Throwback Thursday – Little North Santiam River

Our Throwback Thursday hike this week was the first time that we experienced snowfall while on a trail. In early April of 2012 we headed to the Little North Santiam, West Trailhead for what we hoped would be a 9 mile out-and-back hike along the Little North Santiam River.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

The area has become so popular on summer weekends that in June 2017 the Forest Service put several restrictions in place (information). Most of the issues have been north bank of the river which is easily accessed by car. Even in 2012 we knew to avoid the warm days of summer so we were there on a cold, wet Spring morning ready to go.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

Little North Santaim Trail

The Little North Santiam Trail led through a green forest along the Little North Santiam River.
Winter Creek

Little North Santaim River

Several side paths led down to the clear water.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Low clouds provided a light drizzle but we could see high enough up the hillside to see that snow level wasn’t all that much more above us.
Snowy trees not too much higher up

After crossing Winter Creek the trail climbed away from the river as it passed through a narrow canyon.
Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

After passing the canyon the trail descended back down to the river through a mossy green forest.
Little North Santaim Trail

Forest along the Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

At the 3.3 mile mark we passed above the Three Pools which are emerald pools in the river separated by small falls.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

A little beyond the Three Pools the trail crosses Little Cedar Creek on a footbridge only the footbridge had been washed out over the winter and the creek was flowing high enough and fast enough to make the thought of fording unattractive. We were only about half a mile from the eastern trailhead but had to turn back.

As we headed back it began to snow.
Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

It was coming down steadily and beginning to stick.
Snow along the Little North Santiam Trail

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Things looked quite a bit different at the high point of the trail when we passed over on the way back.
Little North Santaim Trail

Fresh snow on the Little North Santiam Trail

As we descended the amount of snow lessened but it still made for some beautiful scenery.
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

There was even a bit of snow at the trailhead when we got back.
Fresh snow at the Little North Santiam Trailhead

The snow had surprised us and we were a little nervous at first about being able to see the trail, which was unfounded but we hadn’t hiked in snow like that before. It wound up being an exceptionally beautiful hike though and so much nicer than it would have been with hundreds of people swimming in the river. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little North Santiam River

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Black Butte – Memorial Day 2018

On Memorial Day we headed home from Bend and stopped to revisit a hike that we first did on October 14, 2013 (post). We covered the trailhead and route in that trip report. This entry will focus on what we saw this time around. On our previous visit the forecast had been for clear, sunny skies but what we got was a sheet of grey clouds that obscured most of the mountain views we’d hoped for. This time around things were much different.

We set off a little after 6am from the lower trailhead and headed through the forest which was a little greener in May than it had been in October.
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There was some yellow clumps of balsamroot blooming along the lower trail and we also saw a little red paintbrush.
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Caterpillars were busy munching on leaves but they weren’t the only insects on the plants.
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We spotted a few ticks on the ends of plants and I had to flick a couple off my pants along the way.

There had been one other vehicle at the lower trailhead that morning and we found two more at the upper trailhead when we arrived there just after 7:30am.
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From the upper trailhead the trail was significantly wider and we had no tick issues along this 2 mile stretch. There were however a fair number of flowers blooming including quite a bit of larkspur that for some reason I was unable to take a clear photo of. Several others proved a little more photogenic.
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When I was going through the photos on the computer I noticed a little spider that had posed near a violet.
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It was a beautifully sunny day and the birds were out in force singing their morning songs.
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We had left the upper trailhead before the hikers in one of the two cars and we passed the owners of the other car as well as the car that had been parked at the lower trailhead on their way back down from the summit so we had the top part of Black Butte to ourselves as we finished our climb.

Our whole reason for redoing this hike had been for the missed mountain view and we were not disappointed. We had been seeing them for much of the hike but the view is never better than from the top.
IMG_4691The old lookout tower with Broken Top and the Three Sisters

IMG_4692Belknap Crater & Mt. Washington

IMG_4693Mt. Washington & Three Fingered Jack with the old cupola lookout

IMG_4694Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams

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It was definitely a stark contrast from the previous visit.
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Cupola style lookout on Black Butte

We had the summit to ourselves for just a bit before the next hiker arrived. We took that as our queue to begin our descent and headed back down. We had not seen more than two people during any of our other hikes that weekend but on our way down we passed a steady stream of folks heading up to the summit. Most had started at the upper trailhead but there were a surprising number of hikers tackling the over 3000′ climb from the lower trailhead as well. Either way the views were more than worth it. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Black Butte 2018

Muir Creek Loop – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

We had planned our most adventurous hike of Memorial Day weekend for Sunday. The goal was a long loop into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, one of the wilderness areas we had yet to visit in our outings. Our intended route was to begin at the Muir Creek Trailhead and complete a 15.5 mile loop described by William Sullivan in his Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (Hike #37 in the 2017 4th edition). We were pushing the envelope a bit by attempting the loop this early in the year given that the route would take us to an elevation just over 6000′. A May 8, 2015 variation of the loop by fellow hiker Van Marmot appeared to have been snow free (trip report). That was an extremely low snow year and although this years snow pack was well below normal it isn’t nearly as bad as it was in 2015. We hoped the extra two weeks in timing would at least make what snow might be left passable. We figured the worst case scenario would be that we would hike up the creek as far as possible and make it an out-and-back if necessary.

With plans A & B at the ready we left Bend a bit before 5am and were ready to set off on the Muir Creek Trail by 6:45.
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It was a crisp 35 degrees as we set off through the forest. We were soon climbing over and around a good deal of blowdown.
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It wasn’t long before we began getting our first views of the meadows along Muir Creek.
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We were on the lookout for wildlife in the meadows as well as any sign of where the abandoned portion of the Meadow Creek Trail might drop us back onto the Muir Creek Trail if we were indeed able to complete the loop. We expected that junction to be somewhere near the one mile mark but never noticed anything that looked like it might be the old trail. Beyond the one mile mark we encountered what appeared to be a somewhat recently eroded section of trail.
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Just under a mile and a half from the trailhead we came to a beautiful view of Muir Creek as it flowed through a meadow.
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Just beyond the viewpoint we passed a nice patch of white lupine along the trail.
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Then we came to Alkali Creek which proved to be a little challenging to get across dry footed but we managed to find a fairly dry route.
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The trail spent most if its time in the forest but occasional openings in the trees provided meadow views and at one point we spotted a pair of deer nibbling on some bushes.
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Roughly two and three quarter miles from the trailhead we spotted East Fork Muir Creek Falls. Here we also saw the only other people we would see along the trail all day, a couple of backpackers who had set up camp near the falls.
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Beyond the falls the trail continued up along West Fork Muir Creek briefly joining OHV Trail 27.
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We left the OHV Trail at a bridge over the creek after a couple tenths of a mile.
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We were now on the Buck Canyon Trail which began at road 6560/190 on the other side of the bridge at the Buck Canyon Trailhead.
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Approximately a quarter mile from the bridge we came to the first of two bridgeless crossings of the creek. We searched to no avail for a place where we could cross without getting wet and eventually decided to ford the creek which was only calf deep but it was cold.
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A quarter mile later we were faced with a similar situation and plunged through the icy water again.
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In a small meadow we found some tall mountain bluebells beginning to bloom and a butterfly who appeared to be waiting for the flowers.
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The meadows increased as we officially entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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We soon entered Hummingbird Meadows which had a nice display of yellow glacier lilies.
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We also spotted a coyote here and watched it run off into the forest and disappear. A total of 5.3 miles from the Muir Creek Trailhead we passed the signed Hummingbird Meadows Trail.
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The trail continued to the large and scenic Hummingbird Meadows as it climbed gradually up Buck Canyon.
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The meadows continued for a mile and a half from the Hummingbird Meadows Trail to a junction with the Wiley Camp Trail which the Forest Service Website currently lists as “area is unavailable”.
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Near the upper end of the meadows we began seeing some decent amounts of snow.
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We also spotted a dreaded mylar balloon which we packed out.
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At the junction there was no sign for the Wiley Camp Trail but there was one for the Buck Canyon Trail pointing toward the Meadow Creek Trail (which was still quite a ways away).
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Shortly after passing the Wiley Camp Trail we came to Devils Slide, a half mile long rock-slide.
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We stopped to visit a small waterfall next to the rocks.
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After passing Devils Slide the trail entered an upper meadow.
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Here we found some large patches of marsh marigolds.
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A brief stint in the trees led us to more blowdown and another small waterfall.
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Then we were back in a meadow but this time there was quite a bit more snow.
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A few phlox and avalanche lilies bloomed here.
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We lost the trail in the snow as we left the meadow and entered the trees.
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For the next couple of miles we played find the trail due to the lingering snow. There was enough left that it made things challenging but not impassable. We did a bit of postholing, especially Heather, as we zig zaged through the forest looking for signs of the trail. Sometimes old tree blazes led the way and other times it was downed logs that had been cut for the trail. Occasionally the trail itself would appear for a bit only to be swallowed again by a snow drift. Having the GPS also helped as we were able to tell where the trail was in relation to our position.
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IMG_4483blaze in the tree

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After passing over a saddle at 6000′ we descended to Alkali Meadows. From the meadows we spotted Union Peak and some of the rim of Crater Lake.
IMG_4504Union Peak

IMG_4506Hillman Peak and The Watchman

After a brief stint in the upper portion of the meadows the trail turned back into the trees for a couple of creek crossings.
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Soon we were back in Alkali Meadows and staring straight at Mt. Thielsen. (post)
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A little further down the meadow Mt. Bailey (post) joined the view.
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We left the snow behind after Alkali Meadows where the trail turned south traversing through a drier area for a mile to Bear Camp where we found the Meadow Creek Trail.
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IMG_4532The rim of Crater Lake

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We turned left onto the Meadow Creek Trail and quickly began a steep mile long descent.
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We passed through more meadows with more views.
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Just before reaching road 6540-700 we left the wilderness behind.
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We turned left onto this road and followed it just over a quarter of a mile to where we turned right and followed signs for OHV Trail 27.
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OHV Trail 27 left the wide road in favor of a rougher, narrow track.
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There had obviously been some recent maintenance done to this trail, unlike our earlier trails.
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We passed a nice view of Mt. Bailey and then saw the source of some of the maintenance.
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The little dozer was Forest Service but it alone couldn’t have created all the debris we’d been seeing along the trail. Broken trees and brush had lined the entire track. After passing another viewpoint, this time of Crater Lake’s rim and Union Peak we discovered what had been chewing up the vegetation.
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After roughly 1.5 miles descending on the OHV Trail we arrived Road 6540-900.
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As nice as it was to have an actual trail to follow from Road 6540-700 down to the next road crossing it would have been much nicer if it had been the Meadow Creek Trail which had originally continued all the way down to the Muir Creek Trail. All of that trail save the mile between Bear Camp and Road 6540-700 has been abandoned by the Forest Service and from the map OHV Trail 27 appears to have obliterated some of the original trail. Road 6540-900 is where Van Marmot had started his hike and his trip report noted that the lower portion of the Meadow Creek Trial between this road and the Muir Creek Trail was still usable.

We turned right on Road 6450-700 looking for signs of the trail. Luckily someone had placed some pink flagging at the old trail otherwise we would have probably walked right past it even though the GPS showed we were right near it.
IMG_4572Faded pink flagging in the tree marking the abandoned Meadow Creek Trail

The trail was approximately 100 yards from where OHV Trial 27 popped out on the road and just a short distance before a cattle guard.
IMG_4573Cattle guard on Road 6540-700

The old trail was faint but easy to follow, in fact it was easier to follow this trail than the Buck Canyon Trail had been in the snow.
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There was pink flagging along most of the half mile route but we did finally lose track of the tread just above the Muir Creek Trail. There was enough blowdown along the hillside that we had to make the final descent up on our own. This explained why we had been unable to spot any sign of the trail on our way by in the morning. We wound up just about a mile away from the trailhead so we headed back along the Muir Creek Trail maneuvering around the downed trees along the way. The 15.5 mile loop wound up being 16.2 according to our GPS, much of difference can be attributed to the back and forth hiking we did searching for the Buck Canyon Trail in the snow.

It was a beautiful hike even with the OHV Trail thrown in and we were amazed that on a holiday weekend we had only seen the one other couple all day. It was everything we’d hoped for in our first visit to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Muir Creek Loop

White River Falls, Macks Canyon & Rimrock Springs

We headed over to Bend for Memorial Day weekend to visit Heather’s parents and get a few more hikes checked off our to do list. On our drive over to Bend we hit three different locations starting with White River Falls.

In order to visit White River Falls we took what we call the long way around to Bend. From Salem we headed north through Portland to I84 then east to Highway 197 in The Dalles which we followed south to Tygh Valley. Our plan was to take Highway 216 four miles east from Tygh Valley to White River Falls State Park then continue on Hwy 216 to Sherars Bridge where we would turn for our second hike. We had about a quarter of a tank of gas left so we tried to stop in Tygh Valley to fill up not knowing for sure when we would see another gas station but the one in Tygh Valley was still closed so we decided to go to the falls then come back for gas before continuing to our second stop.

We parked at the good sized day use area and passed a large signboard warning of the dangers of the river (and also the presence of rattlesnakes).
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A short paved path led to a railed overlook above White River Falls.
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An interpretive sign at the viewpoint told about the 1901 hydroelectric plant that was built here.
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From the viewpoint we could see the remains of the powerhouse in the canyon downstream.
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From the viewpoint a path led downhill across a bridge along the settling pond damn and down into the canyon for a view upstream to the falls.
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The trail continued downhill past the powerhouse where the view of the falls included a nice rainbow.
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There were a few flowers blooming in the canyon.
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We continued to follow the path downstream a short distance past Celestial Falls.
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Beyond Celestial Falls the trail brought us to several rocky viewpoints where we could look back upstream to those falls and also further downstream.
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A couple of mergansers were enjoying a beach along the river downstream.
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We had gone about half a mile from the viewpoint when we decided to call it good and head back. The path had split where we turned around, one trail stayed up on the canyon hillside above the rocks and the other appeared to be a scramble down to the river. We had seen what we had come for in the falls though and had other hikes to get to, so back we went.

Once we were back at the viewpoint we followed the fence upstream through the grassy day use area to a different view of White River Falls.
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We then cut through the day use area as I had seen a bullock’s oriole after getting out of the car but couldn’t get a picture and was hoping to see it again. We didn’t spot the oriole but there was a nice view of Mt. Hood where the White River originates.
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We drove back to Tygh Valley to see if the gas station was open (it was now after 8am) and it was, so we filled up and then drove out Highway 216 again, past White River Falls State Park four miles to Sherars Bridge where we continued across the Deschutes River an additional three quarters of a mile to a left had turn at a Deschutes River Access sign. We followed this mostly gravel, sometimes paved, always 20mph road 17 miles to its end at Macks Canyon Campground. We parked at a small pullout at a hairpin turn just before the road dropped down to the campground.
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From the road we took an unsigned trail following an old railroad grade into the Deschutes River Canyon.
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Just a short distance from the pullout we arrived at Macks Canyon where a trestle once spanned the opening.
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IMG_4178Looking up Macks Canyon

The trail scrambled downhill then crossed the canyon before scrambling steeply back up the other side to the railroad grade.
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We couldn’t have asked for much better weather, the sky was mostly sunny and although it was warm a fairly steady breeze kept it from feeling to hot. We continued following the trail for nearly another mile to a second long gone trestle. The views along this section were great with some really interesting rock formations along the canyon wall and several different types of wildflowers in bloom.
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IMG_4019A thistle

IMG_4031A vetch

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IMG_4044A penstemon

IMG_4171Clustered broomrape

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The second missing trestle crossing was quickly followed a third, each of which involved a short scramble into and back out of small canyons.
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The trail then continued along the railroad grade along a fence where we found some interesting wildflowers.
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A little under a mile from the third missing trestle we arrived at a fourth at Sixteen Canyon.
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Before heading down into the canyon we watched some of the many rafters float by.
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Sixteen Canyon by far had the most vegetation. Some of it was nice like the mock orange which was blooming profusely. The blackberries weren’t so pleasant with their sharp thorns.
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We climbed out of Sixteen Canyon and continued on another mile and a half.
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At one point we found ourselves on the opposite side of a fence than the river.
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Over this next stretch we did a lot of insect watching. We were seeing quite a variety of beetles and other flying insects, many of which were busying themselves on large thistle blossoms.
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We turned around at a bend in the river where the trail passed above a campsite.
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I had seen two snakes earlier on the trail and on the way back a third darted off the trail in front of us. None of them were rattlers though. We hadn’t seen any snakes at White River Falls that morning either but we were keeping our eyes out (or so I thought). I heard Heather gasp behind me only to turn around and see that I had somehow managed to step right over a snake in the middle of the trail and never noticed it. Luckily it was just a harmless gopher snake.
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We were even more vigilant after that but the only other reptile we spotted was a lizard.
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After returning to the car we headed back toward Highway 216 where we decided to get creative. We could have taken the Hwy 216 back to Hwy 197 and then headed south toward Maupin which was about 18.5 miles away going that route. The Deschutes River Access Road continued south across Hwy 216 though and a sign there indicated that Maupin was only 9 miles that way. We decided to try the access road which lived up to its name offering many access points for the river. The speed limit varied between 20 & 35mph so it was a little slower pace than the Highways would have been but it was more scenic. We ran into trouble though when we reached Maupin. When the access road ended in town, there were no signs that we could see. The road map we had appeared to show the road ending at Highway 197 where we would want to turn left (south). After initially turning right we decided to trust the map and turned around. The road we were on was narrow with tight turns as it climbed up the canyon away from Maupin. That didn’t seem right and neither did the direction we were beginning to head so we turned on our Garmin, that we use hiking, and checked it. Sure enough we were on Bakeoven Road not the highway so we turned around. Looking at the GPS we could see that if we’d have gone just a bit further when we had initially turned right we would have found 197.

After that little adventure we drove south on Hwy 197 to its junction with Highway97 and followed it to Madras. Highways 97 & 26 join in Madras before splitting again at the other end. We turned onto 26 at the southern end of Madras in order to get to our final stop of the day at Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area.

We drove for 9 miles to a rise where a sign pointed to the trailhead turnoff on the left. From the parking area a half mile paved trail began.
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The paved portion of the trail led past interpretive signs to a viewing platform and the start of a mile long dirt trail.
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The viewing platform overlooked the wetland where all we saw on this day were a couple of ducks and numerous blackbirds.
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From the platform we took the Overview Trail uphill through the juniper to a spur trail that led to a second platform.
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We didn’t spot anything different from the second platform and continued on the loop.
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At the crest of the trail we passed a Mountain Overview sign where rock outcrops offered views across the Crooked River Grassland to the Cascade Mountains.
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IMG_4226Broken Top and the Three Sisters

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We got a pleasant surprise when Heather spotted a couple of bitterroot flowers blooming in the area.
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Beyond the overlook the trail descended to the paved path less than a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Along the final stretch of the Mountain Overlook Trail Mt. Hood could be seen in the distance ending our hikes as we’d begun them looking at the tallest mountain in Oregon. Happy Trails!
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Flick: White River Falls, Macks Canyon, & Rimrock Springs

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Defiance

This week’s hike took place on 7/15/2012 when we tackled the challenging Mt. Defiance Trail in the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately the area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire making it’s current status uncertain.

Our hike that day began at the Starvation Creek Trailhead.
Starvation Creek State Park sign

Prior to setting off on the Mt. Defiance Trail we made the short walk to Starvation Creek Falls.
Trial to Starvation Creek Falls

Starvation Creek Falls

After visiting the falls we followed pointers for the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Trail sign at the parking area

At the time a path followed the shoulder of the freeway for a short distance before veering away into the woods. In 2016 changes were made to the first mile plus of this hike making it wider and putting up a nicer barrier along the freeway section.
Columbia River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead we passed our return route, the Starvation Cutoff Trail, and just a bit beyond that we came to a small sign for Cabin Creek Falls.
Sign for Cabin Creek Falls

That small fall was mostly hidden.
Cabin Creek Falls

A little under a half mile further though was a less obscured waterfall – Hole in the Wall Falls.
Hole in the Wall Falls

This waterfall is not a natural occurrence, it was created in 1938 when the Oregon Highway Department rerouted Warren Creek due to Warren Creek Falls being too close to the old Columbia River Highway. The falls name comes from the waters emergence from the cliff via a man made hole.
Hole in the Wall Falls

A tenth of a mile beyond Hole in the Wall Falls we passed a junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail. A left turn here would have brought us to the upper end of the Starvation Cutoff Trail in a mile allowing for a short two and a half mile loop.
Junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail

Having loftier goals we continued straight passing below the lower portion of Lancaster Falls after .2 miles.
Lancaster Falls

It seemed like a nice “little” waterfall but interestingly this lower portion was only a small part of a much taller fall as we would discover in 2014 when we spotted the waterfall from across the Columbia River on the Dog Mountain Trail (post).
Lancaster Falls from Dog Mountain

Another half a mile of fairly level trail brought us to the start of the 4700′ climb to the summit of Mt. Defiance. The trail passed under some powerlines up a fairly open hillside where low clouds only provided a limited view of Wind Mountain across the river.
Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The trail then entered the trees as it gained 4000′ over approximately three nearly unrelenting miles.
Columbia River

Mt. Defiance Trail

Mt. Defiance Trail

Along the way we passed a Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness sign.
Mt. Defiance Trail entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness

A little further on was a viewpoint along a rocky hillside. Low clouds limited much of the view but a nice rainbow was visible in the valley below.
View along the Mt. Defiance Trail

Rainbow seen from the Mt. Defiance Trail

After gaining those 4000′ we arrived at a junction with the Mitchell Point Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

We would be taking that trail on our way back, but first more climbing.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Two tenths of a mile from the Mitchell Point Trail junction a new (at that time) trail led off to the right. The trail was unmarked except for two small rock cairns.
Mt. Defiance Trail

This mile long segment of trail traversed a talus covered hillside above Bear Lake up and around Mt. Defiance to a microwave building at its summit.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Bear Lake

Towers on Mt. Defiance

Unfortunately for us the clouds had not burned off and Mt. Hood was completely hidden.
View from Mt. Defiance

The only view we had from the summit was to the SE.
View from Mt. Defiance

After a nice rest at the summit we opted to head back down to the Mitchell Point Trail via the older summit route which shaved off .2 miles.
Sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

When we reached the junction we turned onto the Mitchell Point Trail and headed east toward Warren Lake. The clouds to the east had been breaking up revealing some nice blue skies as we reached a viewpoint above Warren Lake.
View from Mt. Defiance

View from the Mt. Defiance Trail

We arrived at the lake .8 miles from the junction.
Warren Lake

Warren Lake

We followed the Mitchell Point Trail another half mile from Warren Lake before turning left onto the unsigned Starvation Ridge Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

Mitchell Point Trail

The Starvation Ridge Trail began heading downhill offering a view back to Mt. Defiance.
Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance

It was still a bit cloudy for views in other directions though.
View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

The view of Wind Mountain had greatly improved.
Columbia River

As the ridge narrowed the decent steepened and we were soon barreling downhill. The trail ahead would occasionally vanish as is dropped leaving us wondering if it just dropped off a cliff.
Starvation Ridge Trail

For over three miles the trail dove and yet the Columbia River didn’t seem to be getting all that closer. Then the trail came to an opening at the end of the ridge across from Dog Mountain.
Dog Mountain

Wind Mountain on the Columbia River

The view was nice except for the one down to the Starvation Creek Trailhead where our car looked smaller than a Hot Wheels.
Trailhead from the Starvation Ridge Trail

From the ridge end the trail headed downhill away from the trailhead. We turned right onto the Starvation Cutoff Trail at a signed junction and switchbacked down .3 miles to the Mt. Defiance Trail and followed the freeway back to our car.
Trial sign along the Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance had lived up to it’s reputation as a challenge and it would have been nice to have had a view at the top but it was rewarding to know that we could accomplish it. It was a boost to our confidence going forward. We look forward to heading back someday when the skies are clearer. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Defiance

Lookout Creek & Carpenter Mountain

We found ourselves doing some last minute schedule rearranging due to an ever changing weather forecast. After deciding against a possibly wet overnight trip along the Salmon River we chose a pair of hikes we had originally planned on doing in early June. We picked these because they gave us options. The Lookout Creek Old-Growth Trail wasn’t view dependent so it didn’t matter if it was raining or partly sunny. We did however want at least partly sunny skies for the shorter hike to the lookout tower atop Carpenter Mountain so our plan was to decide on our way to Blue River, OR which hike to start with. Worst case scenario was that it showered all day in which case we would just hike the Lookout Creek Trail and save Carpenter Mountain for another time.

It was a misty drive south to Eugene and more of the same as we drove east from there on Highway 126 to Blue River so we headed to the Lookout Creek West Trailhead. The trail passes through the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 16,000 acre portion of the Willamette National Forest supported by Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service. The trail begins and ends on Forest Road 1506 making a car shuttle possible.

From the west trailhead the trail descended quickly down to Lookout Creek.
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A small footbridge crossed a marshy area just prior to reaching a much longer bridge spanning Lookout Creek.
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The trail then climbed steeply away from the creek up a ridge for about a mile then began traversing the hillside several hundred feet above the creek. The old-growth forest was the star of the hike.
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Several types of wildflowers were either blooming or preparing to bloom along the way.
IMG_3722Red flowering currant

IMG_3723 Large solomonseal

IMG_3739Oregon grape

IMG_3804Vanilla leaf

IMG_3791Violets

IMG_3774Trillium and bleeding heart

IMG_3803Bunchberry

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IMG_3752Beargrass

Wildlife was confined to the smaller varieties.
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Crab SpiderCrab spider on trillium

IMG_3729Rough-skinned newt

A mile and a half from the west trailhead was the only real viewpoint along the trail. A rock outcrop there looked out over the Lookout Creek Valley.
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From the viewpoint we could see that the clouds seemed to be breaking up which gave us some hope that by the time we were finished with this hike it might be clear enough to warrant the visit to Carpenter Mountain.

Beyond the viewpoint the trail crossed several small seasonal streams. Only one of these crossing was a little tricky. The log over the stream was angled down which made it a little awkward to cross.
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The trail dropped back down to a second crossing of Lookout Creek before climbing back up to Road 1506 at the eastern trailhead. The bridge and the creek where much smaller at this end.
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Our guidebook had described the trail in part as “A woodsy 6.3-mi trail….” (since corrected in subsequent printings) so we had been thinking that hiking the entire trail out-and-back would be 12.6 miles but a sign at this trailhead indicated that the trail was only 3.5 miles one way.
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We returned the way we’d come passing a handful of hikers on the way back to our car. Since the hike wound up only being 7 miles instead of 12.6 we made it back to the car at a quarter after eleven. The sky above seemed clear enough to give Carpenter Mountain a try. The trailhead for Carpenter Mountain is located on Forest Road 350 which we had passed on Road 1506 less than a quarter mile from the Lookout Creek West Trailhead. We drove back to Road 350 and turned onto it heading uphill (north) for approximately 5 miles to a pullout at a saddle. Even though the snow pack is below normal this year, we weren’t entirely certain that we would make to the trailhead which was at an elevation just over 4400′. We knew from our Patterson Mountain outing just two weeks prior that there was still some snow present in areas starting around 4000′ feet and we had even seen one very small patch of snow along the Lookout Creek Trail around 3400′.
IMG_3770Snow in the bushes along the Lookout Creek Trail

The road was in pretty good shape, it appeared that the Forest Service had taken care of the trees that had fallen over the winter and aside from a few rocks here and there the drive was fine. Near the trailhead there was some snow present along the shoulder of the road but that was it. We parked at the saddle which had a decent view east to several mountains.
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A short walk up the road brought us to the signed trail.
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The trail climbed up through huckleberry bushes just beginning to get their leaves.
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It wasn’t long before we hit the first section of snow covered trail.
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For a short while the trail occasionally popped out from under the melting snow.
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We had micro spikes with us but never needed them. The trail actually became snow free after about four tenths of a mile and at the half mile mark passed through a hillside meadow with a few yellow glacier lilies.
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The meadow allowed for views SSW to Diamond Peak.
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Beyond the meadow the trail wound its way up Carpenter Mountain through a forest that had lots of debris down from the winter.
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A little under a mile from the car the trail passed an opening where we could see the basalt cliffs of Carpenter Mountain’s summit and the lookout tower atop them.
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The trail took us around to the east side of the mountain where we climbed up the rocks to the lookout tower.
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IMG_3924Looking back down at the route up

The tower wasn’t staffed yet for the season so we had the summit to ourselves. There were still some clouds in the sky but overall the views were pretty darn good. Mt. Jefferson was a little obscured and Mt. Hood was completely hidden but the rest of the Cascades from Three Fingered Jack to Diamond Peak were on full display.
IMG_3884Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

IMG_3888Belknap & Black Craters, The Three Sisters & The Husband, and Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3886Diamond Peak

View from the Carpenter Mountain LookoutPanorama

One of the most interesting sights from the lookout is Wolf Rock, a monolith just to the north.
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We took a nice long break at the tower and tried to identify as many of the visible peaks as possible. Starting to the north:
IMG_3908Iron Mountain and Cone Peak (post) with Battle Ax Mountain (post) between in the distance.

IMG_3910Browder Ridge (post)

IMG_3883Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3893Maxwell Butte (post) and Three Fingered Jack

IMG_3894Mt. Washington

IMG_3896Belknap Crater (post) and Black Crater (post)

IMG_3897The Three Sisters and The Husband

IMG_3898Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3904Fuji Mountain (post) and Diamond Peak

IMG_3919Tidbits Mountain

The thought of an actual meal finally tore us away and we headed back down. It was a great reward for a relatively easy two mile hike. Even though the trail gained over 900′ of elevation over the course of the mile it was a fairly gradual climb. The old-growth trail had also been very nice, it was a pretty forest with lots of bird song. All in all not a bad way to spend a day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lookout Creek & Carpenter Mountain

Throwback Thursday – Three Fingered Jack

This week’s Throwback Thursday hike is a 13.5 mile loop taken on 10/13/12 partly along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started our hike at the Pacific Crest Trailhead near Santiam Pass along Highway 22. Our plan for the day was to follow the PCT to the SW flank of Three Fingered Jack then return on a loop by leaving the PCT on the way back above Martin Lake and hiking cross country past that lake to the Summit Lake Trail.

We arrived just before daylight and were rewarded with some amazing sights as we waited for enough light to start hiking.Three Fingered Jack/PCT trailhead

Morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington in the morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington

The trailhead is located in the fire scar of the 2003 B & B Fire. One of those B’s is for Booth Lake which we planned on visiting as we returned on the Summit Trail.Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

A short distance after passing the junction with the Summit Trail the PCT entered the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail

From the wilderness boundary Three Fingered Jack was only about 3 miles away but was hidden behind the rise of the land. There were plenty of views to be had to the south though.Hayrick Butte and Hoodoo

Hayrick Butte and the Hoodo Ski Area

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Washington and the North and Middle Sisters

We spent a lot of time looking over our shoulders as the views only got better as we made the gradual climb toward Three Fingered Jack.Black Crater, Broken Top, the North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

North and Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister

Broken Top

Broken Top

Three Fingered Jack finally came into view when the trail leveled out on a plateau.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

At the 1.25 mile mark we arrived at a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail.Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Santiam Lake Trail

We continued on the PCT through the silver snags of the B & B Fire which were a surprisingly nice contrast to the bright red Fall huckleberry leaves.Pacific Crest Trail

Contrasting colors in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Another impressive view came two miles from the Santiam Trail junction.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking south

The PCT had steepened a bit as it climbed to this view on a ridge which it now followed into green trees.Three Fingered Jack

Pacific Crest Trail

The ridge passed above Booth and Martin Lakes which lay to the east.Martin and Booth Lakes and Black Butte

Black Butte (post) beyond Martin and Booth Lakes

Just under a half mile from the viewpoint we passed a spot along the ridge where we would head cross-country on the way back. We were still gaining elevation which gave us a view of Diamond Peak even further south.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Diamond Peak

We also noticed that the stubborn Pole Creek Fire was still putting up a smoke column from the Three Sisters Wilderness.Black Crater, Broken Top, smoke from the Pole Creek Fire, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, The Husband, Big Lake, Hayrick Butte, Scott Mountain, and Diamond Peak

Broken Top and the Pole Creek Fire

To the west we spotted Lower Berley Lake.Lower Berley Lake

Three Fingered Jack disappeared again for a bit but not long after crossing a rocky section of the ridge the PCT rounded a corner and Three Fingered Jack came back into view.Three Fingered Jack

Continuing on just a couple tenths of a mile more brought us to even better views of the volcano’s western face.Three Fingered Jack

A climbers trail was clearly visible heading up toward the summit.Three Fingered Jack

We followed the PCT to the junction with the climbers trail which was approximately 5.5 miles from the trailhead.Three Fingered Jack

It was tempting to head up the path but apparently only for me. Heather and Dominique were good turning around here so they took a short break as I went up a very short distance. The trail was fairly steep and the loose rock made it more effort than I was willing to expend so I quickly returned and we began our hike back.

On the way back along the PCT we spotted a trail heading off to the right (SW) just over half a mile from the climbers trail. This short spur led to a rock outcrop with spectacular view.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

From here we could see at least a part of 7 Cascade Peaks: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, All three of the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Diamond Peak.Black Crater, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington

From left to right: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, North Sister, the summit of South Sister, Middle Sister, and Mt. Washington.

Scott Mountain and Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

After a nice long break soaking in the view we continued south on the PCT past the rock section along the ridge.Pacific Crest Trail

Shortly after the rocks we headed downhill at a low point along the ridge into the least steep looking gully we had seen on the way by earlier.Off-trail route to Martin Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail

The route was fairly steep but the good news was that the lake was at the bottom of a bowl so we basically just needed to stay heading downhill and we would by default find Martin Lake. The trees were sparse enough to make travel easy and we soon found ourselves along a fern covered hillside.Cross country route from the Pacific  Crest Trail to Martin Lake

Fern covered hillside near Martin Lake

This was our first real foray into off-trail travel but between the map, GPS and knowing that the lake was at the bottom of the bowl we had no trouble finding the water after traveling approximately .4 miles.Martin Lake

Several deer had been on the far side of Martin Lake but ran as we emerged from the trees. They had been in the area of an old trail that ran from the Summit Trail to Martin Lake but had not been maintained since the B & B Fire.Martin Lake

Martin Lake

We made our way around the south shore of the lake to its east end hoping to pick up the trail we had seen from the west end.Martin Lake

The trail was basically non-existent though.Cross country route to the Summit Trail

The good news was we knew that the Summit Trail was due east from Martin Lake and to make things easier so was Black Butte. We used the 6436′ butte as our guide as we traveled the half mile from Martin Lake to the Summit Lake Trail.Black Butte

We were a little concerned that the Summit Lake Trail might be hard to spot so I occasionally checked the GPS to make sure it wasn’t showing that we’d crossed it. We wound up having no problem identifying the dusty Summit Lake Trail though and turned right onto it. After a quarter mile we took a short spur to the right to Booth Lake.Booth Lake

We were joined by an eagle who landed in the snags on the far side of the lake.Eagle on the far side of Booth Lake

From the shore Three Fingered Jack was visible peaking over a ridge.Three Fingered Jack from Booth Lake

There was a decent breeze which created some eerie sounds as it passed through the dead trees. We left Booth Lake and continued south on the Summit Lake trail which remained in the B & B scar for the rest of the hike.Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness along the Summit Trail

Colorful hillside along the Summit Trail

The trail climbed gradually for 3/4 of a mile to a saddle before descending more steeply for a little over a mile to Square Lake.Square Lake, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

As we began descending the clouds over the North Sister formed into an interesting shape.Cool cloud formation passing over the North Sister

We took another short break at the lake where the only view we had was east to Black Butte.Square Lake

Square Lake

We followed a pointer for the Santiam Pass Trailhead at the junction with the Round Lake Trail.Trail sign for the Santiam Pass Trailhead

It was roughly 2.2 miles back to the PCT from Square Lake. The trail climbed away from the lake gaining a final view of Three Fingered Jack to the north.Three Fingered Jack and Square Lake

We then passed along a hillside covered in golden ferns with decent views of Mt. Washington but an increase in clouds and slight drizzle began obscuring the views of the other mountains.On the way back to the Santaim Pass Trailhead

Mt. Washington

After completing the loop and arriving back at the trailhead we drove to my parents house near Bend. They were away for the weekend but the house was being watched carefully by their guard owl.Owl in Central Oregon after the hike

We had another hike planned for the next day in the Three Sisters Wilderness so we spent the night at their house and set off the next day on what would become known as “The hike that shall not be named“. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Fingered Jack