The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

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Heceta Head and Brain Booth State Park

For our final outing of 2017 we returned to the Oregon Coast for three short hikes between Newport and Florence. We began our day by driving Highway 101 35 miles south of Newport (14 miles north of Florence) to the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park Day Use parking lot.
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Our plan was to hike to the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint and then return on a different route. In order to complete the loop portion of the hike we needed to cross Highway 101 twice. We decided to get the crossing done as soon as possible thinking that traffic would be less problematic earlier in the day. From the parking area we took a paved path east following a pointer for the Campground Trail.
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After a tenth of a mile we crossed the empty highway and continued on the campground entrance road for just over an additional tenth of a mile where we turned right at a signpost onto the Valley Trail.
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We followed this trail for three tenths of mile to a junction in a meadow with the China Creek Loop Trail.
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The loop added a little distance to the hike but not enough to keep us from turning left and crossing China Creek on a footbridge.
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The China Creek Loop passed through a green coastal forest crossing China Creek again after .3 miles.
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A half mile from the second crossing we found ourselves back at the Valley Trail where we turned left toward the lighthouse.
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Over the next mile the trail passed two small ponds, crossed Blowout Creek on what appeared to be a recently installed footbridge, and skirted a beaver lake.
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We were now at the second crossing of Highway 101 at the Hobbit Trailhead, another possible starting point.
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On the other side of the highway the trail split, right was our return route via Hobbit Beach but first we turned left to visit the lighthouse. We were now following the route of the Oregon Coast Trail.
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At first the trail remained near the highway but soon veered away toward the ocean as it began to climb up Heceta Head.
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The trail climbed gradually and offered a few views north to Cape Perpetua.
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After reaching a saddle on the head, the trail descended to the south in a series of switchbacks before following a ridge and finally arriving above the lighthouse at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.
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Seal Lion Point jutted out to the south where the occasional bark of a sea lion drifted our way.
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We made our way down to the lighthouse to get a closer look.
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After a short break we returned the way we’d come to the fork and turned toward Hobbit Beach. We arrived at the beach in a little under half a mile.
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A quiet 1.2 mile walk along the beach (and across Blowout Creek) brought us back to our car at the day use area.
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From there we drove north on Highway 101 for 28 miles to Ona Beach State Park, one of two units of Brian Booth State Park.
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For this hike we planned on hiking along Ona Beach to Seal Rock and back. We passed through a large picnic area avoiding some flooded trails and arriving at a footbridge over Beaver Creek.
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After crossing the creek we turned south along Ona Beach.
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Portions of the beach can be impassible at high tide but we had arrived an hour and a half below low tide. Exposed rocks made the first stretch of beach very interesting.
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The rock along the beach eventually petered out but a number of ocean rocks just offshore held our interest.
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Further to the south lay the Seal Rock Recreation Site.
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Approximately 1.75 miles from the footbridge we turned inland along a small creek on an unmarked but obvious trail. We followed this path up to Highway 101 where a short road walk brought us to the entrance of the park.
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We followed a paved path out to a viewpoint where much of the area was roped off for erosion control.
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After admiring the views we returned the way we’d come and headed for our final stop at the Beaver Creek Natural Area, the second unit of Brian Booth State Park. To reach the winter trailhead for the Beaver Creek Loop from Ona Beach State Park we crossed Highway 101 onto N. Beaver Creek Road. After a mile we turned right onto S. Beaver Creek Road for another 1.1 miles and parked on the shoulder across from a gate.
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We picked up a trail map and set off on the gated service road.
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After .4 miles we turned uphill on a mowed path following posts for the Beaver Creek Loop.
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Being the coast we’d seen a few flowers still blooming despite it being mid-December and even eaten a few huckleberries along the China Creek Loop earlier in the day. Here we found a few blackberry? blossoms.
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After climbing for .3 miles we arrived at a saddle where we could have turned right on the Elk Meadow Trail for a half mile loop.
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We already had enough mileage planned for the day so we saved that for another time and continued on the Beaver Creek Loop. After passing another trail to Snaggy Point we began to descend toward the marshes surrounding Beaver Creek.
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We stopped to watch a couple of woodpeckers circle a tree. They didn’t seem too bothered by us but they wouldn’t hold still long enough for a decent photo.
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We briefly followed a pointer for the Marsh Trail which brought us to a footbridge over Beaver Creek. For about two months during Summer the marsh is apparently dry enough to cross without too much trouble.
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We heard some ducks and startled a great blue heron (a couple of times) as we continued along the loop. We also spotted a hawk, more woodpeckers, and some small birds before arriving at a pole barn at the end of the service road we’d started on that seemed to be undergoing some construction.
IMG_1660Hawk flying off

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From the barn it was only .2 miles back to the start of the loop. The hike here came in at an even three miles. Ona Beach to Seal Rock had been 4.6 miles round trip and our hike to Heceta Head was 6.6 miles giving us a total of 14.2 miles for the day. Each of the hikes would be worthy destinations on their own and there were several more trails to explore in the Beaver Creek Natural Area making a return visit tempting someday.

With our 2017 hikes completed it’s time to get to work on 2018. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Heceta Head and Brian Booth State Park

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

We made a late addition to our scheduled hikes when it became clear that the weather on the day of the Give and Get Social for Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) was going to be too nice to pass up.  We had short two featured hikes in Portland from William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in NW Oregon & SW Washington that we had not been able to work into our future plans.   The TKO event was taking place at Dig a Pony which was conveniently close to one of these two hikes, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

We began our hike uncharacteristically late, just after 1:15pm, from the north parking area on SE Milwaukee Ave.

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We followed a paved path downhill to a sign for the Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail.

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Here the trail split and we stayed left crossing a small footbridge. We would return via the right fork after completing a loop around Wapato Marsh.

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The amount of water in the marsh increased as we went. The first wildlife we spotted were small birds, squirrels and a hawk.

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As the amount of water increased we began to see a number of ducks. Several species were present, some of which we were unfamiliar with.

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IMG_1339Green-winged teal

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IMG_1377Ring necked duck?

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IMG_1360Not sure what kind of duck is in the upper left hand corner.

At the far end of the marsh trails from Sellwood Park joined at a meadow. Across the meadow to the west the Holiday Express train was preparing to depart.

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We continued around the marsh passing under the train tracks and turned right on the paved Springwater Corridor. The Holiday Express passed us as we went.

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From this path we spotted some other birds including several herons, a cormorant, and a kingfisher.

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We passed a viewpoint of the Willamette River to the west before passing back under the railroad tracks.

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Before passing back under the the tracks we took a short path to the west toward the river where a few pieces of art could be seen amid the trees.

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We turned off the paved path at a hiker only sign and passed through a wooden fence.

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We were quickly back at the start of the loop and returned uphill to our car. A nice three mile or so stroll with lots of wildlife to watch. We ended our day at Give and Get where we had a good time despite not winning any of the raffles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge