Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

We officially kicked off our 2018 hiking season with a pair of hikes toward the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. We started our day off by driving east of Mosier on I84 and parking at the Memaloose Rest Area. At the western end of the rest area a gated service road serves as the trailhead.
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We followed the forested old road uphill past some old structures.
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IMG_2448Arnica

20180428_070754Fairy slippers

As we climbed the forest began to give way to an oak grassland.
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The old road passed by the Memaloose Pinnacles, a group of basalt towers.
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Just over a half mile from the rest area the trail left the old road. Here a small viewpoint looked across the Columbia River to the Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek (2016 trip report) areas of Washington.
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We turned uphill to the left climbing up toward the Memaloose Overlook.
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Our pace was slowed as we searched the grassland for different wildflowers. It felt good to get reacquainted with our old friends some of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time.
20180428_072117Paintbrush

20180428_072134Desert parsley

20180428_071825Larkspur

20180428_072234Vetch

20180428_072416Lupine

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20180428_072846Shooting star

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We arrived at the overlook a mere .8 miles from the rest area.
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The overlook is along Highway 30 which makes it a possible alternate trailhead.

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There was a large patch of fiddleneck near the overlook.
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After admiring the view from the overlook we crossed the highway and continued uphill.
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The flower show not only continued but it picked up as we climbed.
IMG_2543Prairie star

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Even some of the seed heads were photogenic.
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The forecast had called for a chance of showers but the showers weren’t materializing and instead we got some nice sun breaks.
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With all the flowers we had been discussing there were some we had yet to spot. One such flower was the chocolate lily which we suddenly began seeing with some frequency.
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The star of the hike though was the balsamroot which was thick in areas.
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The trail crossed a small stream which we hopped across.
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Not far from the stream crossing was a four-way junction. The right hand path would have eventually led to the top of 957′ Chatfield Hill which on a clearer day would have offered views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along with wildflower meadows. The left hand path would have led to nowhere in particular. We went straight and headed up 822′ Marsh Hill.
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As we began our climb a pair of hawks flew overhead engaged in an aerial duel. I did my best to capture some of it but it’s not easy with a point and shoot camera.
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Much of Marsh Hill was covered in yellow balsamroot with purple lupine and white large-flowerd triteleia scattered about.
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From the hill we could make out part of Mt. Hood to the south through the clouds.
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To the east the grassy southern slope of Tom McCall Point (2015 trip report) was easy to identify.
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The green hillsides of the Washington side of the gorge rose above the blue waters of the Columbia River to the north.
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To the west was nearby Chatfield Hill.
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We stuck around on the summit for awhile hoping that there would be enough of a break in the clouds for Mt. Hood to pop out but it soon became clear that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to save Chatfield Hill for another year given the clouds weren’t going to let the mountains come out and play. We returned the way we’d come. We only saw a few other hikers, no rattlesnakes (they are prevalent here), didn’t notice any ticks, and stayed out of the poison oak.In addition to the dueling hawks we did see countless smaller birds.
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This first hike came in just under 4 miles which is why we’d had a second stop planned. That next stop was at the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The order in which we chose to do these hikes proved inconvenient from a driving perspective as both trailheads are only accessible by eastbound traffic on I84. In addition neither trailhead provides access to westbound I84 so in order to reach the Mitchell Point Trailhead from the rest area we headed east on the interstate to the Rowena exit (76) where we could get back onto the interstate headed west. We then had to drive by Mitchell Point to the Viento State Park exit (56) where we again exited the interstate only to immediately return heading in the other direction. After driving up and down I84 we arrived at the trailhead right around 10am.
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There are a couple of trails that start from the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The Mitchell Point Trail climbs to the top of Mitchell Point in just over a mile and the Wygant Trail which leads to the top of Wygant Peak. Our trail for this visit was the Wygant Trail although our goal was not the view-less peak itself which is 4.2 miles from the trailhead. We were headed for the last good viewpoint along the trail which was only approximately 3 miles up the trail.

The Wygant Trail is located to the west of the parking area and begins along an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
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We followed an old road bed for a quarter mile then followed a trail sign when the road veered left.
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We soon rejoined the road for another half mile before turning left at another sign.
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The Trailkeepers of Oregon have been working on this trail which was one of the earlier trails to reopen after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The fire didn’t reach this particular trail but it had been closed none the less. A work party from TKO had been out the day before working on the trail and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
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There is a lot of poison oak along the majority of the trial so a big thank you to the volunteers that have been clearing the brush. The difference between the sections that they had worked and those that had not was huge.

After a mile we spotted a sign for the abandoned Chetwoot Loop to the left of the trail.
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Soon after the sign for the Chetwoot Loop we arrived a ridge above Perham Creek.
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We chose not to follow the viewpoint sign here due to the amount of poison oak seemingly lining the trail in that direction so we turned left and headed down to Perham Creek. A footbridge had spanned the creek up until 2016 when a slide washed it out.
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Interestingly it didn’t appear that it was the creek that did the bridge in but rather a slide down a small gully on the east side of the creek.
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A decent sized log served as an adequate replacement for the bridge allowing us to cross dry footed.
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The trail then climbed away from the creek, at times fairly steeply. As we passed through a brushy clearing we spotted a spotted towhee.
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We continued on watching closely for the ever present poison oak arriving at a lower viewpoint after a little over a mile and a half. Here we had a nice view of Mitchell Point to the east.
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Despite this not being a wildflower hike like our previous stop there were some flowers present, including varieties we hadn’t see in the Memaloose Hills.
IMG_2783Vanilla Leaf

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At the 2.5 mile mark a side trail led to a middle viewpoint.
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This viewpoint was covered in pink plectritis.
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Just uphill from this viewpoint we passed the upper junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail.
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From the junction it was just another .6 miles to our goal at the upper viewpoint. It was pretty good climb during which we passed the only other hiker we’d see on this trail. This section of trail had not been cleared yet and was somewhat crowded by the poison oak. I also had picked up a couple ticks which were flicked off. The good news was another TKO work party was planned for the following Friday.
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The upper viewpoint had a nice view west down the Columbia River and of Wind and Dog Mountain (2016 trip report) on the Washington side of the gorge.
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We were a bit surprised to see what appeared to be a grass widow blooming at the viewpoint.
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There was also a couple of clumps of phlox present.
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We headed back down to the trailhead dodging the poison oak and keeping an eye out for any more ticks (one did manage to make it all they back home with us before being apprehended). We had briefly considered doing the Mitchell Point Trail before we’d started on the Wygant Trail but that idea had completely left the building by the time we arrived back at the trailhead.
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We have plans for that trail at a future date. We did however walk over to the Mitchell Point Overlook before heading home where the forested top of Wygant Peak could be seen to the west.
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It was a nice way to start our season. A total of 10.2 miles hiked with a decent, but not insane, amount of climbing to get us started. The views and the wildflowers had been good and aside from a couple of sprinkles while on the Wygant Trail the weather had exceeded our expectations. The difference in the terrain and vegetation between these two hikes was also enjoyable given that they are less than miles apart as the crow flies. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

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Throwback Thursday – Cape Mountain

This week we are throwing back to an 8 mile loop we hiked at Cape Mountain north of Florence on Labor Day weekend in 2011. This hike appealed to us for two reasons at the time, it was in the 6 to 10 mile range and it was a loop. Another draw was the possibility of seeing an elk for the first time on a hike.

We began our hike at the Dry Lake Horse Camp located 3 miles off of Highway 101 along Herman Cape Road which is 7 miles north of Florence. From the trailhead we set off on the Princess Tasha Trail.

Princess Tasha Trail

After .4 miles we came to a 4-way junction. Here we took a right onto the Scurvey Ridge Trail. After another .4 miles we came to a viewpoint with a bench.

View from Scurvy Ridge

We followed the ridge for another mile where we arrived at a replica of a hitsi, Siuslaw Indian hunting cabin.

A hitsi which was an Indian hunting shelter

Informationa sign near the shelter

A short distance from the hitsi we arrived at another junction near the Horse Creek Campground

We kept left at junctions following pointers for “Horse Water” for a quarter mile to the Berry Creek Trail. We turned left onto the Berry Creek Trail and followed this trail a total of 2.2 miles. It began on an old roadbed but quickly left that and switchbacked down to Berry Creek.

Berry Creek

After rock hopping across the creek the trail a short distance to another 4-way junction. We left the Berry Creek Trail here turning right on the Nelson Ridge Trail which gently climbed uphill to the ridge crest.

Nelson Ridge Trail

On top of the ridge is a meadow that the Forest Service created in an attempt to simulate the elk friendly habitat that the Native Americans created by setting fires.

Nelson Ridge Trail

Interpretive sign on Cape Mountain

Unfortunately we didn’t see any elk on this day but we took a seat on a bench and enjoyed a somewhat limited view due to low clouds.

View from the meadow on Cape Mountain

View from the Nelson Ridge Trail

After passing through the meadow we kept right at junctions for 1.8 miles back to our car, stopping briefly to take a look at Dry Lake.

Dry Lake

We were done early enough in the day that we decided to drive up Highway 101 three miles to the Sea Lion Caves. While it isn’t exactly a hike the cave tour does require walking along a path to viewpoints and is a worthwhile stop.

Pacific Ocean on the way to the Sea Lion Caves

Inside the cave sea lions lounged on the rocks.

Sea Lions in Sea Lion Cave

Windows in the cave walls also allow a look outside to seabirds on the rocky cliffs.

Pacific Ocean from the Sea Lion Caves

Pelicans

While driving home we spotted a herd of elk grazing in a field on a farm. It figured. It would be another 55 hikes (2 years) before we finally saw elk during a hike. Never the less it had been another nice hike at the coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cape Mountain

Throwback Thursday – Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One-Cone

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike was given the name “The hike that shall not be named” by our Son, Dominique. What was supposed to be a 15 mile loop with spectacular mountain views in the Three Sisters Wilderness wound up being an 18.6 mile, mostly view-less loop, through fog and drizzle.

On 10/14/2012 we set off from the large Obsidian Trailhead into the Obsidian Limited Entry Area. The trailhead is located on Forest Road 250 off of Highway 242. A number of wildfires burned through the Three Sisters Wilderness in 2017 most likely affecting some of the forest in this area. As always, check with the Forest Service for current conditions before heading out.

A limited number of permits are available each day for entry into the Obsidian area and we had purchased ours months in advance. Due to having to purchase the permit early we were at the mercy of weather. We arrived before day light which would be delayed a bit due to the damp fog covering the area.
Signboard at the Obsidian Trailhead

Trail sign along the Obsidian Trail

When we had enough light we set off on the Obsidian Trail which quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Obsidian Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Obsidian Trail

Just under 3.5 miles from the trailhead the trail passed through the Jerry lava flow. According to our guidebook there is a view of several Cascade peaks from the flow but all we could see were clouds.
Obsidian Trail

Cloudy day in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Jerry Lava Flow

The trail descended on the far side of the lava to a crossing of the White Branch Creek which was practically dry at the time.
Obsidian Trail approaching the White Branch

White Branch

The trail split just on the other side of the creek which is where our 15 mile hike turned into something longer. I had misunderstood the description of the loop option in the guidebook. The entry in the book was for a 12 lollipop hike for which it had you take the right hand fork 1.7 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail then turn left on that trail for 1.4 miles to another junction in the Sunshine Meadow. Here a left turn would lead .7 miles back to the junction near the White Branch. The loop option that we were trying to follow simply said that from Sunshine continue on the PCT for 2.2 miles to Collier Cone then another 1.8 miles to the Scott Trail, turn left for 4.9 miles, and turn left again on a .6 mile connector trail back to the Obsidian Trailhead. I failed to notice that the entire route was only 15 miles if we took the left fork to the PCT which was .7 vs 3.1 miles (The other additional mileage was due to side trips up the Collier and Four-in-One Cones).
Trail sign near White Branch

We went right. The scenery along the trail was nice but would have been even better without the clouds and with some flowers still in bloom. That being said the South Fork White Branch still had water flowing and there was plenty of obsidian along the trail making it pretty obvious how this trail got its name.
Obsidian Trail

Obsidian on the hillside

Obsidian

South Fork White Branch

South Fork White Branch

We reached the junction with the PCT where signs were posted about the stubborn Pole Creek Fire which was still smoldering in the eastern portion of the wilderness.
Obsidian Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Dominique spotted a small group of deer near the junction but they scampered off before I could get a clear picture due to the camera lens continually fogging up.
Deer near the Pacific Crest Trail

A short time after turning north onto the PCT we came to Obsidian Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
Obsidian Falls

Obsidian Falls

After visiting the base of the falls we continued north crossing Obsidian Creek and passing its source at Sister Spring.
Obsidian Creek

Sister SpringSister Spring

At this point we were very near to the Middle and North Sisters but there was no way we were going to see anything above us through the clouds.
Talus above Sister Spring

The PCT then passed the small Arrowhead Lakes and more obsidian.
Pacific Crest Trail

One of the Arrowhead Lakes

Obsidian

We continued on the PCT which was now approaching the 7810′ Little Brother which was beyond Sunshine. We could see the meadow and Glacier Creek below but the Little Brother was for the most part hidden from sight.
Sunshine

Snow from the Pacific Crest Trail

On the way down to Sunshine we spotted the Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque.
Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque

Sunshine

At Glacier Creek we found the junction with the Glacier Way Trail which was the left hand fork we should have taken at the White Branch.
Glacier Creek

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Glacier Way Trail

Still thinking we were on a 15 mile hike we continued north on the PCT instead of opting for the 12 mile hike and turning down Glacier Way. The trail passed through many small meadows that were probably home to plenty of summer wildflowers based on the amount of lupine leaves we saw. There was no lupine blooming anymore but we did spot a lone western pasque flower gone to seed.
Pacific Crest Trail

Drops of water on lupine leaves

Western pasque flower

A little under 2 miles from Sunshine the PCT arrived at the Jerry Lava flow.
Pacific Crest Trail

Above the lava in the fog we could see the Collier Cone.
Jerry Lava Flow

A .3 mile side trip would lead to a viewpoint along the rim of the cinder cone but first we had to pass through the lava flow to Opie Dildock Pass. Along the way there we spotted some lupine still in bloom, patches of snow, a tree with a rather unique top, and some real life blue sky.
Pacific Crest Trail

Lupine

Snow patch in the Jerry Lava Flow

Sculpted tree top

A little blue sky

We almost thought we’d lost the trail below the pass but the PCT simply scrambled up a gully in the lava.
Pacific Crest Trail heading up to Opie Dildock Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

A small cairn marked the side trail into the fog filled cone.
Heading into Collier Cone

We followed a use path up to the rim.
Inside Collier Cone

But for the fog we would have had an up close view of the Collier Glacier and the North and Middle Sister.
Collier Glacier

We took an extended break on the rim and in that time the fog lifted just a bit. We could at least see back down into the cone and every once in a while we got a glimpse of the northern flank of the North Sister.
Collier Cone

Light coming from the NE side of the North Sister

North Sister

We finally headed down resigning ourselves to the fact that the views weren’t going to get any better on this trip. We returned to the PCT and headed north once again. We did get a little more blue sky overhead and the fog continued to lift allowing us to at least see a little more of our surroundings.
Blue sky for a brief moment

Pacific Crest TrailYapoah Crater in the distance.

We were now heading away from the North Sister toward Scott Meadow and the Scott Meadow Trail. We arrived at the meadow and trail junction 1.8 miles from the side trail into Collier Cone.
Scott Meadow

Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow

The Pole Creek Fire had forced the closure of the PCT at the junction.
Pacific Crest Trail closed due to the Pole Creek Fire at the Scott Trail junction

The meadow looked like it would be an impressive wildflower meadow in summer and provide some good mountain views. On this day the meadow was mostly brown and the mountains nearly hidden although we did get our best glimpse of a mountain looking back at the North Sister from the junction.
North Sister and Collier Cone

North Sister and Collier ConeNorth Sister and the Collier Cone

We vowed to come back to that spot to try again some summer which we did in 2013.
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We turned down the Scott Trail which followed a dry creek bed for a bit before entering a vast pumice plain.
Dry creek along the Scott Trail

Scott Trail

Just over 3/4 of a mile from the Scott Meadow jct we turned right onto a side trail which led up another cinder cone – Four-in-One Cone.
Four-in-One Cone

Climbing Four-in-One Cone

As the name indicates this geologic feature is not a single cinder cone but four connected cones. A path follows the length of the ridge providing plenty of opportunity for views, but not necessarily for us.
Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

I arrived at the top of the cone first and Dominique soon joined me as I gazed toward the cloud covered Three Sisters. We were about 13 miles into the hike now (we had also done a 13.5 mile hike the previous day) and we were all getting a little tired. The lack of views wasn’t helping raise spirits either. When Dominique reached me he looked around and then asked where the trail went from there. When I informed him it didn’t go anywhere and that it was just another spur trail to a viewpoint he gave me what could only be described as a death stare. His only response was “You mean we didn’t have to climb up here?”. I left him fuming at the southern end of the cone while I headed north along the rim. There I stared into the clouds where Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington should have been.
Four-in-One Cone

We were all dragging a bit as we made our way back to the Scott Trail and headed west. It wasn’t long before we were all suffering from what I’d call “trail madness”. We were moving but only because we had to in order to get back.

A little under a mile from the cone we crossed another lava flow.
Scott Trail

We spent the next 2.7 miles in the forest wondering why a 15 mile hike was seeming so hard and taking so long.
Scott Trail

When we finally arrived at the junction with the .6 mile connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead Heather gave it a kiss.
Scott Trail junction with the connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead

We managed to will ourselves through the final stretch and back to our car eager to get back to Bend and find some substantial food. The lack of views had been really disappointing given just how spectacular they should have been, but the real kick in the teeth came after we’d made it back to the east side of the mountains. Beyond the farms near Sisters we had a clear view of all Three Sisters as well as the bank of clouds that had plagued us all day on their western flanks.
The Three Sisters from Sisters, OR

Middle and North Sister

It appeared that we’d been on the wrong side of the mountains all day. Some day we’ll get back to the area which hopefully wasn’t too damaged by last years fires. Until then we have the memories of the “Hike that shall not be named”. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One Cone

Throwback Thursday – Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

This will be a brief entry for a short hike we completed in July of 2010. Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge is located less than 15 miles from Salem between Highways 22 and 99W. From April 1 thru September all the trails are open in the refuge otherwise only some are hikeable.

For our visit we parked at the Coville Road parking area and set off on the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail.
Rich Guadagno memorial plaque in Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

We kept right at junctions and after half a mile left the loop trail staying right onto the Morgan Lake Trail. We followed this trail for much of it’s 1.6 mile length before turning left on a path that connected us up to the Moffitti Marsh Trail which was an old roadbed. We followed this trail back up to the Rich Guadagno Loop and again kept right. The loop trail climbed gently up Baskett Butte to a viewing platform. We had seen a couple of deer already and as we headed up to the platform a third deer crossed the trail.
Deer in a meadow at Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Deer

Buck crossing the trail

View from the Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

After completing the loop we returned to our car. The total distance was a little under 5 miles. It was only the third hike we’d done since we decided to try out this hiking thing and I had not yet become the crazy picture taking hiker that I am today. Never the less it was a nice place to take a leisurely hike and watch for wildlife. Happy Trails!

Throwback Thursday – Dome Rock

In July of 2010 we made our first attempt to hike to Phantom Bridge (we finally made it in 2011 on our third try). A washout had closed access to the most popular trailheads and the trailheads shown in our guidebook, the Phantom Bridge Trailhead and the French Creek Trailhead – West. This left us looking for an alternate route to the natural arch and while I was doing some research on the Willamette National Forest website I came across the French Creek Trailhead – East. I was able to find a photo at the time online of a sign at this trailhead along Forest Road 458.

It was going to make the hike quite a bit longer than necessary but we were obsessed with seeing the Phantom Bridge. From Detroit, OR we followed the directions from the Forest Service website to FR 480. The road was narrow and exposed with steep drop-offs which made it one of the more nerve wracking drives to date. The road conditions weren’t as bad as some we’ve driven but the scare factor was high. We watched the odometer but when we had gone the correct distance we saw no sign of the trailhead. After finding a place where we could turn around (the road was blocked by a small rockslide beyond) we slowly backtracked looking for any signs of a trail.

Instead of continuing to search for a trailhead that we now weren’t even sure existed anymore we decided to get down off the scary road and try something else. When we were back down to safer roads we consulted our guidebook and discovered that just 2.3 miles west of Detroit along Highway 22 was the Tumble Creek South Trailhead. A 10.3 mile hike from this trailhead would take us to the former lookout site atop Dome Rock and back.

The thought of a trailhead that didn’t require any more driving on Forest Roads was too tempting to pass up so we drove west of Detroit on Highway 22 and parked on the north shoulder at a gated road bed nest to Tumble Creek. The actual trail started .4 miles up the closed road at a small trail sign.
Tumble Ridge Trail

The trail climbed steeply uphill making several switchbacks. Occasional views could be of Detroit Lake and several Cascade peaks.
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Detroit LakeDetroit Lake

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Park Ridge and Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The trail passed through a brushy area at an old road bed near the Margie Dunham Spring approximately 3 1/4 miles from the old road bed along Tumble Creek.
Tumble Ridge Trail

From there the climb became more gradual as it passed a couple of interesting rock formation including one dubbed “Toilet Rock”.
Toilet Rock

About a mile from the Margie Dunham Spring we came to the junction with the trail up to Dome Rock. Here we turned right climbing a final .5 miles to the old lookout site. The view was great from the summit and included the top of Mt. Hood to the north and Tumble Lake below to the NW. It was also our first good look at the distinctively flat topped Coffin Mountain (post).
View from Dome Rock Coffin and Bachelor Mountains in front of Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and The Three Sisters

Tumble LakeTumble Lake

Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonClose up of Mt. Jefferson

After admiring the view we returned to the Tumble Lake Trail. We briefly considered continuing to Tumble Lake but it was another 1.7 miles just to get to the lake meaning 3.4 additional miles in all plus we would lose around 800′ of elevation going down to the lake and we had already climbed over 3250′. Maybe next time. Instead we retraced our steps down to Highway 22 and headed back to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dome Rock