Lower White River Wilderness and Twin Lakes Loop

We took advantage of a favorable weather forecast and ended our “hiking season” with a pair of hikes south of Mt. Hood in two separate wilderness areas. Our first hike was in the Lower White River Wilderness.

Designated a wilderness area in 2009, the 4 square mile Lower White River Wilderness has no official trails. The narrow wilderness SE of Mt. Hood covers a portion of the White River and it’s canyon on either side from Keeps Mill Forest Camp for approximately 7.5 miles. A use trail from the forest camp follows the river a short distance and this was our planned route into the wilderness.
Lower White River Wilderness Sign

Keeps Mill Forest Camp is located at the end of Road 2120 which is accessed from Highway 216. The narrow dirt road is poorly maintained along the final mile and a half making it suitable only for high clearance vehicles. Instead of driving all the way down to the camp we parked at a pullout near the Camas Trail which crosses Road 2120 on it’s way from Camas Prairie to Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Camas Trail sign along Road 2010

We followed the Camas Trail down to the campground. It was still pretty dark and also fairly foggy when we arrived back on Road 2120 near the entrance of Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Keep's Mill Forest Camp

The campground is located near the confluence of Clear Creek and the White River.
Clear Creek
Clear Creek

White River
White River

We found the use trail along the river and followed it for about half a mile where it appeared to become fairly brushy.

Lower White River Wilderness

White River

Lower White River Wilderness

The trail had been traveling between the river and a talus slope where the remains of an old flume could be seen amid the rocks.
Talus slope with the remains of an old flume

Old flume remains in the Lower White River Wilderness

We turned around here having accomplished our goal of hiking into the wilderness and seeing some of the flume remains and headed back to the campground and up the Camas Trail.
Camas Trail

Fog and a little blue sky over the talus slope along the Camas Trail

When we got back to where we’d parked Heather spotted a doe that quickly fled into the forest. The hike had been just under 2 miles with approximately 250′ of elevation gain climbing up the Camas Trail.

We hopped back into the car and headed toward Mt. Hood turning off Highway 26 at the Frog Lake Sno-Park for our next hike.
Frog Lake Sno-Park sign

Our planned hike here was a loop visiting Palmateer Point, the Twin Lakes, Frog Lake Butte, and Frog Lake. We began by heading north from the large parking lot on a short connector trail that brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Frog Lake Sno-Park

We turned right on the PCT at a sign for Barlow Pass.
Trail sign for Barlow Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

After 1.4 miles we arrived a trail junction with the Twin Lakes Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Mt. Hood Wilderness boundary

Turning right on the Twin Lakes Trail would have led past Lower then Upper Twin Lake before returning to the PCT 1.4 miles to the north after traveling a total of 3.1 miles. We had a longer loop planned so we stuck to the PCT and entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Pacific Crest Trail entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness

There were no views along this section of the PCT but it was a pleasant forest walk and we kept busy spotting all the different mushrooms along the trail.
Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Pacific Crest Trail

We passed the other end of the Twin Lakes Trail sticking to the PCT for another 3/4 miles to the Palmateer Trail.
Twin Lakes Trail

Palmeteer Trail

We turned onto the Palmateer Trail and followed it for nearly a mile passing a junction with the Devil’s Half Acre Trail along the way.
Palmateer Trail

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

We forked left at a post after .9 miles.
Spur trail to Palmateer Point

This .3 mile spur trail led up to Palmateer Point.
Heading to Palmateer Point

View along the spur trail to Palmateer Point

We were hoping for a close up view of Mt. Hood but found that a jumble of clouds were preventing that.
Mt. Hood behind clouds from Palamteer Point

We took a break on the point watching a pair of hawks soaring nearby and admiring the golden larches in the valley below.
One of two hawks flying around Palmateer Point

Hawk on Palmateer Point

Larches

Larches

This was our first good look at the larches, the only deciduous conifers, sporting their fall colors.

After getting a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood’s summit we headed back down to continue our loop.
Mt. Hood hiding behind clouds from Palmateer Point

We passed in and out of small patches of fog for the next .6 miles to a junction with a .2 mile tie-trail that would have led to the Twin Lakes Trail.
Sunrays in the Mt. Hood Wilderness

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

This was the route equestrians would need to take, but we stuck to the Palmateer Trail heading for another viewpoint.
Palmateer Trail

Mt. Hood was still mostly hidden when we arrived at the small rocky viewpoint so it was once again the larches that were the highlight.
Mt. Hood from the Palmateer Trail

Larches in the valley below the Palmateer Trail

Larches

We followed the Palmateer Trail to it’s end at the Twin Lakes Trail along Upper Twin Lake.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood was starting to reveal more of itself as the day went on.
Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

We followed trails counter-clockwise around the lake getting an even better view of the mountain’s snowy summit from the lake’s southern end.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

When we arrived back at the Twin Lakes Trail we headed south down to Lower Twin Lake which was .7 miles away.
Trail junction near Upper Twin Lake

The lower lake is just off the Twin Lakes Trail and is accessed from the direction we were coming from by the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail sign near Lower Twin Lake

Lower Twin Lake

Again we did a counter-clockwise loop around the lake.
Lower Twin Lake

The quickest way back to the sno-park would have been to return to the Twin Lakes Trail and follow it back to the Pacific Crest Trail for a 9.1 mile loop (not counting the loops around the lakes). By being willing to do an extra 4 miles though we could visit one more viewpoint and another lake by taking the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail led 1.3 miles to a junction on a saddle with the Frog Lake Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we turned uphill toward Frog Lake Butte climbing steeply for .7 miles to the summit.
Cell tower on Frog Lake Butte

The final portion of the trail followed Frog Lake Butte Road past a communications tower to a viewpoint where Mt. Hood was now mostly visible.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

We stayed at the viewpoint for awhile watching as the clouds slowly passed by.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

When we were satisfied that we’d gotten about as good a view as we were going to get we headed back down to the Frog Lake Trail and continued downhill on it.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail crossed Frog Lake Butte Road before entering what appeared to be an old clear cut where we had a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

After 1.3 miles we arrived at the Frog Lake Campground where we detoured briefly to get a look at Frog Lake.
Frog Lake

Frog Lake

A .7 mile walk along Frog Lake Butte Road brought us back to the sno-park and our waiting car.
Frog Lake Butte Road

The loop came to 14.1 miles which was nicely broken up into shorter sections by the various sights and trail junctions. It was a very enjoyable hike on a great weather day and a perfect end to our 2016 hiking season. We’ll try and get out on a trail at least once a month until next year’s season starts. For now – Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672250482753

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Bald Hill & McCulloch Peak

Our latest outing took us to the Bald Hill Natural area and the McDonald Dunn Forest. (Hike #48 in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” 4th edition.) This pair of hikes near Corvallis, OR was a recent substitution in our hiking schedule. We were looking for a hike closer to home for the day after attending the homecoming game at my alma mater – Western Oregon University (It was Western Oregon State College back in my day) with my college roommate and his family. My roommate Tim and his wife Erin had already been dating when Heather and I began seeing each other so the four of us had spent quite a bit of time together in those days. We spent all day Saturday reminiscing starting with an alumni breakfast and ending with dinner at Mendi’s Pizza.

We were able to sleep in a little on the day of the hike since the drive was just under an hour and it hadn’t been getting light out until almost 7:30am. We took Highway 99W to Corvallis then turned right (west) onto NW Walnut Blvd for 4.3 miles to NW Oak Creek Drive where we once again turned right. Both of the days trailheads were located along this road and we hadn’t yet decided which we were going to start with. We had been waiting to see what the weather was like. It had been extremely foggy the prior morning and we didn’t want to head up Bald Hill (the shorter of the two hikes) if there was no visibility because the guidebook indicated that it had the better views. The forecast for the day called for patchy morning fog and a 20% chance of showers before 11am, but as we neared the Bald Hill Natural Area .8 miles along NW Oak Creek Dr. there was no fog just some higher clouds so we pulled into the already busy parking lot.

The majority of cars seemed to belong to runners and the rest dog owners. The area offers numerous trails, some paved and some not, as well as an off leash dog area. It reminded us a bit of Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem except there were hills instead of a river.

We set off from the parking area crossing Oak Creek on a footbridge and heading straight out a wide paved path.
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As the path began to curve through the wetlands Bald Hill came into view.
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The route suggested by Sullivan turns right off the paved path after a half mile passing an old barn on the right. We wound up turning right one path too soon though and found ourselves passing through a field with the barn up on a hill to our left.
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We followed a faint path up through the field to the barn where we picked up the correct trail.
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With the aid of trail maps at junctions we were able to stay on Sullivan’s route climbing .8 miles to the summit of Bald Hill.
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For a cloudy day the view was very nice. The first of two benches on the hill overlooked the southern end of Corvallis where trees blazed with fall colors amid the houses.
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Various fruit trees lined the trail at the summit drawing birds to the area.
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The second bench looked to the SW towards Mary’s Peak which was mostly hidden by clouds.
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After passing the second bench we continued on our loop 1.9 miles passing farmland and more birds on the way back to the parking lot.
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Northern Flicker
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The loop was 3.3 miles which was a nice warm up for our next stop which was to be a 9.5 mile loop in the McDonald Dunn Forest with a stop atop 2154′ McCulloch Peak. From the Bald Hill parking lot we continued west on NW Oak Creek Drive following it to the right at a fork after 1.1 miles and continuing to a parking area at the roads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gated end. The McDonald-Dunn Research Forest consists of approximately 11,250 acres largely used by Oregon State University for instruction and research. Various trails and roads are open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians although occasional closures do occur due to forestry activities. Despite having checked the forest website the night before we noticed a sign at the trailhead stating that our planned return route (Road 770) was currently closed due to a timber harvest. The route up to McCulloch Peak was open though and there appeared to be a couple of other ways to return using different roads and/or trails so we sallied forth.
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We followed Patterson Road from the gate just over half a mile to a junction with road 6020.
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Near the junction was the beginning of the Extendo Trail.
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The Extendo Trail is open to Bikes, horses, and hikers from April through October and then to hikers only from November through March. We followed this trail across Oak Creek and then uphill for almost 1.5 miles. Fall was on full display in the forest along the trial with colorful leaves and plenty of mushrooms to be seen.
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Some of that fall color was attributable to poison oak which we were keeping a close eye out for.
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The Extendo Trail ended at a 4-way junction. To the left was the Uproute Trail which headed back downhill to Road 6020. An unofficial (illegal) path continued straight uphill and to the right was gravel Road 680 and a pointer for McCulloch Peak.
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We followed road 680 uphill to a clearcut saddle with an interpretive sign and a bit of a view to the NW.
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Beyond the saddle Road 680 came to an end at Road 700 where we followed another pointer for McCulloch Peak.
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Just before reaching the junction with Road 770 we got a clear look at our destination, McCulloch Peak.
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We passed closed road 770 1.1 miles from the Extendo Trail.
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We passed several roads sticking to Road 700 until we reached Road 790 which was also signed Marvin L. Rowley Road (named after the former Forest Manager).
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We reached the summit a little over a mile from Road 770 where a small bench awaited.
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Although it wasn’t wide, the view was nice enough.
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After a brief break we headed back downhill. Since our planned return route was closed we decided to look at the map and see what other options we had. First we turned left when we got back to Road 700 following it for a quarter mile to Road 740 which looped around a small knoll before rejoining Road 700 after another quarter mile. Near the end of Road 740 we passed a stump covered with Chicken of the Woods mushrooms.
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We then retraced our path down Road 700 to Road 680. At the clearcut viewpoint on Road 680 we spotted a faint Mt. Jefferson against the clouds.
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We had a choice when we reached the junction with the Extendo and Uproute Trails. We could return on either of those trails or stay on Road 680 and follow it down to Patterson Road. We decided on following the road which swung out to the west for .6 miles to Patterson Road just over a mile from where we had turned off it earlier to take to Extendo Trail uphill. It was a pleasant walk through the woods back to the trailhead.
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The hike wound up being a little over 9 miles giving us a total of 12.4 miles for the day. The trails (and roads) in both of the areas were in excellent shape and the number of options and year round accessibility makes them nice options anytime of the year. They will be on our list of nearby alternatives when we want to get outside but don’t want (or can’t get) too far from home.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674433573180

Nesmith Point

With the remnants of Typhoon Songda sending a series of storms over the Pacific Northwest we were wondering what kind of conditions we’d be hiking in as we headed out to the Columbia Gorge for our 56th hike of 2016. The storms had not lived up to the dire predictions we had been hearing but there had been a good amount of rain and some stronger than normal winds over the previous couple of days.

Our goal for this hike was Nesmith Point, a 3800′ climb from John B. Yeon State Park.
Nesmith Point Trailhead

We had started at this same trailhead in March 2015 when we visited Elowah and Wahclella Falls. The trail set off uphill from the parking area where it promptly forks.
Trail sign for Nesmith Point

We hadn’t originally been planning on revisiting any of the waterfalls from our previous visit, but the recent rainfall piqued our interest enough that we decided to hike the .7 miles to Elowah Falls before heading up to Nesmith Point. There was definitely a lot more water pouring over the basalt now.
Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls

One of the great things about Elowah Falls is that the Gorge Trail crosses McCord Creek on a footbridge very close to the waterfall’s splash pool. Crossing it was literally a blast as wind and water sprayed out from the thundering waterfall.
Elowah Falls

After crossing the bridge we turned right back around and headed back across. We were sufficiently wet at that point and ready to begin the day’s big climb. When we got back to the fork in the trail near the trailhead we stayed on the Gorge Trail following the pointer for Nesmith Point. The Gorge Trail led uphill at a reasonable grade crossing an unnamed creek that was also swollen with rain water.
Creek crossing

Our maps showed the Nesmith Trail splitting off from the Gorge Trail after approximately .9 miles at a swtichback along another creek. We passed the switchback without realizing it because there was no sign of the Gorge Trail continuing from it across the creek. It turns out a 2.4 mile section of that trail is missing from the creek to Ainsworth Campground. We were now climbing in earnest and wondering when the .9 mile section was going to end. I eventually took a peak at the Garmin which is when I discovered that we had already passed the switchback where we should have split from the Gorge Trail. Heather was quite relieved when I informed her that we were now well into the 2.4 mile climb from the phantom trail split to a ridge top saddle. This portion of the Nesmith Trail was forced to climb steeply due to the narrowness of the valley we were heading up. Several sets of switchbacks alternated sides of the valley allowing views from different angles.
Nesmith Point Trail

Fall colors and seasonal waterfalls along the Nesmith Point Trail

Fall colors along the Nesmith Point Trail

View from the Nesmith Point Trail

Occasional views across the Columbia River included Beacon Rock along with Hamilton and Table Mountains.
Beacon Rock from the Nesmith Point Trail

Hamilton and Table Mountains from the Nesmith Point Trail

The trail showed little sign of damage from the storms as we slowly made our way up to the saddle where a trail sign awaiting announcing it was only 1.6 more miles to Nesmith Point.
Nesmith Point Trail

At the saddle we could see across the McCord Creek valley to the next ridge but not beyond.
View from the Nesmith Point Trail

From the saddle the trail wrapped around the SE side of a ridge extending to the NE from Nesmith Point. One of the rewards of climbing up out of the Gorge is getting to experience the change in the forests. At the lower elevations along the Gorge the forest typically looks something like this:
Forest along the Gorge Trail

Gorge Trail

On top of the basalt plateau the forest is noticeably different.
Nesmith Point Trail

Nesmith Point Trail

The stark contrast makes it hard to believe that these ecosystems are so close to one another as they feel like different worlds. We were now climbing at a much more reasonable grade. Approximately 1 1/4 mile from the saddle the trail curved sharply to the right at a pointer for Nesmith Point.
Nesmith Point Trail

Trail sign for Nesmith Point

Less than a quarter mile from the sharp turn we arrived at the now closed road that led to the former lookout tower on Nesmith Point.
Trail junction near Nesmith Point

Nesmith Point Trail

We followed the old road uphill .3 miles to the now overgrown site of the old fire lookout.
Anchor for the former lookout tower on the rocks

Just before reaching the lookout site there was a break in the trees that offered a bit of a view across the Columbia River Gorge.
View from Nesmith Point

Columbia River from Nesmith Point

Columbia River from Nesmith Point

To get a better view (and on a clear day a view of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams) we continued on the trail past the old lookout site. This path led downhill before splitting. We took the right had fork to begin with which led us down to a cliff top viewpoint that was a little sketchy on such a damp day. The cloudy conditions weren’t allowing for any better view than what we’d seen at the viewpoint before the lookout site either, so we backtracked to the split and took the left hand fork. This fork led to a viewpoint across from where we had just been. Again the clouds effectively canceled the views but it was fun to watch them as they swirled below.
View from Nesmith Point

View form Nesmith Point

We decided to take a break there and eat some food. It was very peaceful being that far above the noise of the cars on I-84 and the trains chugging through the gorge. I found myself thinking I could spend quite a while just watching everything pass by below. Just a couple of minutes later our hands were becoming numb and we were ready to get moving again. Between the damp conditions and the breeze on the plateau our core temperatures had fallen and now we were cold. So much for the peaceful bliss 🙂 We retraced our steps making our way back downhill past several hikers and a number of beetles.
Beatle on the Gorge Trail

At the switchback where we had expected the Gorge Trail to split off we looked for any signs of the other trail. The only thing we could see was a wooden post surrounded by rocks at the switchback but there was nothing on the other side of the creek to even hint at where the Gorge Trail had been. We felt better about having missed that spot now that we knew there was really nothing there that we should have seen. We returned to the now full trailhead having finished our 56th hike of the year equaling our total from last year. Only 4 hikes remained on our 2016 schedule and we wondered what would be in store for us on those. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157675210106016

Scott Mountain Loop Day 2 – Mt. Washington Wilderness

We had set our alarms for 5:30am hoping to get a jump on the day and be ready to start hiking as soon as there was enough light. The forecast had called for increasing chances of rain as the day went on and we had watched an increase number of clouds fill the sky the night before including some low clouds descending to the tree tops around the Tenas Lakes. When we stuck our heads out of the tent we were pleasantly surprised to see a sky filled with stars overhead. We turned our MPOWERED Luci inflatable solar lantern on and began packing up. As we cooked breakfast and finished packing the sky filled with color.
Sunrise from our campsite

Sunrise from our campsite with North Sister peaking through the trees

Sunrise from the little lake near our campsite

Sunrise from the little lake near our campsite

We began hiking shortly after 7am returning to the Benson Trail where we headed north .2 miles to the Scott Mountain Trail. Scott Mountain was already catching the morning sunlight as we approached.
Scott Mountain

We momentarily considered heading back up to the summit, but neither of us really felt like hauling our full backpacks up the steep trail. We settled for the few views along the trail below Scott Mountain where the Three Sisters appeared cloud free through the trees.
North Sister
North Sister

Middle Sister
Middle Sister

Middle Sister

After a mile on the Scott Mountain Trail we took the Scotty Way Trail and began descending toward the Hand Lake Trail.
Scotty Way Trail junction with the Scott Mountain Trail

Scotty Way Trail

We followed this trail approximately 1.7 miles to its end at the Hand Lake Trail where we turned left.
Hand Lake Trail junction with the Scotty Way Trail

As usual I had checked the Forest Service websites for the trails that we would be using a couple of days before our trip to make sure there were no closures or alerts we needed to be aware of. The Willamette National Forest page for the Hand Lake Trail listed the current conditions for the Hand Lake Trail as ” open and cleared” as of 7/22/2016.
What part of this picture is “cleared”?
Blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

For the next two and a half miles the trail (when there was one) passed through burnt forest with faint tread and a good deal of blowdown. For awhile we were able to follow tracks left by a horse; that helped keep us on the right course.
Hand Lake Trail

More blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

When we weren’t searching for the trail there were some decent views.
Black Crater and North & Middle Sister
Black Crater and the North & Middle Sisters from the Hand Lake Trail

Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington from the Hand Lake Trail

Mt. Washington from the Hand Lake Trail

After approximately 1.75 miles we lost the hoof prints and were forced to make a wide arc to the south away from where the map showed the trail should have been. We were coming up on a steep drop down into a basin where the map showed the trail descending in a series of six switchbacks so using the Garmin we worked our way back toward the location where the switchbacks began on the map.
Looking west from the Hand Lake Trail

With no obvious trail visible we searched around a bit and found what may have been part of the original trail but now it appeared to be a simple game trail from the amount of deer and elk sign we were seeing.
Following a game trail down into a basin

In any event it was the only trail in sight so we followed it steeply downhill reaching the basin where we were able to relocate the actual trail near an unnamed lake.
Unnamed lake along the Hand Lake Trail

Unnamed lake along the Hand Lake Trail

After another quarter mile of faint trail and blowdown we entered unburnt forest on a much clearer trail.
Hand Lake Trail

Hand Lake Trail

A mile and a half on this nicer trail brought us back to the junction with the Deer Butte Trail we had passed the day before.
Hand Lake Trail junction with the Deer Butte Trail

We followed the Deer Butte Trail just over two and a quarter miles back to the Robinson Lake Trailhead ending our final backpacking trip of the year.
Deer Butte Trail

The distance from Tenas Lakes back to the Robinson Lake Trailhead came to 8.9 miles according to the GPS which was almost a mile further than we had expected, but we hadn’t planned on wandering back and forth trying to keep on the Hand Lake Trail. Had we known what a mess that 2.5 mile section was we wouldn’t have even tried it, but we made it and it was another chance to put our navigational skills to the test. Happy (blowdown free) Trails!

Flickr (both days): https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674905089576

Scott Mountain Loop Day 1 – Mt. Washington Wilderness

With our hiking season starting to wind down we took advantage of a decent weather forecast for one final overnight trip. Our plan was to begin at the Robinson Lake Trailhead and take the Deer Butte Trail to the Benson Trail then follow that trail up into the Mt. Washington Wilderness where we would set up camp in the Tenas Lakes area. After setting up camp we’d visit the summit of Scott Mountain and Benson Lake to fill out the afternoon/evening. This would be our third attempt at getting a decent view on Scott Mountain. We never made it to Scott Mountain on our first attempt in 2012 due to not being prepared for the amount of snow covering the trail, and although we reached the summit on our second attempt in October 2014 we found ourselves in a cloud with no views whatsoever.

We began both of our previous visits to the area from the Benson/Tenas Trailhead near Scott Lake off of the McKenzie Highway (242). In order to do something a little different and see some new lakes we started on the other side of the wilderness at the Robinson Lake Trailhead. This trailhead is located at the end of Robinson Lake Road (2664) off of Highway 126 4.7 miles south of the Clear Lake Resort.

Robinson Lake Trailhead

The short half mile hike to Robinson Lake is included in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades guide books as a non-featured hike in the more hikes section in the back of the books. The hike is also included in another of our guide books, Bend, Overall 2nd Edition (Hiking and Exploring Central Oregon)written by Scott Cook. The Robinson Lake Trail actually begins .4 miles from the trailhead where it splits from the Deer Butte Trail which is the trail that leaves from the trailhead.

Deer Butte Trail junction with the Robinson Lake Trail

The Robinson Lake Trail leads a tenth of a mile to a campsite near the little lake.

Robinson Lake

Robinson Lake

After visiting Robinson Lake we returned to the Deer Butte Trail and continued another 1.2 forested miles to an unsigned junction with an unofficial trail to Kuitan Lake.

Deer Butte Trail

Deer Butte Trail

Unofficial trail to Kuitan Lake to the left:

Side trail off of the Deer Butte Trail to Kuitan Lake

Kuitan Lake

Kuitan Lake

From Kuitan Lake we followed the Deer Butte Trail another .8 miles to a junction with the Hand Lake Trail.

Deer Butte Trail junction with the Hand Lake Trail (our return route)

Originally we were going to take this trail and do our loop around Scott Mountain clockwise but after doing some distance calculations it appeared that doing the loop counter-clockwise would leave us with a slightly shorter hike out on the second day so we stuck to the Deer Butte Trail and continued south skirting the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

Deer Butte Trail

Mt. Washington Wilderness boundary

Just under 1.5 miles from the Hand Lake Trail junction the Deer Butte Trail passed a small unnamed lake.

Deer Butte Trail

Unnamed lake along the Deer Butte Trail

Unnamed lake along the Deer Butte Trail

Another 2.5 fairly level miles beyond the unnamed lake we a arrived at a 4-way junction with the Benson Trail.

Benson Trail junction with the Deer Butte Trail

Here we turned left and began climbing into the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

Benson Trail

This section of the Benson Trail was in pretty good shape but it was a bit overgrown and the recent wet weather made it a wet 2.6 mile, 1200′ climb to our next junction. The forest was nice but there were no views or wow scenery along the way, but we did startle a grouse out of the underbrush.

Grouse

When we arrived at the junction with the Scott Mountain Trail we stayed on the Benson Trail and headed for the Tenas Lakes area.

Benson Trail junction with the Scott Mountain Trail

The Tenas Lakes area is home to a number of lakes and smaller ponds filling glacier carved bowls. We headed cross country past one of the smaller lakes/ponds to find a campsite near the largest of the Tenas Lakes.

One of the many bodies of water in the Tenas Lakes area

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

We didn’t see any other tents set up anywhere in the area and chose a spot following Leave No Trace Principles.

Our initial campsite

After setting up camp we had a choice between heading north to Scott Mountain or south to Benson Lake. We had decided to base the timing of our visit to Scott Mountain on the weather conditions. The sky seemed fairly clear so we decided to go to Scott Mountain first and then to Benson Lake later in the day in case more clouds moved in. We took the Tenas Lakes Trail .1 miles from the largest lake to the Benson Trail and turned left for .2 more miles back to the Scott Mountain Trail junction.

Tenas Lakes Trail junction with the Benson Trail

We followed the Scott Mountain trail for a mile to yet another trail junction getting a nice view of the cloud free summit along the way.

Scott Mountain

Scott Mountain Trail junction with the Scotty Way Trail

We would be taking the Scotty Way Trail the next day on our hike out, but for now we stuck to the Scott Mountain Trail and headed up toward the summit. Heather had remembered that .7 mile climb to the summit was on the steeper side, but I hadn’t. She had remembered it correctly (no surprise there). On the way up we passed some small patches of snow presumably left over from the week before when we had been hiking in snow on Black Crater.

Snow along the Scott Mountain Trail

Near the summit the trail began passing through open meadows where the snow gave way to butterflies and few left over flowers.

Scott Mountain Trail

Fritillary butterfly on some leftover aster

As the trail wound its way up to the former lookout site atop the mountain The Husband come into view.

The Husband from the Scott Mountain Trail

The Husband

Just a bit further the snow covered lower portions of the Three Sisters joined the view.

The Three Sisters and The Husband

At the summit the view to the north opened up.

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater

It was interesting watching the clouds. There were two lines of clouds that seemed to be headed for one another in the gap between Mt. Washington to the north and the Three Sisters to the south. We had brought our Alite Mayfly chairs with us and set them up on the summit watching the clouds move, yet not appear to get anywhere. Occasionally more of a mountain would appear but every time we thought we might get a clear view of one of the major cascade peaks more clouds would arrive.
Double, Belknap, Little Belknap, and Black Craters

Double Craters, Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater, and Black Crater

Mt. Jefferson and the lower portion of Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson and the lower portion of Three Fingered Jack beyond Hayrick Butte

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters

View from the summit of Scott Mountain

The clearest major cascade peak was actually the furthest away – Diamond Peak to the south.

Diamond Peak

Despite the pesky clouds the view was infinitely better than it had been in 2014.

No view from Scott Mountain

After making good use of our chairs we packed them up and headed back to our campsite where we grabbed a couple of extra clothing items and then began exploring the Tenas Lakes area passing a half dozen lakes and ponds.

Pond near the Tenas Lakes

North Sister beyond a Tenas Lake

Scott Mountain from one of the Tenas Lakes

One of the Tenas Lakes

Looking south from the Tenas Lakes area

Pond/lakelet in the Tenas Lakes area

One of the lakes in the Tenas Lakes area

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

We had seen a number of empty campsites as we looped around, but when we arrived back at the Tenas Lakes Trail we noticed that a small group of people were setting up tents along the big lake not 20 yards from our site. We prefer to have as much privacy as possible when we’re out, but more disappointing was they were setting up right between our site and its view of the lake. We discussed whether or not to move our campsite as we returned to the Benson Trail and headed toward Benson Lake.

It was just under a mile from the Tenas Lakes Trail to Benson Lake. We hoped to be able to hike around the lake, something we had not tried to do on either of our previous visits. We had followed a fisherman’s path a short distance along the southern end of the lake and seen people camped on the far side in 2014 so we knew that we should at least be able to get part way around the west side of the lake. The issue with going all the way around appeared to be a rocky outcrop jutting out into the water on the NW side.

Benson Lake

We started around the lake clockwise crossing the dry outlet creek then climbing up onto glacially scarred rocks with a nice view down to the lake.

Scott Mountain from Benson Lake

Benson Lake

We climbed up to the top of the rocks which provided some great views but not a path around the lake.
Scott Mountain

Scott Mountain from the rocks above Benson Lake<

The Three Sisters and The Husband

View from the rocks above Benson Lake

North Sister

North Sister

Middle Sister

Middle Sister

South Sister

South Sister

Mt. Washington, Belknap and Little Belknap Craters

Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater from the rocks above Benson Lake

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

Heather had seen another possible route as we were heading up the rocks so we backtracked a bit and found the trail she’d seen which did indeed lead us further around the lake.

Benson Lake

The trail petered out at a rock slide near the outcrop that we had seen from the far side of the lake. We rock hopped across the slide then picked up a faint trail before coming to a very short but steep section where we were forced to scramble along a rock face. We both wondered if it would have been better to have tried to get up on top of the outcrop which it turns out is a sacred prayer site for Native Americans. Statesman Journal article

On the other side of the outcrop we picked up the user trail again and followed it back to complete our loop.

Benson Lake

We returned to camp having decided that we would indeed change our campsite. We had our pick since there still wasn’t anyone else camped in the area save us and the group that had set up next door. We chose a spot about 100 yards away near a smaller lake. We were able to carry our tent there without having to take it down making the move pretty simple.

IMG_7262

Huckleberry leaves near the small lake

We ate dinner by the lake, went to one of the larger lakes to pump water, and watched the sunset before turning in for the night.

Sunset from the little lake

With all the side trips and exploring our distance for the day wound up being a little over 18 miles which was more than planned but we’d gotten to see a lot and finally gotten some views from Scott Mountain. Happy Trails!

Flickr (both days): https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674905089576

Black Crater

What a difference a week can make this time of year. Our previous hike had been up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood on a beautiful (albeit chilly) day with mountain views in every direction. One week later we found ourselves on a snow covered trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness while hiking to the 7251′ summit of Black Crater.

We were actually in Central Oregon to celebrate our Son’s 21st birthday, but had wanted to fit a hike in as well. As it turned out Dominique really wanted to go on a hike with us which was nice because we hadn’t gotten to hike with him since August 1st, 2015 when we visited Salishan Spit prior to our annual family reunion.

We chose Black Crater due to it’s relatively short distance (a little over 7 mile round trip) and proximity to my parents house. The forecast was for a chance of snow showers which had evidently started the night before because the top portion of Black Crater was white as we headed toward Sisters, OR that morning. The trailhead is located near milepost 80 along the McKenzie Highway 242 just beyond the signed Windy Viewpoint coming from Sisters.
Black Crater Trailhead

A light rain was falling at the trailhead but not enough to make us put on any rain gear. The trail almost immediately entered the Three Sisters Wilderness and began the steady 2500′ climb to the summit.
Black Crater Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

On a clearer day Mt. Washington would have been visible beyond a lava flow at a viewpoint after .3 miles but the clouds were staying low to the NW so we enjoyed the forest scenery instead.
Black Crater Trail

The light rain had quickly turned to a light snow and as we gained elevation we began to see more and more of it along the trail.
Black Crater Trail

Snow along the Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Snow along the Black Crater Trail

One of the nice things about Central Oregon snow is that it is rarely very wet and this was typical Central Oregon snow. The dry snow on the trail squeaked beneath our feet and the flakes falling on our clothing didn’t cause them to feel damp. We were the first hikers on the trail since the snowfall but we weren’t the first to have used the trail.
Grouse
Grouse tracks

Deer
Deer tracks on the Black Crater Trail

Cougar or bobcat
Cougar or bobcat prints on the Black Crater Trail

After 2 miles of climbing the trail traversed a glacially carved valley with some open meadows.
Black Crater Trail

View along the Black Crater Trail

We were now winding around the east side of Black Crater where the clouds were not blocking all the views.
View along the Black Crater Trail

Gray Butte

Black Butte from the Black Crater Trail

After .7 miles we arrived at the far side of the valley and turned uphill on a series of switchbacks toward the cinder cone’s summit.
View along the Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Shortly before reaching the summit the trail crossed a barren plateau where we found ourselves in the middle of the clouds.
Black Crater Trail

Heather and Dominique crossing the plateau.
Black Crater Trail

The wind was really blowing as we explored the summit’s rocky crag.
Summit of Black Crater

Remnants remained where a former lookout tower sat perched on the rocks.
Black Crater summit

Frozen rocks at the summit of Black Crater

Remanants of the lookout tower on Black Crater

With the wind blowing and snow falling it didn’t take long to start feeling like we might wind up looking like the nearby whitebark pines.
Frozen whitebark pines on Black Crater

We headed back across the plateau and met the first of a half dozen or so hikers on their way up the trail. We saw them all before we’d finished coming down the switchbacks and then never saw another hiker until we were back at the trailhead. The snow continued to fall most of the way back down but it was not accumulating and much of the snow that had been along the lower portions of the trail was gone by the time we passed again.
Snow falling in the Three Sisters Wilderness

We were on our way back to my parent’s house shortly after 11am where Dad had pancakes, bacon, and eggs waiting. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674602749496