Freezeout Saddle

Day two of our Memorial Day Weekend trip to NE Oregon was set to be our first visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness. Our planned hike was a loop described by Sullivan as “rugged” starting from the Freezeout Trailhead and utilizing the Saddle Creek, Summit Ridge, and Freezeout Trails.

According to the weather forecast, day two was also the most likely to provide precipitation with a 90% chance of showers as the day wore on. It had rained a bit overnight at Wallowa Lake so we were pleasantly surprised to have a nice view of the mountains as we drove into Joseph that morning.
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From Joseph we drove to Imnaha where we turned right onto the mostly gravel Upper Imnaha Road for 12.3 miles. Just before a bridge we veered left from the wide gravel road onto a much narrower, steep, more dirt than gravel road for 2.7 miles to the large trailhead.
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Two trails leave from this trailhead, the Saddle Creek and Freezeout. We took the Saddle Creek Trail on the left side of the informational signboard.
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There was a decent amount of blue sky behind us to the east as we began to climb up the trail.
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Ahead of us the Sun was still rising in the east where a few lighter clouds filled the sky.
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We also noticed a few cows on the hillside ahead of us.
IMG_7343(The black dot in the center of the hill is one such cow.)

We were busy looking for flowers and ignoring the cattle.
IMG_7345Western stoneseed

IMG_7346Prairie stars

IMG_7352Lupine

We couldn’t ignore them for long though as we soon rounded a bend to find several of them in the trail. They began to head up the trail so we followed having played this game before (post). More cows began to hurry down the hillside and cross the trail and then we noticed the bull. He didn’t look overly please with us but he managed to get the rest of the herd off the trail and uphill a bit. We passed on by and then promptly heard several of the cows coming up quickly behind us. I knew this game too from my time moving irrigation pipes in Central Oregon as a teenager. I turned and they stopped then we repeated (like the school yard game “red light, green light”). Knowing this could go on for awhile when we got into a brushy section of trail we sped up and left them behind.
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IMG_7364Heather emerging from the brushy section.

We could relax and start enjoying the hike again. The trail climbed up through open grass hillsides with occasional stands of trees. Views abounded.
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About a half mile from the trailhead the Saddle Creek Trail made a wide arc into the tress to Saddle Creek.
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The trail crossed the creek only to recross it moments later.
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The forest hosted a few different flowers than the grassy hillsides.
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The trail climbed away from the creek and began a series of switchbacks leading back to the open hillsides.
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As we gained elevation the number of blooming flowers increased.

IMG_7415Blue Dicks

IMG_7417Balsamroot

IMG_7421Balsamroot, paintbrush and biscuitroot

The views also got better as we climbed but we also began to notice showers passing by. A bonus result of the showers was a faint rainbow that framed the snowy Wallowa Mountains to the west for a time.
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The Saddle Creek Trail kept climbing, sometimes via switchback and others up and around ridges.
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There was a good number of flowers in bloom with quite a few more to come.
IMG_7464Larkspur and monkeyflower

IMG_7474Paintbrush

IMG_7490Chickweed

IMG_7470Possibly going to be a penstemon

IMG_7459Unkown

IMG_7461Lupine

We finally arrived at Freezeout Saddle after gaining over 1900′ in what our GPS claims was 3 miles.
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A trail signpost marked the junction with the Summit Ridge Trail.
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Despite the showers nearby we had a pretty good 360 degree view.
IMG_7493West to the quickly vanishing Wallowa Mountains.

IMG_7496North

IMG_7497South

IMG_7509_stitchEast into Hells Canyon

We rested briefly at the saddle admiring the view.
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After the break we headed south on the Summit Ridge Trail passing more views into Hells Canyon and some different wildflowers.
IMG_7514Cutleaf daisy

IMG_7529A little white alpine pennycress

IMG_7533Largehead clover

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The view toward the Wallows had taken a hit though as some dark clouds and rain showers now lay between us and them.
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We began to run into quite a few yellow glacier lilies when we reentered the trees as we traversed around the west side of a rise along the ridge.
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There were also a few kittentails present.
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We ran into our first non-bovine obstacle in the form of a downed tree in this section.
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Oh if that had been the only other obstacle. As we came around the hillside and spotted a snowfield in the distance.
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The rain “showers” had made their way over to us and at an elevation of approximately 6200′ we were partly in the clouds.
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We hoped it would pass quickly and stuck to looking for more flowers which we found in a clump of hairy clematis.
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We arrived at the snow field and sized it up. There was a clear track crossing from the side we were on.
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We had brought our microspikes for just such an occasion but the snow looked narrow and the footprints were well established from what we could see so we eschewed the spikes and started across. Big mistake as the footprints had smoothed over on the far side of the snow (which was icy and even slicker than usual with the rain falling). I managed to heal kick some footholds and get off the snow without too much trouble but Heather had gone higher thinking it would be easier to get off by going up. Luckily she was able to kick in a little bit of footing and jam her poles into the snow to help keep her from sliding down the hill. I was able to the get a hold of her pack and we got her off the snow as well. Lesson learned, we carry the microspikes for a reason, use them!

A bit shaken we continued on stopping to admire a yellowbell.
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The rain was not letting up so we’d thrown on our rain jackets which we had put off putting on thinking that we were liable to get wetter from sweat while we climbed than wearing them in the rain. The trail had leveled off along the ridge now and we began encountering more patches of snow.
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Just under three miles from Freezeout Saddle we arrived at another signed junction.
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In our guidebook Sullivan has you go straight at this junction showing the fork to the right petering out after a short distance. The Forest Service map which is also on the GPS unit shows the right hand trail (Marks Cabin Trail) going all the way over to the Freezeout Trail. We initially headed straight but the footprints that we had been following through the snow patches disappeared and so had the trail. After about 450 feet we decided to go back to the junction and try the other way which would be shorter and we hoped less snowy. Incidentally the 450 foot excursion from the junction officially took us into the Hells Canyon Wilderness so we at least were able to mark off another wilderness area as visited.

Marks Cabin Trail was no easier to follow as it was faint even when there was no snow.
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We used the maps to stay close to where the trail was supposed to be having to correct course a number of times due losing sight of it under the snow only to find it again by spotting cut logs or a bit of tread.
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After crossing over a barbed wire fence we spotted a cairn in the grass but there was no sign of a trail anywhere near it.
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More map work led us to what at least looked like a trail.
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By now the rain shower had not only not passed over but it was now a snow shower. At some point we wound up a 100 feet or so above the trail and had to climb over a number of logs to get down to it.
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Luckily we managed to get back to it near the junction with the Freezeout Trail which was marked by a small piece of white flagging (not shown as my hands were too cold to unclip the camera from my waist) 1.5 miles (they route we took) from the junction. Heather kept asking where the cabin was which I thought was a strange obsession to see some private cabin while all I wanted to do was get down below the snow. A couple days later she pointed out that we might have been able to warm up at the cabin (if it had been open or if someone from one of the vehicles at the trailhead had been using it) or use it to orient ourselves and make sure we were on the right trail.

We headed down the Freezeout Trail which quickly became faint in the grass.
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The good news was it reappeared and the rain/snow was finally starting to let up.
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The bad news was that after passing over a ridge the trail headed into a gully that was holding quite a bit of snow among trees and other vegetation (again not pictured due to cold hands and a bit of frustration). The trail is described as an old cattleman’s trail in the guidebook and that description fit in the steep gully. We knew the trail crossed the gully but we couldn’t see where and we didn’t want to try and cross any of the steep snow even with our spikes so we picked our way through the best looking gap in the snow patches and found what turned out to be the trail somehow.

We were now done with the snow for the day and soon we were back traversing an open hillside with views albeit more limited than those from the morning.
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(The rest of the photos were a fight with moisture and numb fingers so please excuse the numerous water spots. 🙂 )
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Despite being cold and soaked we were still looking for flowers.
IMG_7668Brown’s peony getting ready to bloom.

IMG_7650Mariposa lily starting to open.

This portion of trail alternated between grassy open areas and ponderosa pine forest.
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After the first mile from where we’d turned onto it, the Freezeout Trail steepened a lot as it headed downhill fast to an unsinged junction with the Long Ridge Trail.
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Shortly beyond the junction we crossed a scenic unnamed creek that refused to sign a waiver forcing me to blur out its identity.
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The trail leveled out somewhat beyond the creek and at another opening we were able to look back up towards the ridge where we’d come from.
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We were now traversing a hillside above Freezeout Creek and gradually making our way down to it through the forest.
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Along this strecht we spotted this cute little flower.
IMG_7721Small flower miterwort

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As we neared Freezeout Creek we passed a junction for the Morgan Ridge Trail.
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Our final obstacle of the day was navigating around Freezout Creek which has claimed a chunck of the trail as its own. A scramble path led up and around a tree which was lucky because the water actually looked quite deep where the trail had been.
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From there it was just over a quarter mile back to the trailhead where we were more than happy to put on some dry clothes and warm up. The GPS tallied a 13 mile hike and it felt every bit of one with approximately 3700′ of elevation gain. The climb up really wasn’t all that bad but we were feeling the steep decent in our knees.

The day had one more bit of adventure in store for us as we headed down the narrow road from the trailhead. A pair of trucks, one with a horse trailer, were heading up and where we met the road was too narrow to pass. Heather had to back up a good distance until we found a spot where they could pass.

After the trucks went by we were able to get back to Joseph with the only other excitement being a pair of turkeys along the road.
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In Joseph we stopped at the R & R Drive In for some comfort food which really hit the spot. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Freezeout Saddle

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Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge & B.C. Creek Falls

We took an couple of days off for an extended Memorial Day Weekend in order to take a trip to NE Oregon in hopes of checking off a few more hikes of our to do list of Bill Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). The plans included our fist visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness which would leave us with just seven more wilderness areas to visit in Oregon (post).

We also recently added a third goal of hiking in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. I had recently been looking at a map and began wondering how many of the counties we had hiked in and realized that there were only 5 in which we hadn’t as of the start of May this year: Columbia, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, and Morrow. We checked off Columbia with our visit to Sauvie Island (post) and we have hikes planned in Umatilla and Union later this year. That left Gilliam and Morrow which are adjacent to one another in the north central portion of the State with the Columbia River acting as their northern borders. Neither of these counties are home to any of the 500 featured hikes but the John Day River acts as the western border for Gilliam County. We had been in Sherman County on the west side of the John Day during our visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park (post) and remembered that there was a trail on the other side of the river, the Lost Corral Trail, which I quickly added to our future plans. That left Morrow County.

Sullivan does have a couple of additional hikes in the back of his Eastern Oregon book that are located in Morrow County but neither seemed to fit into our future plans. I turned to the map to see if anything would turn up and noticed that the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge was located in the county just NE of Boardman just off Interstate 84. We would be driving that by on our way to Wallowa Lake so I did a little research on the refuge. The Heritage Trail is the only official trail there but other areas are open to foot traffic and we were just looking for something that would allow us to stretch our legs and would allow us to check Morrow County off our new list.

We took exit 168 from I-84 and followed Highway 730 for 3.7 miles then turned left onto Patterson Ferry Road at a sign for the refuge. We drove 2.7 miles along Patterson Ferry Road past a parking area with restrooms to left at a large sign marking the start of a short driving loop.
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We had a map of the refuge with us, but the parking areas weren’t marked which was a little confusing. We followed the gravel road around a field parking at a lot on the right just under 1.5 miles from the start of the loop. A green fence blocked what looked like an old road bed.
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We decided to follow this track thinking that it might lead us to the Heritage Trail. There were a few wildflowers amid the grasses and a pleasant scent in the air coming from the trees.
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By the sound of them there were a whole lot of birds around but we weren’t having a lot of luck spotting them aside from a red-tailed hawk screeching in the sky above and a couple of western kingbirds.
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Several signed tracks split off from what appeared to be the main track that we were following. We aren’t sure but think they were pointers for hunting blinds.
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The track led us toward McCormack Slough where a bald eagle was keeping watch.
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At the slough we tried following a fainter track to the left thinking it might hook up with the Heritage Trail but there was no discernible path around the slough so we made our way back to the main track and returned to the car. Along the way we spotted two coyotes, several deer, a great blue heron and a pair of white pelicans.
IMG_7065First coyote in the grass.

IMG_7066Second coyote racing off through the grass.

IMG_7070One of the deer running off.

IMG_7072Great blue heron flying off.

IMG_7073White pelicans circling overhead.

We continued on the driving loop and just about a half mile later spotted the parking area for the signed Heritage Trail on the right.
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The paved trail follows an old road between a portion of the slough.
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We followed this trail for about a half mile where it joined an open road and then turned around and headed back. It was a short hike but we did see some more wildlife and a few flowers.
IMG_7076Bald Eagle

IMG_7080Wild Rose

IMG_7086Butterfly

IMG_7090Killdeer

IMG_7093An egret on the other side of the slough.

IMG_7097Sagebrush lizard

IMG_7099Another butterfly

IMG_7100Deadly Nightshade

IMG_7102A goose in the reeds.

Each of our stops here consisted of 1.1 mile hikes with a nice amount of wildlife. We drove back to the Interstate and continued east onto Wallowa Lake and our second hike of the day.

We had made reservations at the Eagle Cap Chalets near Wallowa Lake, just under 3/4 of a mile from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead and the start of our next hike. We decided to see if our room was ready and it was so we unpacked the car, threw on our packs and road walked to the trailhead.
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We started a 5 day backpacking trip here in 2016 (post) so the first quarter mile of trail was familiar before turning off of the West Fork Wallowa Trail onto the Chief Joseph Trail.
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The first section of trail may have been familiar but being two months earlier in the year the flowers were different.
IMG_7111Anemone

IMG_7115Fairyslipper

IMG_7122Arnica

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Rock Clematis

We turned onto the Chief Joseph Trail at the signed junction following a hand written pointer for B.C. Creek Falls
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The trail descended through the forest to a footbridge over the West Fork Wallowa River.
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On the far side of the river the trail climbed a series of switchbacks past more wildflowers and views down to the bridge below.
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IMG_7161Bluebells

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IMG_7172Prairie stars

IMG_7173More rock clematis

IMG_7178Paintbrush

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IMG_7191Larkspur

The trail then leveled out a bit as it traversed the hillside above the river passing a viewpoint of Wallowa Lake 3/4 of a mile beyond the bridge.
IMG_7206Area near the viewpoint.

IMG_7207Looking further into the Wallowas.

IMG_7242Wallowa Lake

We arrived at B.C. Creek a tenth of a mile from the viewpoint.
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After two bridges were washed out here the Forest Service stopped replacing them.
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After admiring the falls we turned back, not being tempted at all to attempt a ford to complete a possible loop back via the abandoned portion of the Chief Joseph Trail beyond the creek.
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Sullivan describes a second possible loop option by taking a spur trail through a private Boy Scout Camp. He noted that this trail could be closed to the public at any time but we decided to check it out turning left onto the unsigned but obvious trail .4 miles from the creek.
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After just a tenth of a mile a rocky viewpoint offered another look into the mountains and some purple penstemon.
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We also spotted a sign stating that the trail beyond was closed to the public and warning of surveillance cameras. We returned to the Chief Joseph Trail and headed back down to the bridge and recrossed the river. We then noticed another well used trail and followed it left along the canyon rim above the West Fork Wallowa.
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Flowers dotted the rocky terrain here.
20190523_152152Shooting star

IMG_7292Old man’s whiskers

IMG_7298Possibly a checkermallow

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We kept following the path along the rim to a viewpoint above a small unnamed waterfall.
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The user trail kept going beyond the falls so we did too eventually hooking back up with the West Fork Wallowa Trail a little over 100 yards from the trailhead. We then road walked back past the ground squirrels patrolling Wallowa State Park to the Eagle Cap Chalets, but not before stopping at the Khao Neaow Food Cart to get some Thai food to take back to our room for dinner.
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The food was great and after dinner we walked down to Glacier Grill and General Store to pick up some food and drinks for the room. On the way back we noticed a group of deer in front of the old Edelweiss Inn.
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They were a rowdy bunch.
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Our outing to B.C. Creek Falls was a modest 5 miles and a nice reminder of how much we loved our 2016 trip to the Wallowas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Umatilla WLFR & B.C. Creek Falls

Dog River Trail

A bit of potentially wet weather had us looking for a hike that had the potential to be dry and not too dependent on having a view.  We, of course, also preferred it to be a new hike.  We turned to Matt Reeder’s 2nd edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” for inspiration.  A recent addition to our collection of guidebooks, “Off the Beaten Trail” features 50 hikes plus 5 bonus hikes within a two and half hour drive of downtown Portland.  While a number of the hikes are also mentioned in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks (our usual go-to source) they are typically additional hikes from the back of the books so they lack in-depth detail.  There are also several hikes that don’t appear in Sullivan’s books.

We chose the Dog River Trail (Reeder’s Hike #30) due to its location and a favorable looking forecast. According to NOAA there was a 30% chance of showers after 11am and being located on the east side of Mt. Hood often meant less cloud cover. After driving through a few showers in the Columbia Gorge we did indeed find some blue sky near Hood River and the views of Mt. Hood were perfect as we drove south on Highway 35.

The Dog River Trail
begins at the Dog River Trailhead along the eastern shoulder of Highway 35 18.2 miles south of Hood River (20 miles north of the junction with Highway 26).
Dog River Trailhead

The most common users of this trail are mountain bikers, a group of which have adopted the trail.
Plaque at the Dog River Trailhead

The trail starts off at an elevation just over 2100′ and climbs steadily nearly 5.5 miles to its end at a three way junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails.

Just beyond the gate at the trailhead the trail passes very close to the Dog River.
Dog River

We quickly lost sight of the river as we climbed along a hillside to a footbridge over Puppy Creek.
Dog River Trail

Puppy Creek

The next 1.8 miles was a gradual climb past a variety of wildflowers before dropping slightly to the Dog River.
Chocolate LilyChocolate lily

Vanilla leaf along the Dog River TrailVanilla leaf

AnemoneColumbia windflower (anemone)

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

Ball-head waterleafBall-head waterleaf

Dogwood and a crab spiderDogwood (and a crab spider)

ArnicaArnica

LupineLupine

Lupine starting to budLupine yet to bloom

Woodland starsWoodland stars

Larkspur and biscuitrootLarkspur with biscuitroot in the background

Fairy slippersFairy slippers

PaintbrushIndian paintbrush

Popcorn flowerPopcorn flower

SandwortSandwort

sticky blue-eyed marySticky blue-eyed mary

Fairy bellsHooker’s fairy bells

Solomon's sealSolomon’s seal

One of the reasons for the variety of flowers was the variety of forest types along this stretch.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Another footbridge led us across the Dog River.
Dog River Trail

Dog River

Beyond the Dog River the trail climbed to a saddle and crossed over a ridge.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

We were now on the west facing side of the ridge and had our first looks at Mt. Hood. Initially the mountain is only visible through the trees but 1.3 miles from the Dog River crossing we came to a rocky viewpoint. From the time we had last seen the mountain driving to the trailhead a line of clouds had begun to make there way in between.
Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Considering we had started the day thinking we would be lucky to see even part of the mountain this was a pretty nice treat, but after having an unobstructed view during the drive the clouds were a minor disappointment. While the view was impressive it would have been spectacular minus the clouds in front.

In addition to the view there were a couple of other types of flowers to be seen at the viewpoint.
PenstemonPenstemon

PhloxPhlox

Reeder has this viewpoint be the turn around point in the guidebook making for a 6.6 mile out and back. He also describe a couple of options to extend the hike which of course interested us (okay mostly me). We continued on from the viewpoint promptly crossing over the ridge again. From this side we could now see Mt. Adams through the trees to the north. A bonus volcano sighting.
Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

A series of switchbacks brought us back over the west facing side of the ridge and up a short, steep, rocky section of trail.
Dog River Trail

We began watching for any signs of an old road bed on top the ridge above the trail. The plan we had settled on to extend the hike was to hopefully use a forest road shown on the map to make the hike a lollipop by taking the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail to the forest service road. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the switchbacks we spotted a promising looking unmarked spur trail heading uphill to our left.
Dog River Trail on the right with a spur to FR 620 on the left

We marked that spot on our GPS and continued on the Dog River Trail which had leveled out a bit passing another viewpoint that Reeder has marked on his map as “Ponderosa Point”. The view here would have also been impressive but we arrived in conjunction with enough clouds to cover the upper 3/4ths of the mountain. A talus slope nearby was more impressive at that point and we wondered if any pika lived there.
Talus field along the Dog River Trail

We didn’t see or hear any and continued on. The trail began to descend slightly passing through some nice forest. We kept our eyes out for flowers and any other interesting sights.
Dog River Trail

ManzanitaManzanita

CurrantA currant

Jacob's ladderJacob’s ladder

Something has been busyPopular tree

There were a few openings toward Mt. Hood but the clouds were keeping most of it covered. We did get a nice look at Polallie Creek Falls though.
Polallie Creek Falls

We had been watching for wildlife too but aside from a few birds and a couple of millipedes all we saw was a slug on one of several small bridges over wet spots.
Slug on a footbridge

Slug

When we arrived at the junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails we noticed a fourth trail signed “Viewpoint”.
Viewpoint at the Dog River Trail and Zig Zag Trail jct

This short trail led briefly downhill to a view north of Highway 35 and the East Fork Hood River (Mt. Hood was still hiding).
Highay 35 and the East Fork Hood River

After checking out the viewpoint we returned to the junction and turned onto the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

The Surveryor’s Ridge Trail climbed gently through the forest for nearly a mile before arriving at Forest Road 620 and Dufur Mill Road (Forest Road 44).
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Trillium

Jacob's ladderThere was quite a bit of Jacob’s ladder along this stretch of trail.

Oregon anemoneOregon anemone

Forest Road 620Forest Road 620.

There was a single truck parked here and an outhouse. Along the shoulder of Dufur Mill Road there was also a small patch of snow. We had wondered if there was any remaining at this elevation (4240′). We turned left and headed north along FR 620 where we soon found a few more patches of lingering snow.
Snow along Forest Road 620

Forest Road 620

It was a pleasant but uneventful road walk. We followed the road downhill ignoring two forks to the left followed by an overgrown fork to the right.
Forest Road 620

After entering an area that had been clearcut sometime in the past Heather spotted a sign post off to our right (approximately 1.75mi along FR 620). I went to investigate.
Wy'East Middle School sign amid trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class

Just in case anyone from the Wy’East Middle School 1994 8th grade class is wondering here are the trees that were near the sign.
Trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class of Wy'East Middle School

Shortly after finding the sign the road finished bending to the west and we began heading toward the Dog River Trail. The road then turned northward again along the ridge above the Dog River Trail. There were a couple of viewpoints along this stretch including one at the top of the talus slope we had scanned for pikas earlier that day.
Mt. Hood behind some cloudsA still cloudy Mt. Hood

Dog River Trail below the talus slopeLooking down the talus slope with the Dog River Trail visible between the trees to the right.

The road bed had been steadily narrowing the further we went.
Forest Road 620

After a little over 2.5 miles on the road we passed a promising view of Mt. Adams if not for the clouds that had now overtaken it as well. We settled for a nice view of Bald Mountain which we had hiked in 2017 (post) and is accessible via the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Bald Butte in the distance

Bald Butte

Not far from that viewpoint the old roadbed ended and we found ourselves on a short section of trail connecting us back to the Dog River Trail.
Trail connecting Forest Road 620 to the Dog River Trail

We had indeed come out via the spur trail we had marked that morning. The stretch between the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and Dog River Trail was 2.75 miles and we were now just over 3.5 miles from the Dog River Trailhead. We had seen the first other people of the day from the viewpoint atop the talus slope when a pair of trail runners went by down on the Dog River Trail. Now that it was later we encountered a few mountain bikers on our way back but it was far from busy. We stopped at the first viewpoint again to say goodbye to the mountain. The clouds had changed again and now they were just covering the very top portion.
Mt. Hood behind some clouds

This gave us a nice look at Barrett Spur.
Barrett Spur

We also had a good view of the Eliot Glacier.
Elliot Glacier on Mt. Hood

Our lollipop came in at 13.3 miles with approximately 2500′ of cumulative elevation gain. The showers never developed and we got to see a lot more of the mountains than we had honestly expected. The variety of wildflowers was good and there looked to be plenty more getting ready to bloom in the next week or two. It certainly felt off the beaten trail but it was definitely worth the visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dog River Trail

Three Hikes on Sauvie Island

Our latest outing was a three stop trip to Sauvie Island in the Columbia River. After purchasing our $10/day parking permit online from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife we headed for our fist stop at the Wapato State Greenway.
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Here a short loop trail passes around Virginia Lake and along the Multnomah Channel.
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We set off on the entrance trail which quickly split (not shown on the map). We veered left on a mowed path through some grass.
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Our plan had been to visit the viewing platform first thing but this left fork was not the true entrance trail and we wound up joining the loop trail a tenth of a mile south of the side trail to the platform.
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We turned left onto the loop trail deciding to visit the platform near the end of our hike instead.
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We passed a view of Virginia Lake and arrived at a viewing blind after a tenth of a mile.
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Other than the occasional red-winged blackbird sighting we didn’t see anything from the blind on this morning. We continued on the loop ignoring a spur trail to Hadley’s Landing Dock just before arriving at the Multnomah Channel.
Multnomah Channel

The trail passed through woods with occasional openings to grassy meadows. There were a few woodland flowers here and there but the most interesting thing was the wildlife. We saw a lot of birds and couple of shy rabbits. Most of the birds were busy foraging in the bushes or flitting from tree to tree so we didn’t have a lot of luck with pictures. We did appreciate the many songs they were singing as they made their morning rounds.
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IMG_6569Black-headed grosbeak

We also spotted what we at first identified as a pair of deer under a large oak.
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As we watched them disappear into the brush we kept noticing more deer and ended up counting five of them.

After passing the picnic shelter we turned right down the side trial to the viewing platfrom.
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We had more luck with the wildlife from this viewpoint spotting a couple of different types of ducks, a great blue heron, and a pied-billed grebes.

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IMG_6595Mallards with a great blue heron in the distance.

IMG_6608Cinnamon teal and a mallard

IMG_6604Pied-billed grebe

We had never heard of a pied-billed grebe and were wondering what it was. Then we took the time to read the interpretive sign at the platform.
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After leaving the platform we headed back to the car. Along the way we spotted another new bird to us. A Black-throated Gray Warbler. She was hopping around on the trail gathering something for a nest it appeared so the photos are a bit blurry.
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Our second stop was at Oak Island,technically a peninsula. It is part of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area and only open to hikers from April 16 through the end of September.
From the parking area a mowed path leads past a large signboard for .3 miles to the start of a loop.
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The rabbits were a little less shy here.
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We had a few cattle cross our path prior to reaching the start of the loop as well.
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We actually missed the start of the loop which was marked by a post with a hiker symbol on it.
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We stayed straight on the obvious track past this sign as the path leading right was so faint we hadn’t noticed it. Continuing in this clockwise direction the trail leads through open grass with Steelman Lake to the west.
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A number of great blue herons could be seen flying over the water and along the lakes shore we spotted a pair of white pelicans and a family of Canada geese.
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The distinctive call of red-winged blackbirds was prevalent.
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After passing through a gate the grass grew taller and the trail began to turn away from Steelman Lake. Here there were many butterflies and a few blooming camas.
Nature Trial at Oak IslandLooking back at the gate.

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Just before turning south near Sturgeon Lake a .1 mile spur path to the left led to the narrows, a narrow channel connecting Steelman and Sturgeon Lakes.
IMG_6661Looking toward Steelman Lake from the Narrows.

IMG_6662The Narrows. Another lake, Mud Lake, is on the other side of the trees.

As we were returning to the loop we spotted a pretty yellow warbler and a wood duck.
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Shortly after rejoining the loop Heather spotted a path down to a small beach along Sturgeon Lake where both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams were visible but due to the lighting very hard to make out.
IMG_6671Mt. Adams (it is really there)

IMG_6676Mt. St. Helens

We had been similarly unsuccessful at getting a picture of Mt. Hood earlier from the Narrows. We finished up the loop and returned to our car ready to head to our final stop at the Warrior Point Trailhead. A coyote raced across the road near the parking are for the clothing optional Collin’s Beach. We’re not sure what it had been up to but it looked like it thought it was being chased. We had some fun imagining it had tried to run off with someones clothes.

After that excitement we parked at the trailhead and before setting off walked down the the sandy beach along the Columbia River.
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As we began hiking a bald eagle flew overhead.
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The trail had occasional views of the River as well as Mt. St. Helens which was now a little easier to make out.
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IMG_6699Mt. St. Helens and an Osprey nest.

Our visit to the Island had already been on of the most diverse for birds and the Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail just added to this. After the bald eagle and osprey we spotted a pair of American goldfinches.
IMG_6705Female

IMG_6712Male

These were followed by a Bullock’s Oriole and a yellow throated warbler.
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The trail itself varied as it spent some time in the woods, some along the river, and other passing through tall grass.
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Considering the combination of grass, nearby water, and warm sunshine it seemed like the perfect conditions for snakes but we only spotted one.
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After three miles we arrived at a sandy beach near the Warrior Rock Lighthouse

IMG_6753Mt. St. Helens again.

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After a short rest on the beach we continued north on the sand to an old concrete gun mount.
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This is where things got a little interesting. Our guidebook said to turn inland here on a small access road to a T-shaped junction. The map accompanying the description on Oregonhikers.org appeared to show the track continuing north from this point along the river. We couldn’t see any sign of the small access road so we continued north along the beach until it was no longer possible. We faced the choice of backtracking or following a faint path inland to try and connect to an old road bed that would take us to Warrior Point. We headed inland.
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There was a faint path, we’re guessing it was more of a game trail than anything but it wouldn’t have been too hard to follow except for all the blackberry bushes. We managed to push through what turned out to only be a tenth of a mile to arrive at the grassy road bed.
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A brief detour right led us to a viewpoint at Warrior Point of the town of St. Helens.
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IMG_67671905 Columbia County Courthouse

We followed the old road bed back from Warrior Point for a half mile where it met the Warrior Point Trail near the beach at the lighthouse.
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We had only seen a handful of other hikers all day but on the way back to the car (it was only now a little after 11am) we passed a number of people heading toward the lighthouse. We were once again thankful to have gotten an early start.

Our distances for the day were 2.6 miles at Wapato Greenway, 3.3 miles at Oak Island, and 7.3 miles at Warrior Point for a total of 13.2. It had been a great day for wildlife and another enjoyable set of hikes in the Portland area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sauvie Island Hikes

Greenleaf Creek

With the arrival of May we officially started our hiking season by making an attempt to reach Greenleaf Falls. We knew it was a long shot given the little bit of information shown online, but the hike to Greenleaf Creek was a featured hike in the 2018 4th edition of William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington”. We would at least be getting one step closer to our goal of completing all 500 of his featured hikes (post).

We began our hike from the Bonneville Trailhead which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam.
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From the picnic area we followed a gravel path to a pointer for Table Mountain.
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We’d been to Table Mountain twice, in 2013 via a now closed trailhead at the former Bonneville Hot Springs resort and in 2017 from the north via Three Corner Rock.

We followed the Tamanous Trail a little over half a mile through the woods to its end at the Pacific Crest Trail.
IMG_6308Oregon grape

IMG_6302Dogwood

IMG_6307Large solomonseal

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At the junction we turned left following pointers for Gillette Lake and Three Corner Rock.
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The PCT soon entered a series of clearcuts which provided some views of Table Mountain and a good amount of trail side poison oak.
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This area seemed popular with rabbits.
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The PCT did a little climbing through the clearcuts which revealed a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood to the south.
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Nearly 2 miles on the PCT brought us to a ridge where Gillette Lake was visible below.
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We followed the wide trail down passing by the lake and crossing the inlet creek on a footbridge.
IMG_6339Hamilton Mountain (post) to the left and Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks to the right beyond the lake.

IMG_6509Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks

IMG_6342Indian paintbrush

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Beyond Gillette Lake the PCT climbed gradually for a half mile through more clearcuts before passing a brushy unnamed lake.
IMG_6353Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Nesmith Point (post) is the rounded high point to the right on the Oregon side.

IMG_6356Unnamed lake through the trees.

After passing the lake the trail dropped to a bridged crossing of Greenleaf Creek then climbed via a series of switchbacks to Greenleaf Overlook.
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IMG_6487View east from Greenleaf Overlook with Dog Mountain (post) in the distance.

There was a nice little patch of chocolate lilies near the viewpoint.
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We continued past the overlook through the forest approximately half a mile to a four way junction (Two miles from the Greenleaf Creek crossing).
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IMG_6366Bleeding heart

IMG_6368Vanilla leaf

At the junction the left hand trail led to Carpenter Lake while the PCT continued uphill toward Table Mountain. We turned right onto the unsigned Two Chiefs Trail.
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One of the nice things about this trail was the lack of poison oak which we seemed to have finally left behind. The trail climbed through the forest gaining 500′ over the next couple of miles.
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20190504_091212Wood violet

20190504_091234Fairy slipper

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After approximately 2.25 miles the trail emerged from the tress at a massive talus field made up of rocks from Table Mountain.
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IMG_6395_stitchThe Two Chiefs on the left and Table Mountain on the right.

From the open talus area we had another view of Mt. Hood which was a bit better given the higher elevation than our earlier view.
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A half mile after entering the talus section we arrived at Greenleaf Creek.
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Greenleaf Falls consists of a series of drops, some of which were visible from the trail.
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20190504_110326Left side

20190504_110520Right side

After admiring these lower cascades we decided to go ahead and attempt to reach the upper tiers. I hadn’t seen an actual GPS track or route up to the falls but had seen a 2015 video which showed that this was not going to be easy if it was even still possible. Seasonal rains have caused repeated mud slides and left the steep hillside gouged with channels filled with loose rock.
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We picked what appeared to be the most reasonable route and started picking our way uphill. We managed to get about two tenths of a mile uphill from the trail before deciding that there was no remotely safe way to even attempt continuing. I had gotten a little higher than Heather having had her stop while I attempted to see if there was any viable route to continue on. From what we can tell from the maps I was just below the upper falls, but it may have well have been 100 miles. We did however get over to a couple of views of other smaller tiers of the falls.
IMG_6434The highest tier that I was able to see.

IMG_6432A middle section of Greenleaf Falls

IMG_6430Cascades along Greenleaf Falls just above the ones visible from the trail.

We’d given it a shot and I probably got a little too far up the hill. I had to use my hands a lot and spent a decent amount of time crawling to get back down to where I had left Heather. Luckily I was able to make it back down. Ironically I wound up falling near the end of our descent on what appeared to be nearly level ground when a rock rolled out from beneath my heal. A scrapped elbow and palm where the only results though.

As we were making our way back down Heather spotted a frog which we named kamikaze frog due to it launching itself downhill and landing upside down in the rocks a couple of times.
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We were both concerned about possibly knocking a rock loose which might hit the frog since he was in the same channel as we were and kept hopping down ahead of us. Thankfully we were able to hop out of that channel and go around it before anything bad happened.

In addition to the frog I had seen a small garter snake while I was searching for a route up and Heather had seen some sort of lizard in the talus slope earlier. As we passed back by the talus we kept our eyes open but didn’t see another lizard or snake.

We did however see a western fence lizard back at Greenleaf Overlook.
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The rest of the hike back was fairly uneventful other than having to check for poison oak every time we stepped aside to let other hikers pass. Heather did manage to get a neat picture of a blue copper butterfly in flight while she was taking some photos of flowers.
20190504_124036Snow queen

20190504_124117Wild strawberry

20190504_135949Butterfly landing on leafy pea

We were a little fatigued when we finally made it back to the car. The GPS clocked in at 15.4 miles for the day. That distance combined with the extra work of trying to climb up the steep, loose hillside next to Greenleaf Creek was a lot for a hike this early in our season but it had been a beautiful day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Greenleaf Creek