Chimney Rock

The first day of fall saw our time in Sumpter come to an end. We left town at 7am and started our long drive back to Salem. We had a couple of stops to make along the way, one to visit our Son in Bend and the other a short hike in the Crooked River’s canyon.

We took Highway 26 into Prineville and after a bit of confusion located Main St. and headed south. Main Street becomes Highway 27 and follows the Crooked River through a canyon to Prineville Reservoir.

Our planned hike was a 2.6 mile round trip to visit Chimney Rock along the rim of the canyon. We parked at the signed trailhead on the NE side of the road 16.6 miles from Prineville.


The weather systems that had provided rain and snow for the previous 5 days were breaking up creating a lot of different scenes in the sky as we set off on the trail.




The trail gains approximately 500′ in the 1.3 miles to Chimney Rock so it’s a pretty good climb at times but the views of the Crooked River Canyon are worth it.



The sound of songbirds added to the relaxing scene.

Chimney Rock was hidden for most of the hike but as the trail leveled out on the rim the unique pillar came into view.


The trail leads right to the pillar and a nearby bench.


From Chimney Rock we had a nice view of the Crooked River as it wound through the rimrock canyon.


It was a pretty quick up and down taking us just over an hour but it gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy some impressive views at the same time.

After visiting our Son we drove home over Santiam Pass. Clouds obscured many of the mountains but both Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington were brilliantly white with snow which was such a welcome sight. Just 7 days earlier when we passed by going the other way they were hidden by thick smoke from wildfires. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Chimney Rock

Phillips Reservoir and Granite Creek

We had originally planned a different set of hikes for the Thursday of our vacation week but after getting a look at Mt. Ireland from Baldy Lake the previous day we had decided to save that hike for another time. The plan had been to hike Granite Creek in the morning and Mt. Ireland in the afternoon.

With Mt. Ireland out and freezing temperatures overnight we were a little concerned about trying to get to Granite Creek in the morning due to having to pass over the 5860′ Blue Springs Summit between Sumpter and Granite. We turned to our trusty guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s 3rd edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” for a solution.

Hike number 142 – Phillips Reservoir was the answer we came up with. We’d passed the reservoir on Monday when we drove to Baker City for groceries. Located less than 10 miles east of Sumpter a hike there in the morning would give the roads time to warm up before attempting the drive to Granite Creek.

When we walked out to our car a little before 7am Thursday morning we felt even better about our decision. For the first time in a long time it was necessary to scrape the ice off our windshield.

We decided to start our hike from the Union Creek Campground.

As we drove east along Highway 7 we had to pull over to get a picture of the snow covered Elkhorn Mountians.

We turned off Highway 7 at a Union Creek Campground sign and after paying the $6 day use fee we parked at the picnic area and headed for the Shoreline Trail.


Sullivan’s abbreviated entry for this hike was one of the least enthusiastic descriptions that we’d seen in any of his guidebooks so we were pleasantly surprised by the scene at the reservoir.

We headed west on the Shoreline Trail which extended 1.7 mile east from the picnic area and 4 miles to the west. The trail passed along the reservoir through open pine woods.

Within the first mile we’d already spotted a number of different birds.
IMG_0037Osprey and Great Blue Heron in flight



IMG_0046Canada Geese


We continued along the shoreline arriving at a dry Bridge Creek after 1.4 miles.



Here the trail passed through a meadow with views of the Elkhorns to the north.




We spotted even more wildlife over the next mile before reaching the Social Security Point Trailhead.
IMG_0081Canada Geese



IMG_0086Various ducks and birds


It was 8:30am when we arrived at the Social Security Point Trailhead so we decided to continue another mile to the Mowich Loop Picnic Area before turning around.

The trail passed through more open forest before reaching the wide open flat where Smith Creek empties into the reservoir.


Even more birds could be seen in the grassy flat and in the distance was a group of white birds that we later realized where pelicans.
IMG_0095Canada Geese


IMG_0097Pelicans, herons, and other assorted birds

Before exiting the trees we passed a carcass that had drawn a large crowd of ravens and magpies who were none to happy with our presence.



After leaving the trees the trail wound up skirting a meadow and leading us up to Highway 7 a quarter mile from the Mowich Loop Picnic Area.

We decided to call it good there instead of walking along the highway and turned around. More wildlife sightings occurred on the return trip including an osprey with a freshly snagged fish.



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The fog had lifted off the reservoir by the time we’d gotten back to the car and the weather was beautiful.

It was 9:30am when we completed our 6.3 mile hike. We felt comfortable with it now being warm enough to make the drive over the pass to Granite Creek so we headed back to Sumpter then made the familiar drive to Granite.

To reach the Granite Creek Trailhead from Granite we turned left on Red Boy Road (Road 24) for 1.4 miles then forked right on Granite Creek Road for 4.3 miles to the signed trailhead.

From the trailhead a gated mining road headed downhill to the left (our return route) while the Granite Creek Trail headed slightly uphill to the right after passing through an open fence.


For a little over a mile the trail traversed the hillside above Granite Creek through open pine woods.



The trail then descended to a crossing of Indian Creek before entering the North Fork John Day Wilderness.


The trail was still above the creek but not quite as far above.

We had remarked on the variety of trees we were seeing in the forest here which included western larch trees. We spotted one that was already changing into its fall color.

The forest around the trail shifted from open pine to a denser fir forest before crossing Granite Creek on a wide footbridge at the 2 mile mark.


The trail once again climbed away from the creek before dropping back down to a log footbridge over Lake Creek.



Near the 3 mile mark we passed a small wooden box housing Snowshoe Spring.

Two tenths of a mile later we passed the Lake Creek Trail coming downhill on the left.

A second crossing of Granite Creek followed .2 miles later.


Shortly after crossing the creek we arrived at the end of the Granite Creek Trail at the North Fork John Day River Trail.

This was the same trail we’d started out on for our Tuesday hike.

We continued on this trail just far enough to cross the river on a footbridge.



We returned the way we’d come but after 2 miles at a fork we headed downhill to the right where we joined the mining road.

This road passed through mining tailings left over from dredges and hydraulic mining.


There are still active claims along the road so we stayed on it for the 1.3 miles back to the trailhead.

The total distance for this hike was 6.8 miles putting the two hikes combined at 13.1 miles. The weather had been about as good as we could have asked for and we’d stayed reasonably dry other than our shoes due to the wet vegetation. It was a relaxing end to our week hiking in the Blue Mountains.

On our way back to the Sumpter Stockade we noticed that the corn dog cart (Cajun Concessions) was open even though it was Thursday. After dropping off our hiking gear in our room we walked up the street and each got a hand dipped corn dog and cheese stick. It was now a perfect ending to our stay in Sumpter. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phillips Reservoir & Granite Creek

Baldy Lake

At the beginning of our vacation the forecast had called for Tuesday to be the coldest and wettest day of the week and then Wednesday and Thursday were expected to be a bit warmer with decreasing chances of precipitation and by Thursday afternoon partly sunny skies. By Tuesday that had all changed and a second weather system was following up the first. Wednesday morning was expected to be a little warmer than Tuesday  meaning less chance of snow on our drive to the trailhead but as the second system moved in that day more precipitation was expected and now there was a chance of isolated thunderstorms.

The good news in that forecast was we had no issues getting to the Baldy Creek Trailhead in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The Baldy Creek Trail set off from a small campground and promptly crossed the North Fork John Day River on a log footbridge.



We then entered the North Fork John Day Wilderness.

The 121,099 acre wilderness is made up of four separate areas with this being the third we’d visited during our vacation but the first in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The other two, Olive Lake and the North Fork John Day River, were in the Umatilla National Forest.

The trail passed through a nice, albeit wet, forest for just over a mile before reaching the first of several crossings of Baldy Creek.



After crossing Baldy Creek the trail almost immediately crossed Bull Creek before entering a small section of forest recovering from a fire.


We had enough of a view from the area of the fire to get an idea of where the snow line was. We knew going in that we would be hitting snow at some point on the hike since Baldy Lake sat at an elevation just over 7000′ plus the forecast called for 2-4 inches of snow during the day.

Not long after crossing Bull Creek we recrossed Baldy Creek on a footbridge where we noticed a small amount of snow between the logs.

As we made our way uphill along the creek the amount of snow on the ground slowly increased.

In the next three miles the trail crossed Baldy Creek four more times. There were footbridges at all of the crossings but several of them were in such a state that it was easier to find a different way across the water.




Beyond the final bridge the trail veered away from Baldy Creek and began climbing a bit more. As we climbed we found more and more snow on the trail and the trees.


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At the 5 mile mark we passed a trail sign at a junction.

We were loving the winter scenery, it was such a welcome sight after a summer full of wildfires. On top of the snow on the ground and in the trees it had started snowing a bit. I mentioned that the only thing that could make it better would be to see a deer or even better an elk in the snow. Not five minutes later I looked up the trail and saw an elk cow staring back at me.

She disappeared into the trees but then a second cow and two calves stepped onto the trail.


The trail was now winding around a hillside with several small streams which seemed to be attracting the wildlife. The elk had been at one of these streams and not too much further at another stream was a varied thrush and some grouse.


Our hike the day before along the North Fork John Day River had felt like fall but now we were in a winter wonderland.

We crossed a greatly diminished Baldy Creek then came to a junction with a trail coming from Silver Creek Road.


Baldy Lake was approximately a quarter mile from the junction.


It was just a bit foggy when we arrived at the lake making it impossible to see the cliffs beyond the lake including Mt. Ireland.


We found a log and brushed off the snow so we could take a seat and enjoy the lake. The wind was really blowing along the ridge above the lake but it was calm along the water and not particularly cold.

We hadn’t been sitting there long when the clouds started to lift revealing the lookout tower atop the 8321′ Mt. Ireland.



Our original plans had called for us to hike up to the lookout on Mt. Ireland at some point during the week but given the conditions we had decided to save that hike for another trip, so for now getting to see it from the lake would have to suffice.

We finally started to get chilly just sitting there so we tore ourselves away from the lake and headed back. It was snowing pretty hard as we made our way back down and we could see the difference along the trail.



We eventually left the snow behind which ironically made me colder. My feet and hands had stayed relatively dry in the snow but now they were starting to get wet. My hands, without gloves (I’m a slow learner), froze when a brief round of hail passed over. We picked up our pace eager to get to a heated car.

As we passed by the old fire area a little blue sky was visible.

By the time we’d reached the trailhead there was quite a bit more blue allowing us to bask in a little warm sunshine.

It had been a 14 mile hike that took us a few months into the future when winter snows will be here to stay. Getting to see the elk had been a big bonus to what was a great hike and fun adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baldy Lake

North Fork John Day River

A day after a cold, wet hike in the North Fork John Day Wilderness by Olive Lake we were headed back to that wilderness for another go around. We had decided to hike the North Fork John Day River on Tuesday because it was the lowest elevation hike we had lined up for the week and Tuesday was supposed to be the coldest day of the week.

We waited until 7am to leave Sumpter hoping that the slightly later than normal start would allow time for any potential snow on the roads to clear, especially over the 5860′ Blue Springs Summit between Granite and Sumpter. Ironically there was only a few patches of snow along the road at the summit but 15 miles further north the trees were flocked and snow was falling steadily at the 5500′ Crane Creek Trailhead. There was a good chance we would passing by this trailhead on our hike if everything went according to plan.

Our starting point for the day was another 2.5 miles away at the North Fork John Day Trailhead.

This trailhead is located at the North Fork John Day Campground at the junction of roads 73 and 52. At an elevation of 5200′ the trailhead was low enough that there was no snow and only a light rain was falling as we set off on the trail.

We crossed Trail Creek on a log then passed through a section of forest before arriving alongside the North Fork John Day River.



Soon we entered the North Fork John Day Wilderness.

Just two weeks before we’d spent Labor Day weekend backpacking on Mt. Adams (Day 1 and Days 2 & 3) in 80 degree temperatures and we’d just driven through snowy winter landscape but along the river was the first time this year that it had felt unmistakably like Fall.


We passed several mining ruins before arriving at the “Bigfoot Hilton” at the 2.6 mile mark.




We hopped across Trout Creek just beyond the Bigfoot Hilton and continued further into the wilderness occasionally being startled by grouse.




Four miles from the Bigfoot Hilton we came to a junction with the Crane Creek Trail.

Here we turned left for .2 miles down to the North Fork John Day River.

After talking with a group of bow hunters camped near by we faced a choice, go back the way we’d come or ford the river and continue on a loop. It would have been a little shorter to go back the way we’d come but the prospect of a loop was too appealing, besides we were already wet so staying dry wasn’t an option.

The calf deep water was reasonably warm all things considered which was a nice surprise. On the far side we met a couple of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employees on their way to do a three day Chinook salmon survey. We wished them luck with the weather before continuing on our respective ways.

The Crane Creek Trail was much more overgrown than the North Fork John Day Trail but it was relatively free of blowdown.


The trail climbed steadily for 4.1 miles to the Crane Creek Trailhead, the last portion passing through the meadows of Crane Flats where we found most of the snow had melted.





At the Crane Creek Trailhead we picked up the North Crane Trail which would lead us back to the North Fork John Day Trailhead.

Remnants of the morning snow remained along this 2.6 mile trail as it passed through alternating meadows and forest.



We had been expecting to have to ford the river again to get back to the trailhead but ended up taking a right at some point when the actual trail veered left and popped out onto Road 73 just before the river a quarter mile from our car. We crossed the river on the road and walked through the campground to our car.

It was a much warmer hike than we had been expecting and a really enjoyable 14 mile loop. We would be heading back to the same area the next day for another hike at a higher elevation but for now it was time to head back to Sumpter and get cleaned up. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork John Day River

Olive Lake

With the forecast calling for the possibility of snow at higher elevations from Monday through Friday of our vacation we were keeping a close eye on forecasts to help choose when to do each of the hikes we’d planned on. The really cold air wasn’t due to hit until about 11am Monday morning so we decided to do our planned loop past Olive Lake first knowing that the high point of the loop was at an elevation over 7400′ in the Greenhorn Mountains. We hoped that by starting early we could stay ahead of any snow that might fall so with that in mind we got an early start and arrived at the Lost Creek Trailhead just before 7am.

The trailhead is located 11.5 miles west of Granite along Road 10. Along the way to the trailhead the road passes the historic Fremont Powerhouse.

Our plan for the hike was to start on the Lost Creek Trail then take the Saddle Camp Trail to Olive Lake then continue up to Saddle Camp and take the Blue Mountain Trail SE to the Lost Creek Trail and take that back down to the trailhead. We set off on the trail and in .2 miles came to the remains of a redwood pipeline that supplied water from Olive Lake and Lost Creek to the Fremont Powerhouse.



We got distracted by the pipeline and missed the right turn onto the Saddle Camp Trail. We’d gone almost a quarter mile past the junction when we caught our mistake. Shortly after passing a North Fork John Day Wilderness sign we realized we’d missed it since our map showed the junction prior to the wilderness boundary.

This was our first time in this particular wilderness checking one more Oregon Wilderness off our “need to visit” list.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The Saddle Camp Trail was marked with a sign that was much easier to spot from this direction.


We followed this trail through the forest for a mile and a half to another junction.

Here we turned right and headed downhill for .2 miles to the Olive Lake Campground.


It is possible to drive to the campground and there is a 1.9 mile trail around the lake which we decided not to take on this day due to the presence of low clouds and wanting to get up and down as early as possible. We did however visit the lake shore.


After checking out Olive Lake we returned to the junction and continued uphill on the Saddle Camp Trail. After .7 miles we crossed Lake Creek near Upper Reservoir, a large marshy meadow.



In the next 2 miles the trail passed along the meadow before climbing 600′ to Saddle Camp and a junction with the Blue Mountain Trail.







A light rain had fallen off and on and now at the saddle we were in the clouds so it was damp. Luckily we had our rain gear on and stayed relatively dry as we traversed along Saddle Ridge. It was a bit of a shame about the clouds because the open ridge would have provided some excellent views along the way.





It was close to 10:30am when we spotted a cairn apparently marking the high point of the ridge. A few small snowflakes greeted us as we approached.



The wind had kicked up as well and it was getting cold fast as we passed the cairn.

As we began to descend to a junction at Dupratt Springs Pass the snow began to accumulate.


We had to hunt around just a bit to find the Lost Creek Trail sign at the pass but Heather located it and we headed downhill past a large cairn.




I don’t have a pair of waterproof boots/shoes and this was one of the rare times that I wish I had some and will probably be picking up a pair in the not too distant future. Both my feet and hands (due to taking pictures and not wearing my thicker waterproof gloves) were painfully cold as we entered the first of several meadows on our return route.

We wound up losing the trail somewhere near the end of the meadow and had to do a little bit of back and forth using the GPS to locate the tread again which we did in another small meadow where we crossed Lost Creek.

The trail wound up following an old roadbed before reaching the Lost Creek Trail junction at another saddle 2.3 miles from Dupratt Springs Pass.


We’d dropped out of the snow and the air had warmed up enough that we were warming up some as we descended from the pass. It was just under three miles back to the trailhead from the junction. The trail passed through five meadows and crossed Lost Creek again before arriving back at the Saddle Camp Trail junction where we had turned that morning.





We passed a couple of bow hunting camps near the meadows but didn’t see any hikers on the trails. We did spot one doe near one of the meadows but she bolted before my cold hands could retrieve the camera.

Overall it was a nice hike that would have been a lot better without the clouds (and frozen extremities). We returned to Sumpter wondering if the 5800′ pass on the road between Granite and Sumpter would wind up being an issue at any point during the week. After changing and warming up we drove into Baker City and picked up some food and supplies from Safeway. We were all set for the week, now we just needed the weather to cooperate. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Olive Lake

Blue Basin, Bates, and Sumpter

After a successful first hike and nice visit with Heather’s parents on the first day of our vacation we left Bend early Sunday morning and headed for Sumpter. To reach Sumpter from Bend we’d need to drive through Prineville and take Highway 26 through the Ochoco Mountains (where the Desolation Fire was burning) and John Day to Highway 7 at Austin Junction then follow that highway 25.2 miles to the Sumpter Valley Highway.

To break up the over 200 mile drive we planned a couple of short hikes along the way starting with Blue Basin in the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

This was our third visit to the monument having previously hiked in the Painted Hills and Clarno Units.

The Sheep Rock Unit is located approximately 30 miles east of Mitchell, OR. To reach the Blue Basin Trialhead we turned north on Highway 19 towards the Thomas Condon Visitors Center. It was too early for the center to be open but we stopped along the way to take in the view of Sheep Rock.

After 5 miles on Highway 19 we turned left into the parking area for the Blue Basin Area.


It was a beautiful morning with a few clouds in the sky providing for some dramatic views right off the bat.

We chose to start our hike with the Blue Basin Overlook Trail.

The path passed alongside a field where songbirds were happily enjoying their morning.


It wasn’t long before we got our first good look at the exposed volcanic ash that gave the area its name.


In the morning light the ash appeared more green than blue. The contrast between the ash and the golden grasses on the hillsides was beautiful.

We were a bit surprised to see some yellow flowers still blooming as we wrapped around another scenic outcrop of ash.



The trees were filled with birds as the trail climbed toward the rim.



The trail climbed gradually for the most part for the first 1.2 miles and we were captivated by the formations created by the ash.

The trail then began to climb in earnest passing a bench with an encouraging sign along the way.



We were thankful that it was a cool morning as we couldn’t imagine attempting the hike on a hot summer day.

The trail became somewhat level once it reached the rim where the views were breathtaking.




A short spur trail led to a bench at the overlook which had even more impressive views.


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After attempting to comprehend what we were seeing we continued on the loop which passes through some private land on the way to more spectacular views before descending to a bench at a trail junction.



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Here we turned right on the Island of Time Trail which led into the heart of Blue Basin.

It was only .4 miles to the end of this trail but the scenery seemed endless. The various colors and textures were remarkable and numerous informative interpretive signs sat along the path.










We sat at a bench at the end of the trail soaking in the view on what was a perfectly peaceful morning.
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All of the hikes in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument had been enjoyable but this 4.2 mile hike was by far the most impressive to us.

After returning to our car we drove back to Highway 26 and continued east. The air was once again hazy due to wildfire smoke making it hard for us to see much of the Strawberry Mountains as we passed by. After 66 miles we turned left onto Highway 7 for 1.1 miles then left again on Middle Fork Lane for .4 miles to Bates State Park.


The park is located at the site of a former company lumber town. Bates Pond is all that is left from the town now. Several trails at the park gave us the opportunity to explore the area on a 2.6 mile hike starting on the Pond Trail which began on a road bed marked by a metal post.

The trail followed the road along Bates Pond where numerous ducks paddled about.





We crossed Bridge Creek on a footbridge at the far end of the pond and continued around the pond.

We startled a heron that flew ahead of us into a tree before taking off again across the pond to another tree.




When the Bates Pond Trail ended at the Bridge Creek Trail we stayed straight following Bridge Creek and ignoring side trails and the nosy residents.



Just before arriving at a gate we turned uphill to the left onto the Meadow Trail.

After a short climb the trail leveled off then came to an end at the Dixie Trail where we stayed right.

From this trail there was a view of the pond and to some buttes to the east.


Along the way we met one of the cutest ground squirrel we’d ever seen.

The Dixie Trail descended to the Bridge Creek Trail near the footbridge at the end of the pond and we simply followed the Bates Pond Trail back to our car.


It was only a quarter after twelve when we’d finished and our check-in time was 2:30 in Sumpter which was only about a half an hour away. We still had one short hike left in Sumpter which would be good for about an hour which would have leave us a little early. We solved that issue by turning the wrong way (left) when leaving Bates. We only realized our mistake after driving over 16 miles which should have brought us to the ghost town of Whitney but didn’t.

After correcting our mistake we drove back to Highway 7 and headed east for 25 miles to a sign for Sumpter where we turned left for 3 miles. We turned left into the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area.

Here a 1240-ton dredge used to scoop up river gravel and filter out gold dust sits amid tailings left in its wake. The site is also home to the Sumpter Valley Railroad which hauled timber to Bates and Prairie City. We parked near the visitors center by the dredge.

We started our visit by exploring the dredge.









Next we took the South Trail for .4 miles through ponds amid the tailings to the Powder River.




We turned left onto the .3 mile McCulley Creek Trail which was flooded near its end by some nifty beaver work.





We returned to the South Trail and finished the loop which ended at a machinery yard near the dredge.

We walked left around the dredge and picked up the North Trail which traveled along Cracker Creek.


We had been hoping to see a beaver but knew the chances of that during the day were slim so we settled for a quail.

We turned left at a Ridge Trail sign and followed this path to the Railroad Station.




From the station we crossed the parks entrance road and took the Walking Trail back to the dredge.

As it turned out our motel was right across the street from the park. We had originally planned to stay at the Granite Lodge in Granite but that establishment appeared to be for sale from what we could tell, so Heather started looking for a place in Sumpter. There were a couple of choices but we picked the Sumpter Stockade due to the themed rooms looking fun. It turned out that this motel had just changed owners and the previous owners hadn’t stayed open past Labor Day. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there and the new owners were great!



We were given the Civil War Room.
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After dropping off our stuff we decided to try out a hand dipped corn dog stand we’d seen on the next block. That turned out to be a great decision as both the corn dogs and cheese sticks from Cajun Concessions were excellent! It was a satisfying end to another great day of hiking.

It looked like things were going to start getting interesting the next day as the system from the Gulf of Alaska was supposed to begin arriving overnight and temperatures would start dropping around 11am on Monday with the snow level dropping as low as 5000′. We went to bed knowing there was a good chance we’d be hiking in snow by the end of the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Basin, Bates, and Sumpter

Paulina Lake via Ten Mile Sno-Park

The year of rearranging continued to present challenges as we prepared for our final week of vacation. Originally planned for mid-August we had rescheduled a planned trip to Steens Mountain due to work considerations. An unusually cold and wet weather system due to arrive from the Gulf of Alaska the first Sunday night of our vacation derailed those plans. In fact it ended any thoughts of attempting to backpack as the entire week called for rain or snow showers, depending on elevation, everywhere we looked. At the last minute we decided to dial up a group of hikes in the southern Blue Mountains near Sumpter, OR.

The disappointment of having to change our plans once again this year was tempered by the prospect of the wet weather helping to put out the numerous wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest.

We had planned to stay in Bend on our way to Steens Mountain and visit Heather’s parents and it made sense to do the same on the way to Sumpter so the only hike planned for the week to survive the rearranging was a visit to Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This hike would allow us to fill in some blanks along both Paulina Creek and Paulina Lake left from two previous hikes. (Paulina Creek and Paulina Peak)

On our hike up Paulina Creek from the Peter Skene Ogden Trailhead we had turned around after approximately 5.5 miles at footbridge over Paulina Creek. After looking at some maps it appeared that this footbridge was near the Ten Mile Sno-Park. Our plan this time was to start at the sno-park and hike over to the bridge and take the Peter Skene Ogden Trail up past Paulina Falls to Paulina Lake, loop around the lake, then return down the creek for a total of about 14.5 miles.

The drive from Salem to Bend was extremely smokey but fortunately for us the conditions inside the Newberry Caldera were much better, just a general haze instead of the heavy smoke we’d passed through. After parking at the sno-park we decided to follow the Ponderosa Trail hoping it would take us to the footbridge.

In hindsight we should have printed out a copy of a nordic trails map of the area especially given that they do not show up on the GPS map nor were they included in our guidebook’s map. The trail was easy enough to follow, there was a visible path as well as blue diamond markers on the trees to mark the way.

We quickly realized we were heading up the creek away from the footbridge but we decided to just keep going since we knew from the trail sign that the Ponderosa Trail went to Paulina Lake. We could take this up to the lake then come down on the trail we’d intended to come up on after finishing the lake loop.

When we came to a snowmobile track (Road 500) we followed it right for about four tenths of a mile before veering left back onto the nordic trail towards the sound of Paulina Creek.


Being a nordic trail the Ponderosa Trail had a good deal of blowdown but it was mostly lodgepole pine trees which we easily stepped over.

The trail never approached the creek and offered almost no views of the water. A little over 2.5 miles from the sno-park we arrived at a signed trail to a viewpoint below Paulina Creek Falls.



After visiting the lower viewpoint we continued on to the upper viewpoint which had been our turnaround point during our Paulina Peak hike.

We headed upstream a little over a quarter mile to the start of the Paulina Lake Loop just after crossing the road to the Paulina Lake Lodge.


We started around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction which was the same direction we’d gone during our Paulina Peak hike. We passed some familiar scenery including a small rocky peninsula and a marshy area filled with birds and a view of Paulina Peak.








After 2.4 miles on the loop we arrived at the boat ramp near Little Crater Campground.


On our previous visit we had taken the Silica Trail from the parking area here. This time we could either follow the paved road to the campground on the loop trial or we could climb up and over Little Crater, a cinder cone. Even though I had planned on taking the Little Crater Trail my 14.5 mile estimate had not taken into consideration that this route would add a little over a mile to the hike.

The Little Crater Trail climbed up past an interesting rock outcrop to a junction.



At the junction we went right passing around the crater and gaining increasingly impressive views of the Newberry Caldera.

The first views were of the Big Obsidian Flow and Paulina Peak.



Paulina Lake was soon visible to the west and East Lake came partially into view to the east behind the Central Pumice Cone.


After passing over the summit the trail descended to another junction where we turned right following a pointer for Little Crater Campground.

We picked up the loop trail just to the north of the campground.

The next section of the loop trail had some nice, albeit hazy, views of Paulina Peak and the marina at the lodge way across the lake.


The trail hugged the lake shore as it passed by the inter lake obsidian flow.




Beyond the lava flow, and 1.2 miles from Little Crater Campground, we came to a side trail down to some hot springs along the lake shore.


Our timing was good as two groups of hikers were just leaving as we arrived. We decided to take off our shoes and socks and soak our feet in one of the pools.



The water was amazing. It was almost exactly the temperature of a nice hot bath even with a little water from the lake lapping in. We sat for a while enjoying the view (and a large dragonfly) before continuing on.


We finally tore ourselves away from the hot springs and continued on. From the springs the trail climbed above the lake as it traversed a cinder hillside



The trail then descended back near the lake shore to North Cove before entering a little thicker forest.

We had seen been seeing hikers off and on all day and as we passed through the trees along this stretch I thought I spotted a little black dog along the side of the trail. Then a second small black animal emerged from the brush on the other side of the trail and I realized they weren’t small dogs they were little bear cubs! Heather spotted the second cub as I was simultaneously announcing bear and trying to get the camera ready. I once again failed to get a photo though as we were too busy talking loudly and trying to locate mama bear. We never did spot her but she had to be close by given how small the cubs were. We paused long enough to give the bears plenty of time to leave the area before continuing.

Approximately 2.2 miles from the hot springs we turned uphill following a trail sign and passed above the Paulina Lake Lodge before descending after a quarter mile to a junction with the Peter Skene Ogden Trail.


We turned down this trail which passed another viewpoint of Paulina Creek Falls after a quarter mile.

Unlike the Ponderosa Trail this trail offered many glimpses of Paulina Creek. Much like the lower section of the creek we had hiked along previously there were many small cascades to admire along the way.




Three miles beyond the viewpoint we arrived at the footbridge we had been looking for that morning. A trail sign indicated that it was 1/8 mile to Road 500 and 3/4 to the sno-park.

The view from the bridge upstream was now obscured by a fallen tree.
Paulina Creek


We crossed the bridge and passed a view of the waterfall just downstream from it.

We briefly followed Road 500 but then veered right onto what appeared to be a mountain bike trail


We followed the mountain bike trail for half a mile before arriving at a dirt road which we recognized from that morning. We turned right on the road and followed it back to the sno-park which was only a tenth of a mile away.

The end result of the hike was a 15.8 mile loop on what turned out to be a very pleasant day. It was hard to imagine that the area would likely be seeing snow in the next 48-72 hours.

It was a great start to our vacation with lots of wildlife, decent views despite the haze, and a wonderful soak in the hot springs. We were anxious to see what the next 6 days of hiking would bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Paulina Lake