail and the 1.9 mile East Trail, allowing for a loop. We took the shorter West Trail to the right which offered limited ocean views.


When the trails rejoined we took the short .1 mile trail to the right up to the small meadow at the summit of Humbug Mountain.


A few flowers dotted the meadow which was mostly filled with bracken ferns and trees obscured much of the view.

Common catchfly


Elegant brodiaea


We took the East Trail down completing the loop and returning to the trailhead. The 5.5 mile hike was nice enough and a good climb, but the lack of views was a little disappointing albeit fitting for a mountain named Humbug.

From Humbug Mountain we continued driving south on HWY 101 to our next stop, Sisters Rock State Park. If not for our guide book describing the pullout between milepost 314 & 315 we would likely have driven right by. There was no sign for the park prior to the little pullout along the highway and the sign at the park was set back off the road making it difficult to spot while driving.

The wind was really strong whenever we were exposed to the north but the half-mile path down to the Sisters Rocks was full of views and flowers. Humbug Mountain was visible to the north and to the south was scenic Franklin Beach.


Scarlet pimpernel


Cows clover



We headed for the largest of the rocks where a trail brought us to the mouth of a sea cave.



We found a spot on the rocks between the largest Sisters Rocks where we were protected from the wind. Here there were more caves and some small tide pools.






We then made our way to Franklin Beach which we shared with a lizard.


Our final stop for the day was at Otter Point State Park. This was another somewhat hidden park located along Old Coast Road 3 miles north of Gold Beach. Again signage was lacking for the park until we were at the entrance which took us some time to locate. It was worth the effort to find this little gem though. The parking area was lined with azaleas and wild roses and the trail to Otter Point had big views.






In addition to the views several types of flowers were present.
Sea Figs


Seaside daisy

Wild iris

Sea thrift

We were pleasantly surprised by both Sisters Rock and Otter Point and were glad we took the time to stop and check them out. These were short hikes (1.4 & 0.7 miles receptively)that really paid off. It was a nice start to the vacation and they set the bar for the rest of the weeks hikes. Happy Trails!

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

Oregon Badlands Wilderness

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men…..they often go awry. After putting together a multi-year hiking schedule, much of it will need to be rearranged after our first vacation. We had planned on spending the week in SE Oregon hiking some of the most remote trails in the State, but the weather had other thoughts. Many of the trailheads in that area become inaccessible if it rains which is what the forecast was threatening heading into our vacation week.

Our original plan was to visit family in Bend on Saturday then hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness on the way to Jordan Valley on Sunday. We were hopeful that the forecast would clear up and headed to Bend for the visit but by Saturday night the chance of precipitation had increased so we decided not to risk traveling all that way and not being able reach the trails. We instead turned to Plan B which was to spend the week on the Southern Oregon Coast in Gold Beach. Since we were already in Bend though we stuck with our planned hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness before heading home to repack for a trip to the coast.

It was a drizzly morning when we arrived at the Flatiron Rock Trailhead fifteen miles east of Bend along Highway 20.


Our planned 13.5 mile hike was to start on the 1.9 mile Ancient Juniper Trail then take the Flatiron Rock Trail to Flatiron Rock. We’d then make a loop by taking the Castle Trail to Badlands Rock and the Badlands Rock Trail which we could follow to a junction with the Dry River and Homestead Trails. After taking a side trip on the Dry River Trail to visit the Dry River Channel we would use the Homestead Trail to get back to the Flatiron Rock Trail and return to the trailhead. Of course the best laid plans of mice and men……

There were a fair amount of wildflowers along the Ancient Juniper Trail as well as plenty of juniper trees. We’ve always enjoyed the uniqueness of junipers and that uniqueness was on display here.











We also spotted a couple of rabbits and bluebirds along the way.



The signage was good at the first junction pointing us in the direction of Flatiron Rock.

After 1.5 miles on the Flatiron Rock Trail we came to the junction with the Castle Trail.

Flatiron Rock was also at this junction. One of the highlights of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness are the explore-able volcanic rock formations that dot the landscape. We followed a path between the pressure ridges and explored.








After wandering around Flatiron Rock we took the Castle Trail, which passed another explore-able rock formation, before arriving at Badlands Rock which towered above the surrounding area.


We attempted to pass through Badlands Rock from the east side but a pile of large boulders made it impossible to get through without some extra effort.

We went back around to the west end and after a fairly easy scramble managed to get inside the walls of Badlands Rock.

At this point our plans began to go awry. Looking at the map we were using we were expecting a trail to bend slightly to the right after passing Badlands Rock but we didn’t see a trail sign and the openness of the area and profusion of old dirt roads and game trails have left paths all over. We had briefly taken a right hand turn at the rock formation along the Castle Trail and were now thinking that maybe that had been the correct path after all. We decided to head back to that spot and inspect it more thoroughly.

This time we explored the rock formation. It had some interesting features and a nice view of Badlands Rock.



It also, apparently, had a Turkey Vulture living in it. As we were passing by, we heard a ruckus coming from the rocks and saw something moving in a crevice. A vulture popped out and stood on the rocks a short distance from us.

We excused ourselves and headed back down to what we believed was the correct trail while the vulture circled overhead to make sure we left. Upon further review of the map and our GPS we decided that the trail we wanted was not here and was in fact back at Badlands Rock. We turned around and returned to Badlands Rock going a little further around it this time where we finally spotted a lone trail sign.

We made our next mistake here following the pointer even though it didn’t seem to agree with what our map indicated. Instead of bending right it went left/straight but the only thing to the right appeared to be an old dirt track that made a sharp turn. We thought that the trail we decided on probably bent back around to the right just a bit further on, which it did convincing us that we were on the right track. We thought we were on a 2.7 mile stretch of the Badlands Rock Trail that led to the junction with the Dry River and Homestead Trails so we settled in and enjoyed the scenery.


After awhile we started to feel like we should have reached that junction already. We were once again questioning our route when we did spot a sign post at a trail junction.

The problem was we had no idea what the Tumulus Trail was. Our map did not show it (it didn’t extend out as far as we’d gone). We hummed and hawed for awhile looking at the map and GPS before finally deciding we had gone the wrong way at Badlands Rock. We didn’t know where the Tumulus Trail went and we weren’t sure about trying to navigate cross country, so we headed back the way we’d come, which turned out to be 3.3 miles in the wrong direction.

We picked up the correct path at Badlands Rock and headed south passing through a more open landscape to the correct trail junction. This area was full of birds.





We turned up the Dry River Trail for .8 miles turning off at three boulders to find the Dry River Canyon.

Once upon a time the canyon was home to a tributary of the Deschutes River. The rocks provided proof of the vanished river.



We passed through the canyon for a ways then climbed out and cut cross country back to the Dry River Trail and returned to the junction with the Homestead Trail. It was another 2.2 miles on the Homestead Trail back to the Flatiron Rock Trail then an additional 1.2 miles to the car. When it was all said and done the GPS showed a total of 22.6 miles and it had taken us a little of 9 hours. We were leaving the trailhead about the time we had planned on being back home to repack for our trip to Gold Beach. Our plans had truly gone awry.

We ate dinner at Pilot Butte Drive In before leaving Bend then drove back to Salem to get ready for our next adventure in the morning. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667960760550

Dog and Augspurger Mountains

This was our second visit to Dog Mountain and probably our final one for several years at least. While the wildflower meadows on Dog Mountain are arguably the best in the Columbia Gorge, that distinction brings crowds. We do our best to avoid crowded hikes, but our visit in May 2014 was on a morning when low clouds covered the upper meadows limiting views of the gorge and the flowers. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/dog-mountain/

Reports of the flower show being near peak and the promise of a sunny day brought us back to Dog Mountain for the views we missed and an additional visit to Augspurger Mountain which we had done on our previous trip. We left extra early arriving at the trailhead just after 6am to find close to a dozen cars already in the parking area. The parking area has recently gone through some changes reducing the number of spots from 200 to 75. For more information check out http://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=23519.

Two trails start from the parking lot, the Dog Mountain and Augspurger Trail, which make an 7 mile loop possible. The Augspurger trail also continues 4.7 miles beyond its junction with the Dog Mountain Trail past the summit of Augspurger Mountain to meadows with views of 3 Washington volcanoes.

We started up hill on the Dog Mountain Trail gaining almost 700′ in the first half mile to a junction in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trailhead

We forked right at the junction following the slightly longer, less difficult, and more scenic trail. After another mile (and another 800′ of elevation gain) we arrived at the lower meadow. The flowers were still in pretty good shape here and the view was better than during our first visit.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain from the lower meadow//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Columbia River from the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Paintbrush, lupine, balsamroot and other flowers in the lower meadow

Wildflowers in the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Wind, Greenleaf and Table Mountains from the lower meadow

The less and more difficult trails rejoined after another half mile back in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trail

Another 550′ climb over the next half mile brought us to the site of a former lookout at the lower end of Dog Mountain’s upper meadow. The balsamroot painted much of the hillside yellow. Other flowers were mised in adding splashes of red, white, and purple to the color palette.
Dog Mountain Trail

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Lakrspur and balsamroot with a little paint

Balsamroot, lupine and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Larkspur, balsamroot, and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

We continued .4 miles from the former lookout site to a signed junction where a .1 mile path led up to the trails high point at the top of the meadow.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Balsamroot on Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain Trail

Junction in the upper meadow

The trail had not been too crowded, but we had already encountered more people in the first three miles than we had on our previous thirty-three miles of trail. It wasn’t the people that chased us from the top of the meadow though, it was the bugs. There was no breeze to keep them down and there were a lot of them including some biting flies. After taking in the view including Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance to the south and Mt. St. Helens to the west we headed back down to the junction.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance form the top of the upper meadow

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens from the top of the upper meadow

Mt. St. Helens

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River from the top of the upper meadow

We continued on the Dog Mountain Trail another 1.1 miles, passing more wildflowers and fewer people, to its junction with the Augspurger Trail.
Paintbrush, buttercup, larkspur, balsamroot and chocolate lily

western stoneseed


Balsamroot, paintbrush, phlox and larkspur

Meadow on Dog Mountain

White capped sparrow on balsamroot

Vanilla leaf and star flowered solomon's seal

Junction with the Augspurger Mt. Trail. (The spelling is wrong on the sign.)

We turned right at the junction and headed for Augspurger Mountain. It was immediately obvious that far fewer hikers used this portion of the trail. Brush crowded the path as it followed a wooded ridge dropping 400′ into a small valley.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

A fairly steep climb on the far side of the valley brought us to a dirt road which we followed uphill to the right. After passing under some powerlines the road reentered the forest. At a sharp right hand turn markers indicated the continuation of the Augspurger Trail.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Another half mile of climbing brought us to the first of several small meadows. This one had wildflowers and views back to Dog Mountain and Mt. Hood and to the west down the Columbia River.
Dog Mountain, Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance from the Augspurger Trail

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and larkspur

Serviceberry, paintbrush and larkspur
Lomatium and paintbrush

For the next 2+ miles the trail alternated between trees and meadows as it followed a ridgeline up Augspurger Mountain. Each meadow seemed to host a different combination of flowers and plants and the sections of forest all had different feels to them.
Augspurger Trail

Dutchman's breech

Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Fairy slippers

Augspurger Trail

Wildflowers along the Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and a beetle


Augspurger Trail


We momentarily lost the trail in the final meadow near the top of the mountain. Between some downed trees and new growth it was hard to tell where the trail was. I thought I had found it leaving from the right side of the meadow but quickly lost an sign of it in the trees. We went back to the meadow and picked up a faint but clear path heading to the left out of the top of the meadow.
Augspurger Trail

We followed this path into the trees. We were passing below the summit of Augspurger Mountain when we spotted a “summit” sign on a tree above us to the right. We headed uphill to tag the summit before continuing.
Summit of Augspurger Mountain

The path then began to lose elevation and entered another long meadow. This meadow provided views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in addition to Mt. St. Helens and also contained a fair amount of glacial lilies.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens

Glacial lilies

Glacial lilies

The one constant in all the meadows we’d been through was the bugs. The trail continued faintly down through the meadow which we could have followed down another couple of tenths of a mile, but we didn’t really want to have to regain any more elevation than we were already going to need to so after a brief rest we began our return trip.
Augspurger Trail

We ran into two other groups of hikers along the Augspurger Trail on the way back to the Dog Mountain Trail junction. There was a good deal of traffic on the final 2.8 mile stretch from the junction down to the trailhead, most of which was headed in our same direction. The parking lot was packed when we arrived back at the trailhead a little after 1pm and people were walking along the highway to cars they had parked along the shoulder. We had managed to get the wildflower and mountain views that had eluded us in 2014 and now we’ll leave Dog Mountain for others to enjoy. After all there are plenty of less popular trails we have yet to explore and even though they may not have the wildflowers to rival Dog they’re all worthy of a visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668107094945

Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail

We had stayed in Central Oregon after visiting the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain on Saturday. Before heading home we took the opportunity to do a pair of short hikes in the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area near Crooked River Ranch. The first of the hikes started at the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.

The falls are only a half mile from the trailhead and can get very busy, but we were there early and had the trail to ourselves. We followed the path down into the Deschutes River Canyon.

Flowers included sand lilies, balsamroot, and thread-leaf phacelia.



Colorful rocks formations lined the canyon walls.




Steelhead Falls is only about 20′ tall but the width and setting of the falls makes it an impressive sight.


Beyond the falls the Deschutes calmed and various ducks and geese were enjoying the morning.



We continued past the falls for .6 miles planning on visiting the Gray Tower, a 70′ rock formation. Our guidebook instructed us to turn right at a dry wash and then “stay right at junctions” up to the tower. We turned at the wash with the Gray Tower visible up the hillside.

We apparently did too good a job at staying right and wound up following a path up a ridge with the wash on our left. We began to suspect that we were too far right when were getting further away from the Gray Tower and there was no sign of the ridge we were on bending back towards it. We spotted a trail on the opposite side of the wash and realized that it was the trail we should be on and headed back down. The detour had not been without its charms though, as it provided a nice view across the wash to the Gray Tower and to Mt. Jefferson (covered in clouds this morning).


We’d also seen some nice wildflowers.

Rough eyelashweed

Desert yellow fleabane
desert yellow fleabane

White-daisy tidytips

Once we had returned to the dry wash we headed up the left-hand side on a horse path keeping the wash on our right while we stayed right at the junctions. This trail did indeed lead us to the tower.

We followed the horse path past the tower veering right heading for the start a .9 mile loop described in our guide book. At some point we lost the trail as it turned uphill and we were once again forced to backtrack. We decided to head cross country to try and pick up the trail, which we managed to do. When we reached a split to the trail on top of the rim we went right to start the loop. There was a small rocky knoll a short distance to the left with some small junipers on it at this junction.

Several deer were watching us as we began the loop.



We passed around a small hill through juniper and sagebrush keeping left at junctions marked by rock cairns.

It was a beautiful sunny day which would have normally meant some nice mountain views but all the Cascade peaks were draped in clouds making for an interesting sight.



Heather spotted a coyote that ran off too quickly for a photo, but several birds stayed put long enough for pictures.



We completed the loop and managed to follow the horse path all the way back down to the river without losing it this time. The sun was now on the river and ducks paddled about as red-winged blackbirds filled the canyon with their songs.





After returning to the trailhead we drove further into Crooked River Ranch to the Scout Camp Trailhead.

This trail descends over 600′ to the Deschutes River and its confluence with Wychus Creek. The path starts out level passing through juniper and sage before dropping down into the canyon.



Turkey vultures soared overhead and occasionally landed on the cliffs.


At the .4 mile mark the trail splits marking the start of a 2 mile loop. We went left following a trail pointer and headed downhill through fields of balsamroot and other wildflowers.






The further into the canyon we got the thicker the balsamroot became.



A couple of different types of lizards were sunning themselves.
Side bloctched lizards


Western fence lizard

After a fairly steep .7 mile descent the trail leveled off passing along a cliff face with the river on the left.

A family of canada geese paddled about on the water.

The cliff face gave way to a hillside of flowers.



we then passed through a grassy area before the trail appeared to end at a rock wall below a rock fin where a fish monitoring station was set up.



We climbed up and over the rocks which brought us to the continuation of the loop. From here we could see the spot on the opposite side of the river where we had eaten lunch during a 2012 hike on the Alder Springs Trail.

The trail then climbed up the canyon switching back once to a view above the rock fin.





We continued to climb passing another set of cliffs with small caves and rocks that appeared ready to come crashing down at any moment.



Some of the brightest paintbrush we’d seen was along the hillside below these cliffs as well as some tiny but spectacular Cusick’s monkey flowers.



We finished the loop and climbed back out of the canyon. As the views opened up we could see that the mountains had finally managed to shed most of their cloud cover.



We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flowers along the Scout Camp Trail and fortunate to have had the Steelhead Falls trail all to ourselves. It was a great end to a weekend of wonderful hikes in Central Oregon. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667267583520