Throwback Thursday – Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

This week were covering a 8/14/2011 visit to Phantom Bridge and Opal Lake located at the southern end of the Opal Creek Wilderness. Our main focus on this hike was to finally make it to Phantom Bridge. We had tried twice before having failed first in 2010 to find an alternate trailhead due to washouts along the roads to the trailhead we would use on this hike. A month prior to this hike we attempted to come from the west along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail, a trip that will be covered in a later throwback post.

The third time was the charm though as Road 2207 had been reopened and we were able to drive from Detroit, OR to the French Creek Ridge Trailhead.
French Creek Ridge Trailhead

The French Creek Trail extended to both the east and west from the trailhead. Phantom Bridge lay to the west so we crossed Road 2207 and picked up the trail at a downed trail sign.
French Creek Ridge Trail sign

We followed the trail for 1.3 miles to small forest Cedar Lake passing Dog Tooth Rock and views of Opal Lake and the Opal Creek Wilderness.
Dog Tooth Rock

View from the French Creek Ridge Trail

Opal Lake

Cedar Lake

Near Cedar Lake a connector trail from Road 2207 near Opal Lake was marked by a trail sign.
Trail sign for Opal Lake

We decided that on the way back we’d take that trail down to visit Opal Lake before heading back to our car. For now though we continued west on what had become the Elkhorn Ridge Trail.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

We came to a second possible trailhead .7 miles from Cedar Lake on Road 2223. This trailhead just a quarter mile from Phantom Bridge the road has a reputation for being a nasty drive so the 2 mile hike from the French Creek Ridge Trailhead was preferable to us. Along this stretch wildflowers lined the trail and views extended from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and The Three Sisters

Phantom Bride spanned a 50′ wide chasm to the right (north) of the trail.
Phantom Bridge

A short side path led out to the rock arch (on the right hand side in the photo below).
Phantom Bridge

I walked out onto the arch and took a picture looking back toward the side path.
Phantom Bridge

After admiring this geologic feature we returned to Cedar Lake and headed steeply downhill toward Road 2207 at the trail sign we’d passed earlier. The steep trail was rather brushy and we decided not to return up it after visiting Opal Lake opting instead to walk Road 2207 up to the trailhead. From the road Phantom Bridge was visible high up on the hillside.
Phantom Bridge form road 2207 near Opal Lake

Phantom Bridge

Blank signboards marked the half mile trail down to Opal Lake.
Opal Lake Trail

The trail was basically a runoff stream bed which made it rather rocky and uneven.
Opal Lake Trail

Opal Lake Trail

The brush rimmed lake was very pretty and it teemed with activity.
Opal Lake

Opal Lake

Swallowtail butterfly on a bog orchid

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Dragonfly

Rough skinned newt in Opal Lake

After watching the butterflies, dragonflies and newts at the lake we returned to the road and followed it uphill to our waiting car. It was a fairly steep walk but not as steep as it would have been going back up to Cedar Lake and the road was lined with wildflowers which made it a little nicer than some road walks.
Paintbrush and penstemon

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

Advertisements

Throwback Thursday – Alder Springs

This week we’re going to throwback to a hike that had a profound impact on how we hike. In 2011 the snow melt was unusually late and wound up impacting us on our vacation in Central Oregon during the first week of August. On 8/3/2011 we had planned on hiking the Benson Lake Loop. We took the McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) from Sisters and headed for the trailhead.  It was a beautiful morning and we stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory to take in the spectacular views.

Dee Wright Observatory

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Black Butte

Black Butte

Black Crater

Black Crater

North & Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister with the Little Brother

We continued on to the trailhead near Scott Lake and set off on the Benson Lake Trail.

Benson Lake Trailhead

In the mile and a half to Benson Lake we encountered a few snow patches and lots of mosquitoes.
Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

From Benson Lake we could see our next planned stop,Scott Mountain which appeared relatively snow free.

Benson Lake

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly beyond Benson Lake as the mosquitoes were thick and relentless and the trail was covered in snow.

Snowmelt pond near Benson Lake

Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

We were still quite inexperienced hikers with raw map skills, no GPS, and we hadn’t learned to look for blazes yet so we were relegated to following a lone set of footprints which worked until they disappeared. While we struggled to locate the trail Heather had a mosquito fly directly into her eye where it stuck. It remains the most disgusting hiking moment ever for us.

After extracting the kamikaze mosquito we surrendered and turned back while we knew we could still find the trail back.

We had only hiked around 4 miles by the time we were driving back toward Sisters and began looking for another hike that we might be able to do. We landed on the Alder Springs trail which would be snow free being in the high desert and at an elevation of only 2600′. Even better the trailhead was less than 20 miles from Sisters.

From the trailhead parking area Mt. Washington and the North Sister were visible. It was odd to think we’d just been forced by snow to turn back from a hike on the other side of those two mountains and now we were standing amid the sagebrush and juniper in the high desert. Not only was it a drastic change in scenery but it was also a lot warmer.

Alder Springs Trailhead

Mt. Washington

Middle and North Sister

The view here also included a look down the Wychus Creek Canyon which is where the trail would be leading us.

Wychus Creek Canyon

The Alder Springs Trail descended .2 miles to a fork where the Old Bridge Trail split to the left.

Old Bridge Trail sign

We took this .4 mile path down to the site of a former bridge and then down to the bank of Wychus Creek.

Site of a former bridge over Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Wychus Creek

We then returned to the Alder Springs Trail and followed it 1.2 miles to Alder Springs. This section of trail provided some nice views of the canyon before descending to the creek.

Wychus Creek Canyon

Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek Canyon

Rock formations along the Whychus Creek Canyon

A short narrow slot in the canyon wall was a neat little detour along the way.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Dry waterfall

The scenery became a little greener as the trail dropped to creek level and neared Alder Springs.

Alder Springs Trail

Alder Springs Trail

Interpretive sign at Alder Springs

We faced a choice here, turn back or ford the creek and continue a little over a mile and a half to the Deschutes River at its confluence with Wychus Creek. It was too nice a day and the scenery was too good to turn back so we forded the shin deep creek. Downstream the creek seemed to flow right into the canyon wall.

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Springs bubbled up in several spots joining the waters of Wychus Creek along the far bank.

Alder Springs

Alder Springs

Beyond the springs the trail stuck fairly close to the creek as it met the canyon wall and turned north.

Whychus Creek

Soon we were once again traversing the hillside a bit above the creek due to the thick vegetation along the creeks banks.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Whychus Creek

At one point the trail split with the right hand fork dropping down near to the creek in a thistle filled meadow. We took this path thinking it would be fun to be in the thistle and closer to the creek but as we made our way into the meadow the a distinctive sound of a rattle rose up.

Thistle meadow along the Alder Springs Trail

We slowed up and realized that there were at least two maybe three alarms being raised from different sides. We proceeded slowly making plenty of noise ourselves keeping our trekking poles ahead to give any snakes plenty of time to leave the area. We never saw any but they made plenty of noise. On the way back we skipped the meadow and stayed on the path that passed higher up the hillside.

We continued on, now on high alert, to the confluence of the river and creek. On the far side of the water rose a spectacular striped rock fin.

Rock fin near the Wychus Creek and Deschutes River confluence

Rock fin

A sign on a ponderosa announced the end of the maintained trail.

End of the Alder Springs Trail

A rock ledge along the Deschutes River provided a perfect lunch spot across from the fin where we could watch the river as it headed further down the canyon.

Deschutes River

Deschutes River

Rock fin from the Deschutes River

Having arrived at this spot from the Alder Springs Trailhead gave this spot a real feeling of remoteness. The fact that we hadn’t seen any other hikers since the parking area and having to ford the creek added to the sensation of solitude. In actuality the homes of Crooked River Ranch were not far away on the other side of the river and the Scout Camp Trail loops around the fin that seems so remote.

The Alder Springs Hike was a little over 6 miles round trip with about 650′ of elevation gain.

The experience at Benson Lake was a key motivating factor in our decision to make getting a GPS unit before the 2012 hiking season a top priority. It also reminded us that we needed to improve our map and navigational skills which we began to focus more on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Benson Lake & Alder Springs

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Thielsen

For this week’s throwback we’re going back to September 22, 2012 for our visit to Mt. Thielsen. When we had summited Mt. Bailey a little over a month before when we had been on the opposite side of Diamond Lake. These two mountains couldn’t look much different. The summit of Mt. Bailey was a walk up, albeit a steep one while the pointy summit of Mt. Thielsen is only accessible via a final 80′ vertical class 4 scramble. We weren’t planning on even attempting the summit, we just wanted to go as far as possible which would be a higher elevation than we had been at on Mt. Bailey.

We parked at the Mt. Thielsen Trailhead off of Highway 138 and set off toward the old volcano.

Mt. Thielsen Trailhead

The trail climbed through a forest filled with blowdown for 1.4 miles to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Junction with the Spurce Ridge Trail

Mt. Thielsen was hidden from view along this section but looking back across the highway we had a decent view of Mt. Bailey in the morning sunlight.

Mt. Bailey

We continued past the Spruce Ridge Trail gaining a view of Diamond Peak to the north.

Diamond Peak

Soon the spire of Mt. Thielsen came into view through the trees ahead.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

The trail then entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and a section of forest that had been struck by massive blowdown.

Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

After passing through the blowdown the trail followed a ridge with increasingly better views to the Pacific Crest Trail 3.8 miles from the Trailhead.

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak along the rim of Crater Lake

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake

Howlock Mountain

Howlock Mountain

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

The official trail ends at the PCT but a clear climbers trail continued on the other side and we followed that further up along the ridge. The first part of the path led along the ridge with views of west face of the mountain revealing it’s swirling volcanic rock.

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

The path then bent slightly SE away from the sheer drop of the north side of the ridge and up a very steep slope of increasingly slippery scree.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

To the south the entire rim of Crater Lake was visible including Mt. Scott.

Crater Lake's Rim

Mt. Scott

Braided trails crisscrossed up through the loose rock and every step seemed to come with a complimentary slide backward. Although the hike to Mt. Bailey had been steep it hadn’t been this steep nor slick and the drop offs along the way not nearly as daunting.

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Looking down from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen

We were the first hikers up the trail that morning and at an elevation of a little over 8700′ I came to, what looked to me, to be an impassable wall of rock.

Where we stopped climbing

As I waited for Heather and Dominique I searched for signs of where to go from there. I was unsure of the correct route and the longer I stood in the same spot the more I took inventory of my surroundings. The view was quite impressive having now climbed high enough that Mt. McLoughlin was visible to the south of Crater Lake.

Mt. McLoughlin and Llao Rock

It wasn’t long before I started to feel just how high up we were and how steep the mountain was. At that point the nerves kicked in and butterflies filled my stomach. Apparently Heather and Dominique had begun feeling the same thing and when they were close enough to talk to we made a unanimous decision to turn back.

Shortly after starting back down a lone female hiker passed us going up. We stopped to watch her as she made her way to the point where I had turned around. We were curious to see how she would navigate the section. She didn’t miss a beat and was quickly above the spot and continuing on. We were only about a hundred yards down and I had to fight the urge not to go back and try again after she’d made it look so easy but I was apparently the only one fighting that urge so reason won the day and we continued our descent.

On the way down Dominique and I wound up too far to the north on the ridge and found ourselves near the edge of a vertical shaft

Patch of snow on Mt. Thielsen

Not liking how close we were to the edge we veered back to the south having to cross a very loos section of scree where Dominique slipped and scratched himself up pretty good. That was the only incident though and we made it back to the trailhead in relatively good shape.

At the time it was the most nerve wracking hike we’d done. Not making it as far up as we’d hoped was a bit of a disappointment but it was a good reminder that knowing when to turn around (and being willing to do so)is important. After all if you keep yourself safe there’s always next time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632958248940

Lucia & Moulton Falls Parks

It’s been a wet and dreary winter in the Pacific Northwest so when a halfway decent forecast came along we jumped on it and headed out for our March hike. Our destination was a pair of Clark County, WA parks along NE Lucia Falls Road and the North Fork Lewis River.

We began our day with 1 mile warm-up hike at Lucia Falls Regional Park. A loop passes through the park and along the river past viewpoints of the modest Lucia Falls.

Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls Park

North Fork Lewis River in Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls

North Fork Lewis River

After our warm-up we hopped back into the car and continued east on Lucia Falls Rd for .3 miles where we veered right onto Hantwick Rd. We followed this road for half a mile to the Hantwick Road Trailhead.

Hantwick Rd. Trailhead

From the trailhead the Moulton Falls Trail follows an old railroad grade 2.6 miles to Moulton Falls Park.

Moulton Falls Trail

The trail crossed several streams which were flowing nicely and also passed a long pond.

Pond along the Moulton Falls Trail

Small fall along the Moulton Falls Trail

Stream along the Moulton Falls Trail

Beyond the pond the trail neared the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Just beyond the 2 mile mark we came to the Bells Mountain Trail junction. We planned on heading up the trail a ways after visiting Moulton Falls Park so for now we took a photo of the sign and continued on.

Bells Mountain Trailhead along the Moulton Falls Trail

A little further along the trail we spotted cars on the far side of the river in the park’s parking lot. Moulton Falls was visible below, a small 10′ cascade.

Moulton Falls

We crossed the river on a scenic footbridge.

East Fork Lewis River

Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

The trail split on the far side of the bridge and we forked right heading uphill toward Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail climbed to an upper parking lot which appeared to still be closed for the winter before dropping back down to a crossing of Lucia Falls Rd. On the far side of the road were a couple of picnic tables and a small pullout above Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail continued down some stairs to a seasonal footbridge.
Yacolt Creek Falls

The footbridge pivots and was still in its winter position making it impossible to complete the loop shown on the park map.

Yacolt Creek Falls

We were a little confused by this as well as by the placement of the falls on the map. The star marking the location appeared to be further up the creek along a spur trail that extended north off the loop on the other side of Big Tree Creek. The fact that the falls at the footbridge were on Big Tree Creek and not Yacolt Creek also made us question whether or not this was actually Yacolt Creek Falls. We decided to walk down Lucia Falls Road and pick up the other side of the loop where it crossed the road. We turned back uphill on the loop trail on the east side of Big Tree Creek and quickly arrived at a viewpoint of the falls and bridge.

Yacolt Creek Falls

Yacolt Creek Falls

We found the spur trail shown on the map leading up and away from the viewpoint. We followed this path less than 100 yards past a sign for Yacolt Creek Falls to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad and Moulton Station.

Moulton Station

Sign for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

Despite the fact that the Yacolt Creek Falls sign seemed to support the falls we’d just come from as being the correct ones we were still unsure based on how we were reading the park map.

Yacolt Creek Falls sign

Sign for Yacolt Creek Falls

We passed through Moulton Station and continued along the tracks for a bit before deciding that we were on a wild goose chase. We had failed to take into account the scale of the map and just how short the distances reflected on the map were. It was a good early season reminder to pay attention to the map scale. We turned around and headed back past Yacolt Creek Falls and descended to Lucia Falls Road which we crossed.

To the right was the parking lot at Moulton Falls which was filling up pretty quickly and to the left was the continuation of the loop. If we’d have gone right a short distance we would have come to a viewpoint with a close up of Moulton Falls, but we’d seen them from the other side of the river already so we turned left. The trail crossed Big Tree Creek on a footbridge then led to a nice viewpoint of the bridge over the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

Beyond the viewpoint the trail climbed up away from the river completing the loop. We recrossed the footbridge and headed back toward the Bells Mountain Trail. This trail provides access to  Silver Star Mountain.  We weren’t going to be going anywhere near that far on this day though, instead we decided to pick a turn around time based on when we started on the trail.

It was 10:25am when we started up the Bells Mountain Trail so we gave ourselves until 12:30pm and then we’d turn around hoping that would get us home around 5pm. The trail climbed fairly steeply at first but soon leveled off in a young forest.

Bells Mountain Trail

After the initial climb the trail did a series of ups and downs crossing several streams and logging roads as it passed through alternating sections of clear cuts and trees.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Creek along the Bells Mountain Trail

Clear cuts along the Bells Mountain Trail

Due to the amount of logging activity in the area the trail is subject to periodic closures so make sure to check ahead if you’re planning on visiting.

The trail was in really good shape and there was good signage at the road crossings as well as mile markers every half mile.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

The mile posts actually played into our turnaround point as we arrived at the 4.5 mile marker at 12:25 which was exactly 2 hours after having set off on the Bells Mountain Trail.

Bells Mountain Trail

Despite setting 12:30 as our turn around time being at the mile marker exactly 2 hours after having started out seemed to demand our calling it so we tapped the post and headed back. On the way back the clouds lifted enough to reveal Silver Star Mountain.

Silver Star Mountain from the Bells Mountain Trail

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain and Sturgeon Rock

We were really feeling the effects of not hiking regularly on the way back. We hadn’t really been paying that much attention to how far we’d gone but our feet knew it was a lot further than the 10 miles I’d originally planned on for the day. By the time we’d made it back to the Hantwick Road Trailhead we’d gone 17.8 miles, but we’d finished a little before three so we were on track to be home by five. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lucia & Moulton Falls

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Bailey and The Watchman

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike took place on 8/11/2012 and featured our first summit of one of the Cascade Mountains – Mt. Bailey. The 8368′ summit would also mark the highest elevation we’d reached surpassing that of Paulina Peak.

Mt. Bailey is located north of Crater Lake National Park on the west side of Diamond Lake across from the taller, pointier Mt. Thielsen.
Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Bailey to the left of Diamond Lake with Mt. Thielsen on the right as seen from Mount Scott, Crater Lake National Park

There are two trailheads to choose from. From Diamond Lake’s South Shore Picnic Area turn onto Road 4795 and drive just past Silent Creek to Road 300 and turn left. The lower trailhead is just .4 miles further and suitable for passenger vehicles. The road to the upper trailhead was reportedly rough and although starting there would cut 4.4 miles off the hike it would still be under 10 miles round trip from the lower starting point so we parked there and set off.
Mt. Bailey Trailhead

The trail climbed through a somewhat sparse forest, typical for this part of the Cascades due to the presence of a thick layer of ash and pumice which covered the area following the eruption of Mt. Mazama.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Forest along the Mt. Bailey Trail

As we neared the 1.5 mile mark a somewhat hazy view of Hillman Peak and The Watchman on the west side of Crater Lake’s rim opened up.
Hillman Peak and The Watchman

A couple of hundred yards later we came to a viewpoint of Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielsen.
Diamond Lake with Tipsoo Butte, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Scott was also visible to the south on the east side of Crater Lake, but the view wasn’t great due to smoke from forest fires.
Mt. Scott

We also had a good look at our ultimate goal, the summit of Mt. Bailey.
Mt. Bailey

The trail had climbed approximately 750′ from the trailhead to the viewpoint but beyond the viewpoint it leveled off for the next .5 plus miles before reaching the upper trailhead. Along the way we kept watch for the Hemlock Butte Shelter which was off-trail on our left. When we spotted it we headed cross country to check it out.
Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

After signing the register in the shelter we made our way to the upper trailhead where the Mt. Bailey Trail began to climb again. At first the trail remained in the hemlock forest but before long we’d reached a ridge crest where the trees thinned and views opened up.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Thielsen

View from the Mt. Bailey Trail

Small meadows along the trail were homes to a few wildflowers.
Paintbrush

Penstemon

Bleeding Heart

The trail followed the ridge uphill which curved to the NW around a large glacier carved valley on the mountain’s east side. The angle of ridge provided excellent views of the mountain ahead.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey

Small patches of snow lingered along the trail at higher elevations and the views opened up even more as we climbed. Unfortunately the smoke was also getting worse further limiting the visibility.
Snow along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake, Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

The trail passed a viewpoint down into the glacial-valley and up to a window in a rock wall along the mountain’s summit ridge which we would pass later.
View from the Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey

Beyond this viewpoint the trail passed by a 300′ snowy crater as it turned northward nearing the southern summit of the mountain.
Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

From the lower southern summit the actual summit was a half mile away and another 220′ up.
Mt. Bailey Trail

The trail crossed a cinder saddle which wasn’t too narrow but not too wide either. Then we passed along the left side of the rock wall pausing to peep through the window we’d seen from below. The smoke had gotten so bad that Mt. Thielsen was nearly hidden on the other side of Diamond Lake now.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Rock window along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake and a faint Mt. Thielsen

The rock wall was also home to some flowers.
Western Pasque Flower

Arnica and partridge foot

The trail passed over the rock wall on the far end at a low point which did require the us of our hands.
Mt. Bailey Trail

A final steep climb brought us to the bare, rocky summit of Mt. Bailey.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

The smoke wasn’t too bad where we were, but with fires burning to both the north and south there was little view to speak of.
Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Lake from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

We explored the broad summit which sported some wildflowers and a snowfield.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

Summit of Mt. Bailey

Snowmelt on the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

Partridge foot

After resting atop the mountain for a bit we returned the way we’d come. When we’d gotten back to the car we decided to drive down to Crater Lake since it was only 15 minutes away. Neither of us had been there for years so why not take advantage of being so close. We parked at a large parking area 2.2 miles after turning right onto Rim Drive from the North Entrance Road.

From here a .8 mile climb led to a lookout tower on The Watchman.
Interpretive sign

We had really been looking forward to seeing Crater Lake again but the smoke was thick over the water leaving us with a very limited view. At least we could see Wizard Island, a cinder cone that formed after the eruption of Mt. Mazama creating Crater Lake.
Crater Lake

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

The Watchman Trail led right along Rim Drive for .4 miles to a junction where we turned left and began the steep climb to the lookout.
Lookout at the summit of The Watchman

From the lookout Hillman Peak and Wizard Island were about the only landmarks visible. Interpretive signs at the summit showed us what we were missing.
Hillman Peak and Llao Rock

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Interpretive sign on The Watchman

Sign near the lookout tower on The Watchman

Despite the smoke it was well worth the stop but we did feel bad for the many tourists that might not get another chance to see this amazing place. We knew we’d be back and hopefully the conditions would be better the next time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632957911480

Throwback Thursday – Pine Mountain

Welcome to another installment of Throwback Thursday. Today we’re covering a 7/30/2012 visit to Pine Mountain east of Bend. This mostly trail-less hike started at the Pine Mountain Observatory.

We walked past the domes housing the telescopes and took a trail near the white dome uphill to a stone windbreak.

Pine Mountain Observatory

Pine Mountain Observatory

Stone windbreak on Pine Mountain

The high point of this first hill has an elevation of 6349′, 160′ lower than the actual summit of Pine Mountain. The view from the first shelter was good nonetheless with Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters lining the horizon to the NW.

Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, Broken Top and the Three Sisters from Pine Mountain

Further north was Black Crater, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack

Black Crater, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack

The view extended NW to Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Jefferson

From the stone shelter we followed a faint path downhill to the east (away from the observatory) which brought us to gravel road where we turned left. For the next half mile we remained on the road staying left at all times. The thinned forest along the road was mostly Ponderosa Pines. The open forest allowed us to spot several deer along the way.

Deer on Pine Mountain

Deer on Pine Mountain

Deer on Pine Mountain

We left the road at a sharp right turn on a wide saddle. When the road turned we stayed straight following faint cattle trails through a level ponderosa forest for approximately 200 yards to a rock knoll. Wildflowers amid the sagebrush here included mountain coyote mint, paintbrush, and catchfly.

Coyote mint on Pine Mountain

Paintbrush

Catchfly

We approached the knoll on it’s right side passing it on a gentle sagebrush covered slope.

Offtrail on Pine Mountain

Rock outcrop on Pine Mountain

Occasionally we would come across a sagebrush mariposa lily as we traveled the 1.2 miles from the road to the true summit.

Mariposa lily

Mariposa Lily

The open ridge crest provided constant views.

Paintbrush on Pine Mountain with Broken Top and The Three Sisters in the distance

Offtrail on Pine Mountain

View from Pine Mountain

View from Pine Mountain

The 6509′ summit of Pine Mountain was marked by a single wooden post.

Pine Mountain summit

View from the summit of Pine Mountain

We continued on from the summit following a ridge NE. Near the base of another rocky outcrop we picked up an old cat track that wound around the left side of the rocks. Here the mountain coyote mint fairly blooming nicely.

wildflowers on Pine Mountain

Wildflowers on Pine Mountain

Buckwheat

Just .7 miles from the summit we reached the top of another rise on the mountain and another wooden post.

View from Pine Mountain

For some reason the view here was a little better than the previous two high points and we could make out a faint Mt. Hood far to the NW.

View from Pine Mountain

Mt. Hood

A ridge extended even further east which we could have followed a little over a mile and a half further to a final hilltop with some radio towers, but we were trying to keep the mileage down and it would have meant an additional 500′ of elevation gain so after a nice break we started back.

On the way back up to the summit one of my favorite scenes occurred. The wooden post and a single tree stood alone on the sagebrush summit with the rocky face of Paulina Peak on the horizon.

Paulina Peak to the left of the Pine Mountain summit

We returned to the gravel road which we then followed all the way back to the parking lot at the observatory instead of climbing back up and over the first hill. The round trip was a little over 5.5 miles with around 1100′ of elevation gain. We were in the midst of a week long hiking vacation and had wanted something scenic but not too taxing and Pine Mountain had delivered. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pine Mountain