Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head

It’s become tradition to take a shortish hike on the Oregon Coast the morning of our annual family reunion in Gleneden Beach, OR. This year we decided to visit a pair of lighthouses near Newport.

A 5am start got us to our first stop at Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site a little before 7.

Home to the 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse the 32 acre park also offers access to an approximately 4 mile stretch of beach between the Yaquina River and Yaquina Head.

We parked below the lighthouse, which operated only three years before being replaced by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

From a viewpoint in the parking lot we could see the Yaquina Bay Bridge and watch boats heading out to sea.
Yaquina Bay Bridge

Yaquina Bay Jetty

A paved path led down the bluff to a sandy path in the deflation zone behind a small foredune.
Trail from Yaquina Bay Lightouse to the ocean

Heading to the Pacific Ocean

We passed over the foredune and turned left toward the Yaquina River.
Yaquina Bay Jetty

The sound of sealions in the bay greeted us as we approached the jetty where we spotted some squatters on a buoy.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Bridge

Seals on a bouy

We turned around and headed north along the beach. It was an interesting beach with many small dune like formations.
Yaquina Bay Recreation Site

It was a typical summer morning on the coast with patches of marine layer clouds along the way.
Seagulls at Yaquina Bay Recreation Site

Yaquina Head in the fog

Yaquina Head

Wildlife along the way consisted of seagulls and shore birds as well as a couple of small tide pools where we spotted anemones and some sand crabs.
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Shore birds

Anemones

Anemones

Sand crab

Of particular interest were a couple of jellyfish with some sort of colorful lines.
Jellyfish

Another peculiar sight along the way were some sand formations that reminded us of clay sculptures.
Interesting sand formations

Interesting sand formations

Interesting sand formation

Interesting sand formation

The beach began to narrow as we neared Yaquina Head and we soon came to Little Creek which was running parallel to the ocean.
Yaquina Head

Little Creek at Agate Beach

Yaquina Head forced the creek to finally turn toward the ocean and we followed it along the cliffs as it emptied into the Pacific.
Little Creek at Agate Beach

Little Creek at Agate Beach

Little Creek emptying into the Pacific

Pacific Ocean

We passed various birds along the creek including a pigeon guillemot which was a bird we were unfamiliar with.
Seagulls

Crow

Bird near Little Creek

Pigeon guillemot
Pigeon guillemot

We headed back south along the beach staying closer to the ocean which brought us to a crossing of some tide water. In our infinite wisdom we waded through the water soaking our shoes and socks before realizing that this was not one of our typical stream crossings. The rocks in mountain creeks and rivers make crossing barefoot a bad idea but on the beach we could have easily taken them off before wading through.
Looking south from Agate Beach

We were back at our car by 9:45 so we had plenty of time to make a second stop at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse (even after stopping at the Newport Safeway to pick up some cilantro). Located on Yaquina Head 4.5 miles north of Newport the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area has a lot to offer. Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, tide pools, several trails, and an interpretive center (which wasn’t there the last time we visited) make the $7/car pass seem reasonable, especially given the pass is valid for three days.

We didn’t have a lot of time so we drove past the interpretive center and parked at the end of the road near the lighthouse.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

We walked to the lighthouse first stopping at viewpoints along the way. Several grey whales could be seen surfacing and blowing water into the air.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Looking north to Cape Foulweather

Cormorants

Whale spout

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina Head

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina Head

After watching the whales for a bit we continued around the lighthouse and then headed for nearby Cobble Beach.
Tide pools at Yaquina Head

The beach is home to some very good tide pools and the tide was out far enough for some of them to be revealed.
Tide pools at Yaquina Head

We took the wooden staircase down toward the beach and after some last minute rules and instructions from rangers at the bottom of the stairs we began exploring the pools. Touching anything but the starfish (the rangers informed us that they were dealing with some sort of illness) was allowed but no picking up.
Tide pool at Cobble Beach - Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Sea urchins, snails and mussles

Anemone

Tide pool at Cobble Beach - Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Tide pool at Cobble Beach - Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Sea urchins

Sea urchins

Star fish

Large sea rocks just beyond the tide pools are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, one of only tow wilderness areas in Oregon closed to humans.
Signboard for the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Not all the wildlife stuck to the islands though as a section of Cobble Beach was closed off due to a resting seal.
Seal on Cobble Beach

After making our way around the pools we headed back up the stairs. It was still a bit early to head for the reunion so we decided to check out the short trail up Salal Hill which began at the lot where we had parked.
Salal Hill Trailhead

The .4 mile path switchbacked up the small hill at a nice gradual grade.
Salal Hill

Some lingering flowers showed that there was more to the hill than just salal bushes.
Pearly everlasting

Aster

Salal Hill Trail

Wildflowers along the Salal Hill Trail

The trail passed above the interpretive center before arriving at the small, flat summit.
The interpretive center below the Salal Hill Trail

Salal Hill Trail

From the summit we had a nice view north to Cape Foulweather.
Looking north from the Salal Hill Trail

To the west was the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the Salal Hill Trail

We headed down after a short stay since it was now time to make our way to the reunion. We could have spent a lot more time exploring the area so we’ll have to go back again sometime. As we were coming down the hill we spotted another whale which we watched for a moment. It seemed to be giving us a goodbye wave, what a polite way to end our hike. Happy Trails!
Grey back whale

Flickr: Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head

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Salem Parks – Wallace Marine to Minto-Brown Island

With an influx of visitors expected in Oregon for the eclipse we decided to do something a little different for our most recent hike.  Heeding warnings of possible traffic issues (which never seemed to have materialized) we stayed close to home opting for a urban hike through three city parks in Salem.

We had gotten the idea for this urban hike when the opening of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Brdige on June 5th, 2017 made it possible to walk or bike through Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks without having to use any streets. Given the unknowns associated with the eclipse this seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

We began our hike at West Salem’s Wallace Marine Park.
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After entering the 114 acre park we turned left (north) and headed for the softball complex which consists of 5 fields that host several tournaments each year.
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We looped around the fields which were empty this early it morning. No games meant no crowds but that didn’t mean there was a lack of noise. Osprey use the light poles for nests and they were making their presence known from their high perches.
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After looping around the fields we headed south past the parks entrance road and several soccer fields.
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Shortly before reaching the Union Street Railroad Pedestrian Bridge we turned left down a paved path to the Willamette River.
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After visiting the river we headed for the pedestrian bridge.
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Originally constructed in 1912-13 for the Pacific Union Railroad the half mile bridge was purchased for $1 by the city in 2004. In April, 2009 the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and bicyclists connecting Wallace Marine Park to Salem’s Riverfront Park.
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After crossing the river we turned right and headed into Riverfront Park. The section of sidewalk just after the bridge was one of the least scenic portions of the route as it followed the parks entrance road past an electrical station and under the Center and Marion Street Bridges.
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Between the Marion Street and Center Street Bridges is the Gilbert House Children’s Museum.

This science and art museum is a great place for kids and fun for their parents.
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We chose to go around the museum on the left which took us between the museum and some still operational railroad tracks. If you’re looking for scenery skip this section and stay to the west of the museum which keeps the river in view.

After passing a parking lot we came to the open green grass of Riverfront Park.
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A music event was being set up in the center of the 23 acre park.
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The park is also home to the Willamette Queen Sternwheeler
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Riverfront Park was the location of the field sessions when Heather and I took the Route-Finding Class offered by the Chemeketans.

We passed the small open air amphitheater, which is slated for an upgrade in 2020, and continued south toward the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
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Another park feature, the Eco-Earth Globe, sits near the bridge and is an interesting bit of art.
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We headed across the bridge and into Minto-Brown Island Park.
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Interpretive signs line the new section of trail linking the bridge to the older trail system in the park after approximately 3/4 of a mile.
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At the junction with the older trail is a large signboard and map.
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By far the largest of the three parks, at 1,200 acres, numerous trails and loop options were available to us. We had done a short loop hike here in April of 2016 but this time planned on covering a bit more ground.

We turned right at the map and followed paved paths to the bank of the Willamette River.
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Signage along the trails is excellent and makes it fairly easy to get around even if you aren’t familiar with the park. We were headed for the Shelter Parking Lot, where we had started our 2016 visit.
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We had been passed by several familiar faces running with groups from Gallagher Fitness Resources but when we arrived at their watering hold near the gazebo at the Shelter Parking lot there were none to be seen in the area.
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We continued on from the gazebo following our route from our previous visit by forking right across at footbridge after a tenth of a mile.
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After another .4 miles we detoured to the left to visit a collapsing fishing dock.
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We continued on passing an open field before turning off the paved path on a wide dirt path to the left which led us to Faragate Ave.
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At Faragate Ave we turned left on a paved path which paralleled the road for a short distance before bending back into the park.
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After crossing another footbridge we turned right on a narrow dirt path.
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This path led about a quarter mile to another paved path where we initially turned right hoping to make a wide loop on another dirt path. We took a left on a little path after a tenth of a mile but it was rather brushy with blackberry vines and some poison oak so we quickly scrapped that idea and returned to the paved path which runs between the east end of Homestead Road and the Shelter Parking Lot #3. This section of trail is a bit drier and more open which allows for a few more flowers as well as little more poison oak.
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There is also an old car along the way.
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We were on our way back, but before reaching the gazebo we turned right on the Duck Loop which would swing us out and around some duck ponds.
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We crossed the park’s entrance road after .9 miles and turned right along it to the Entrance Parking Lot which we found to be super busy. We followed a paved path from the far end of the lot across the Willamette Slough and turned right on another paved path.
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We completed our loop through Minto and headed back toward Riverfront Park.
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We took a different route back through Riverfront Park in order to go by Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, another great attraction for kids.
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According to our GPS we managed to get 12.4 miles in for the day and there were still trails in Minto that we didn’t get to. Even though urban hikes are a lot different than our normal outings this was a nice hike and gives us a nearby go-to option when we just can’t get away. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wallace to Minto Parks

Vista Ridge Trail to Elk Cove – Mt. Hood

August is typically one of our busier hiking months but this year things are working out differently. We’ve both had things come up at work leading us to change our vacation plans, the date of our annual family reunion changed, there are forest fires closing large areas of both the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wildernesses, and the upcoming solar eclipse essentially eliminated any realistic plans for hiking around the 21st.

We actually almost skipped our weekly hike this time around but knowing we’d later regret that decision we turned to Mt. Hood, which has thus far escaped the fire issues this year. Our plan was to take the Vista Ridge Trail up to the Timberline Trail and visit a few familiar areas – Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove.

We began at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.

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We set off through the forest which was damp from a light mist that fell for most of the day.

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It was actually really nice to hike in the cool temperatures and to see some moisture falling.

 

The trail enters an area burned by the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire near a registration box for the Mt. Hood Wilderness after a half mile.

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The Vista Ridge Trail is probably best known for its displays of avalanche lilies in the burn area during July but we discovered that August provided an amazing display of its own.

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The amount of fireweed was simply amazing.

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With all the fires currently burning it was nice to be reminded that the forests will recover eventually.

With the misty conditions views were limited but Pinnacle Ridge was visible across the Clear Branch Valley and we spied a bit of Laurence Lake as well as Bald Butte further in the distance.

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After two and a half miles we arrived at the junction with the Eden Park Loop Trail.

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A few avalanche lilies were still blooming in this area.

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We turned down the Eden Park Trail which descended through more burned forest filled with more fireweed and some small meadows with other wildflowers.

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We also crossed several small wildflower lined streams flowing down toward Ladd Creek.

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Eight tenths of a mile from the Vista Ridge Trail junction we arrived at Ladd Creek itself.

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Just beyond Ladd Creek we arrived at Eden Park.

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Beyond Eden Park the trail began to climb on its way up to the Timberline Trail at Cairn Basin.

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We turned left on the Timberline Trail and took a short snack break in Carin Basin and visited the stone shelter.

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After leaving Cairn Basin we recrossed Ladd Creek.

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It was about a mile from this upper crossing to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail. There were lots of wildflowers along this stretch as well as some lingering snow.

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Wy’East Basin lay just beyond the junction with more flower lined streams.

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We continued on from Wy’East Basin heading toward Elk Cove. Despite not being able to see the mountain, just being on the Timberline Trail gave us that alpine feeling that only the mountains can.

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We had passed several rock fields where we had listened and looked for one of our favorite animals, the pika, but had not had any luck. As we began the descent to Elk Cove though we heard the distinctive “meep” of a pika. It’s a sound that always brings a smile to our faces. We had stopped along the trail for a moment to look around and just as we started to resume hiking we spotted one sitting on the rocks ahead.

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The descent to Elk Cove when hiking clockwise on the Timberline Trail is an extremely scenic section of trail when visibility is good. The clouds and mist took a bit away from the epic views but it was still an impressive sight.

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The further down into the cove we went the better the flower display became.

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We stopped at an empty campsite near a creek and took a seat while we took in the beauty of the surrounding area.

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We could occasionally see some blue sky to the east which gave us a just a bit of hope that maybe we’d get a view of the mountain after all.

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The blue sky looked to be just on the side of the mountain though and the clouds were continuing to blow in from the west.

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After a while the combination of our damp clothes and the cool breeze became a little chilly so we decided to head back. It appeared that we were out of luck on a mountain view this time but as we were climbing out of the cove the clouds began to break even more.

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We waited and watched as the sky cleared up just enough to reveal the mountain before swallowing it up once more.

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It had lasted less than a minute and then we were back in the cloudy mist but it was the icing on the cake for what had already been a great hike. We returned to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail where we turned downhill, passing the Eden Park Trail junction in .3 miles and arriving back at our car in another two and a half miles. The total distance for the day was just over 11 miles with a little under 2000′ of elevation gain.

We were very glad we hadn’t skipped our weekly hike. Getting out on the trail was really just what we had needed. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Vista Ridge Trail

Mount Washington Meadows

One week after returning from our Northern California trip we found ourselves headed to Bend to drop off some furniture to our Son who had recently moved.  It wasn’t going to be a long visit due to his having to work so after a quick tour of his new apartment we were back on our way home.

Our plan was to stop for a hike on the way home along the Pacific Crest Trail near Santiam Pass south to Mount Washington Meadows. We had left Salem at 5am so it would still be fairly early when we hiked. Just after 8:30 we pulled into the PCT trailhead near Big Lake.

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We headed south on the PCT which quickly entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness amid trees burned in the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire.

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The first two or so miles passed through the burn where despite most of the trees being dead, there was plenty of green and other colors present.

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The lack of living trees did allow for some views of both Mt. Washington ahead and Three Fingered Jack to the north beyond Big Lake, the Hoodoo Ski Area and the flat topped Hayrick Butte.

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We could also see two small buttes just to the SW of Big Lake which we had hiked around in 2012 when we visited the Patjens Lakes.

That hike was also done during the first week of August, but less than a year removed from the Shadow Lake Fire. It was interesting to see how the forest was recovering with the passing of several more years.

Patjens Lake TrailPatjens Lake Trail – August 2012

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A wider variety of plants including various berries were present now.

We left the burn area where we were able to see what the forest will look like again eventually.

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We passed several small meadows and lots of wildflowers as we went.

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We had been gradually climbing and when a break in the trees allowed us a view to the north where we spotted Mt. Jefferson over the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack.

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It was a bittersweet view as it reminded us that the Whitewater Fire was burning on the west side of Mt. Jefferson and had already burned over portions of several trails leading to Jefferson Park.

There was no real visible smoke but we knew that it was there and those trails would look a lot like what we’d passed through earlier in the Shadow Fire area.

When the PCT began to curve around a ridge to the left the Spire of Mt. Washington came into view.

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An open hillside then opened up views to the south were several other familiar peaks were visible.

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These included the North and Middle Sister, Belknap Crater, the Husband, Diamond Peak, and Scott Mountain.

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As we continued we passed through some increasingly impressive meadows until reaching a large lupine filled meadow below Mt. Washington.

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Mt. Washington rose above the meadow where we were able to get a great look at the eroded volcano.

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Lupine wasn’t the only thing in abundance in the meadow. There was also a large number of tortoiseshell butterflies who seemed to be overly attracted to me.

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We continued through the meadow where we found a nice display of cat’s ear lilies still in bloom amid the lupine.

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At this point we’d gone a little over 5.5 miles, but the level grade of the PCT and the great scenery so far enticed us to continue a little further to see what else the area had to offer. We decided to follow the PCT until it began to lose elevation as it crossed a valley between Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater. We soon found ourselves in another area affected by fire.

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We ended our hike as the PCT bent around a ridge end where it would begin the 400′ elevation loss before climbing up to the shoulder of Belknap Crater which was visible across the valley.

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From this vantage point we could also make out Little Belknap Crater.

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After a short break we headed back through the meadows and returned to our car.

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The 12.4 mile round trip had proved to be a lot more entertaining than we’d expected. We hadn’t really known what to expect having selected the hike from the back of our guidebook in the additional hikes section, but it had been a thoroughly enjoyable outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Washington Meadows

Pilot Rock

On our way home from Mount Shasta City we stopped for a quick hike to Pilot Rock in Oregon’s Soda Mountain Wilderness. We took exit 1 from Interstate 5 and drove north on Old Highway 99 for 6.9 miles to Pilot Rock Road (Road 40-2E-33) where we turned east. Instead of starting at the Pilot Rock Trailhead which is located 2 miles up the road we parked after a mile at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing. (If you do start here be sure not to block the private driveway.)
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From the road Mt. Ashland to the west and Mt. McLoughlin to the north were visible in the morning light.
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We headed south on the PCT (which ironically meant we were going northbound due to the route the trail takes after crossing I-5).
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Most of the flowers were finished but by the looks of things there had been quite a few. A number of late bloomers remained and along with those were some juicy thimbleberries.
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Aside from a couple of very short uphills the trail seemed fairly level and after about 3/4 of a mile Pilot Rock came into view.
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After another .9 miles we arrived at a junction with the closed road that serves as the trail from the official Pilot Rock Trailhead.
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The two trails joined for .2 miles passing through a nice forest before splitting once again.
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We forked to the right following the Pilot Rock pointer. This trail was much steeper and we climbed about 600′ in .7 miles to the base of Pilot Rock.
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In a perfect world we would have scrambled up to the top of the rock which wasn’t that much higher, but after hiking 80 plus miles and climbing at least 20,000′ over the previous 7 days we weren’t sure that we had the strength and muscle control left to safely climb to and descend from the top.

Rather than risk it we stopped just below the first section where we definitely would have need to use our hands to go any higher.
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We returned the way we’d come. Starting at the PCT put the hike at a little under 5 miles a little less than double what it would have been from the Pilot Rock Trailhead with some nice scenery which would have been even better earlier in the year when the numerous flowers were still in bloom. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pilot Rock

Black Butte, Horse Camp, and McCloud River Falls

We’d spent five days hiking in the greater Mount Shasta area but it wasn’t until the sixth day that we made it to the mountain that we’d been seeing every day during our hikes. In truth we were holding out hope that the Everitt Memorial Highway might be opened by the end of the week so that we could drive up to the Panther Meadow Trail but that wasn’t in the cards this trip as there was just too much snow still left over from this past winter.

Our plan had always been to do multiple hikes on the day we visited Mt. Shasta and with our other two hikes a go we looked to Hike Mt Shasta for ideas for another trail on the mountain and chose the Horse Camp Trail.

We started our day at the Black Butte Trailhead where we found a caution sign posted by the Forest Service.
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The slide referenced in the notice was said to be a mile and a half up the the 2.6 mile trail so we figured we could at least get most of the hike in and if it didn’t look too dangerous we could do the whole thing.

The trail began in a the forest climbing steadily as it wound around the cinder cone.
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We’d gotten an early start which was nice not only for the views but for the temperature as well since we’d be gaining over 1800′ feet if we made it to the summit.

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As we emerged from the trees we had a front row view of Mt. Shasta over our shoulders.
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While Mt. Eddy lay straight ahead partly covered by the 14,180′ volcanoes shadow.
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It was a little late in the year for many flowers along the trail but there were still a few as well as some other interesting plants.
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After 1.3 miles the trail came to a switchback revealing a small rocky gorge in the butte.
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Mt. Eddy was now behind us as we continued to climb with the summit of Black Butte in the sunlight above.
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Our timing was good as we were in a great spot to watch the Sun rise over Mt. Shasta.
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As neat as that was to see the Sun was soon directly on us and things heated up quickly as we clambered over the rocky trail.
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We were beginning to wonder if the Forest Service had made up the slide because we’d been hiking long enough that we were sure we’d gone further than a mile and half and hadn’t seen anything yet. It turned out that the slide was closer to 2 miles along the trail.
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With a little caution it was passable but it didn’t look like it would take much for it to get a lot worse. After passing the slide we came to a second switch back where the trail began to climb more aggressively toward the summit.
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After a third switchback the trail began a series of shorter switchbacks up to the summit where the foundation remains of an old lookout tower.
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Mt. Shasta’s shadow had been replaced by that of Black Butte, but the 6358′ butte couldn’t reach Mt. Eddy.
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Meanwhile the position of the sun made it nearly impossible to look at Mt. Shasta.
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There was a nice cool breeze at the summit and we lingered there awhile before heading down. After completing that hike we hopped in the car and drove to the Bunny Flat Trailhead which is where the Everitt Memorial Highway was gated closed.
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We had several options from this trailhead including Horse Camp, Green Butte, or a loop visiting both. Given the heat and the fact that we were beginning to run out of gas in our legs we opted for the short (1.6 mile) trail to Horse Camp, the site of the Sierra Club Foundation’s Shasta Alpine Lodge.

After filling out a wilderness permit we set off on the trail heading directly toward the mountain.
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After a short distance we turned left following a pointer for Horse Camp.
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The wide trail passed some patches of wildflowers as it climbed for a mile to a junction with another trail coming from Sand Flat.
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The trail steepened as we entered the Mt. Shasta Wilderness but leveled out some as we arrived at the Shasta Alpine Lodge.
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We sat in the shadow of the lodge for a moment then explored the area a bit.
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Behind the lodge climbers were getting last minute instructions before heading up the summit trail.
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Next to the lodge was a spring and spigot for water.
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We declared victory here deciding to leave any other hiking on the mountain for our next visit. We returned to Bunny Flat and headed for our final stop of the day at the Lower McCloud River Falls picnic area.

For this hike we were using a recently obtained guidebook written by Bubba Suess from Hike Mt. Shasta, “Hiking Northern California A Guide to the Region’s Greatest Hiking Adventures”. The book covers all of Northern California and has some amazing looking hike which we hope to get to at some point.

The picnic area is located off of Highway 89 about 15 miles east of Mount Shasta City. Similar to our visit to Castle Lake we were getting a late start due this being our third hike of the day and we found the parking area packed with people trying to escape the heat. We walked over to a signboard with a map and then set off towards a viewpoint of the Lower Falls.
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A little creative camera work produced a human free photo of the falls.
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We left the crowds at the falls behind and followed the River Trail upstream toward the Middle Falls.
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We passed by Fowlers Camp which was busy with campers as well as a doe searching for edibles.
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At the end of the camp was a pointer for Middle Falls.
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The Middle Falls were quite impressive and although there were a number of people around it wasn’t nearly as busy as the Lower Falls had been.
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From the base of the Middle Falls the trail climbed via switchbacks above the river.
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The next .3 miles were level offering a somewhat obscured view of Mt. Shasta.
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After a total of 2 miles we arrived at the Upper Falls.
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We continued on a short distance to admire the narrow gorge the river passed through above the Upper Falls.
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We returned the way we’d come and drove back to Mount Shasta City having completed 10 hikes in 6 days in California including visiting 4 wilderness areas that we had not previously been to. We’d seen our first rattlesnake, a bear cub and its mom, several deer and lots of other wildlife. We had experienced amazing scenery on all of the hikes and really couldn’t have asked for a better trip. The one negative happened after we’d showered and changed and headed out for an early dinner.

We chose a small Thai restaurant (the food was excellent) and when we were greeted we were informed that they couldn’t serve us any water. It turned out that the city had issued a boil water warning the day before due to some tests of the city’s drinking water that came back positive for E-coli. We’d been drinking the water all week, lots of water. It’s been five days since our last drinks and so far we seem to have escaped unscathed but we could have done without that scare. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Black Butte, Horse Camp, and McCloud River Falls

Caribou Lakes – Trinity Alps Wilderness

On the fifth day of our vacation the forecast was finally free of the threat of thunderstorms. We’d been saving our visit to the Trinity Alps Wilderness for just such a day since it was the longest drive to a trailhead that we had planned. From Mount Shasta City the quickest drive would have been to take Forest Road 42N17 which we had been on for our hike to Mt. Eddy to Highway 3. After being delayed by an ongoing chip and seal project on the drive home we opted for a slightly longer drive by taking the Gazelle Callahan Road to the highway. We followed Highway 3 south for 23.5 miles to Coffee Creek where we turned right onto Coffee Creek Road which we followed to its end at Big Flat Campground.

We parked at the signed Caribou Lake Trailhead and set off on the trail which quickly entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
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The trail descended for .2 miles to the South Fork Salmon River where we had expected to have to get our feet wet but a downed tree provided a dry crossing.

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On the far side of the river we faced the choice of taking the shorter, steeper Old Trail or the the longer but gentler New Trail. Our planned route was to go up to the lakes on the New Trail and return via the Old Trail which would result in a figure 8 as the trails crossed paths at Caribou Meadows. We wound up not even noticing the Old Trail splitting off to the right as we passed by and were soon climbing along a fairly open hillside.

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The wildlife was out that morning and we spotted several quail and a snake before reentering the trees.

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We then spotted a bear cub about 200 feet off the trail, downhill in the trees. We both stopped and immediately looked uphill to make sure we weren’t between it and mama bear. We weren’t, she popped her head up from behind a bush near where the cub had been (it ran off downhill). Mama looked at us long enough for me to pull out the camera, turn it on, and then press the power button again instead of taking a picture as she followed her cub deeper into the forest.

We continued the gradual climb to Caribou Meadows arriving in just under three miles from the trailhead.

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There was a sign here for the Old Trail as it crossed the New Trail and headed off uphill.

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We stuck to the New Trail as it continued its slow climb winding around hillsides towards the lakes.

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After passing through an area of burnt trees the trail emerged onto a granite hillside. More wildlife and various wildflowers greeted us along this section.

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We passed through another stand of burned trees (where we found a couple of ripe berries) before arriving at Browns Meadow, 1.6 miles beyond Caribou Meadows.

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We took a seat on a rock near the edge of the meadow and just enjoyed the sound of a flowing creek amid the peacefulness of the wilderness. As we started to get up I looked behind us and noticed a doe walking through the meadow. She disappeared behind some vegetation heading in the same direction as the trail. Thinking we might get a chance to see her again we resumed our hike but were quickly distracted by a plethora of butterflies.

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The trail crossed the creek we’d been listening to.

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As we began to climb away from the meadow I looked back and spotted the deer in the meadow after all.

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We passed another small stream giving life to quite a few colorful flowers.

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We got our first good look at Mt. Shasta just before rounding a hillside covered in pink fireweed.

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As we came around the hillside snowy Caesar Peak came into view with the slightly taller Thompson Peak behind.

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We were on a 2 mile stretch of trail between Browns Meadow and another junction with the Old Trail. This section of trail had some spectacular views across the valley where Caribou Creek was roaring down over the granite.

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Eventually Caribou and Lower Caribou Lake could bee seen in the basin below Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

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We arrived at the junction with the Old Trail and took a look up at our return route for later.

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From the junction it was a about a half mile downhill to Snowshoe Lake which was now visible along with the two Caribou Lakes.

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The views from above were simply amazing. We began switchbacking down towards the lakes passing mossy runoff streams and meadows filled with wildflowers.

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We arrived at Snowshoe Lake and found a spot along the shore to soak our feet in the cool water as we listened to the sound of water cascading into and out of the lake.

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IMG_6183Snowshoe Lake’s outlet creek

If Snowshoe Lake had been it the hike would have been well worth the effort but there was more to see so after a thoroughly relaxing break we sallied forth following cairns to a small unnamed lake in a meadow.

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This little lake was fed by creeks flowing from both Snowshoe and Caribou Lake down to Little Caribou Lake. We crossed the creek from Snowshoe Lake on some downed logs and found ourselves on a granite landscape above beautiful Lower Caribou Lake.

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Water from snow melt pools flowed over the white rocks in some places.

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We made our way along the rocks to the inlet creek which proved to be another breathtaking sight.

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We followed the stream up to the small lake in the meadow where we hopped across it.

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We continued to climb up along the creek until Caribou Lake came into view.

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Snowshoe Lake was also visible once again below Caribou Mountain.

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We passed several small pools of water on the way to the large lake.

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Snow heavy enough to keep small trees down still lingered along the shore.

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The scene was too big to fit into a single picture making a panorama necessary to even attempt to capture the grand scale of this place.

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It is possible (and recommended by those in the know) to hike around the left side of the lake and follow a faint path a little over a mile to a viewpoint along Sawtooth Ridge.

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We had contemplated attempting it but that would have made a long day even longer and we still had two more days of hiking ahead of us so we decided to leave that side trip as an excuse to come back to this amazing place someday.

We intended to return to Snowshoe Lake by staying up on the granite above the small lake in the meadow. We started back wandering between even more snow melt pools.

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Along the way a snake caught our attention. It had captured a small frog and was in the process of swallowing it. We felt bad for the frog but it was interesting to see nature at work.

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We did a poor job of sticking to our planned route and found ourselves back down at the small lake after all. We had a little trouble remembering where we had crossed the creek between Snowshoe Lake and this lake but eventually spotted the logs again which jogged our memories. We made it back to Snowshoe Lake and started the warm climb up to the junction with the Old Trail.

Taking the Old Trail would cut approximately 1.2 miles off our return trip but it also gained about 1000′ of elevation in the first .8 miles as it climbed up and over the shoulder of Caribou Mountain. The shorter distance coupled with a different trail and the promised view from the top was too tempting to pass up despite it being rather warm out.

The Old Trail started up through the trees on a mission to seemingly go straight to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible.

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The picture taking ended quickly as I became focused on simply trying to keep moving uphill. Eventually I looked back during a couple of breaks to check our progress and admire the lakes. The extra elevation revealed many more of the peaks of the Trinity Alps.

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By the time we made it to the top of the ridge we were really wondering what kind of maniac devised this trail. The result of it though was an amazing view. Mt. Shasta loomed to the NE.

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Mt. Lassen lay to the SE barely visible through the haze.

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Closer by the ridge ran SE to the summit of Caribou Mountain, a route that will be very tempting when we return with more time someday.

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To the SW was the heart of the Trinity Alps.

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We had been a little concerned with the possibility of encountering snowfields near the top but we did have our MICROspikes handy just in case. As it turned out there was only one small patch of snow left as we started down the other side, and it posed no problem.

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The descent was twice as long as the climb but it was no less steep losing nearly 2000′ in 1.6 miles to Caribou Meadows.

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Along the way we passed a partly obscured view of Little Caribou Lake which lay in its own glacial cirque to the SW of Browns Meadow.

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The trail did level out a bit for a short stretch where we could look back at Caribou Mountain and the forested slope we’d just descended.

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A final drop brought us back to Caribou Meadows.

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We decided to complete the figure 8 and continue following the Old Trail down to its other junction near the river. After passing through the meadow the trail once again dove seemingly straight down along a small stream crossing it twice.

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Beyond the second crossing the trail leveled out traversing along an open, hot, hillside. The GPS track shows that this final 1.5 miles to the junction resulted in a net loss of elevation but it sure felt like we were going uphill a lot.

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We were pretty hot and tired as we trudged along and began getting funny looks from the locals.

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Things cooled off a bit when we finally reached some trees along the river near the junction.

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When we arrived at the junction with the New Trail we wondered how we’d missed the split that morning, we didn’t see any signs but the tread was clear. A good example of how easy it is to miss things even when you think you’re paying attention. We recrossed the river on the log and returned to our car a bit tired, a little sore, and completely satisfied with our first visit to the Trinity Alps. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Caribou Lakes