Cascade Head, Whalen Island, and Sitka Sedge – 6/25/2019

As we finished up a four day stretch of hiking to start a week of vacation we were looking for the best chance of decent weather which brought us to the Oregon Coast for our second visit to Cascade Head. I had originally had a grandiose plan to hike from the lower trailhead all the way over to Harts Cove (post) but I hadn’t paid close enough attention to detail and we wound up going with a plan B.

We started the morning at Knight County Park.
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IMG_0776Salmon River at Knight County Park

It had rained throughout most of our drive through the Coast Range but we were pleased to have been able to see the meadows on Cascade Head as we drove to the trailhead. We set off on the Nature Conservancy Trail which quickly crossed Three Rocks Road.
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The trail climbed through the forest along Savage Road popping out of the trees at a field where we could see that the meadows were not nearly as clear as they had been just a bit earlier.
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The fact that we could see the ocean was a bit encouraging though.
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After crossing to the other side of the road the trail passed an active slide and recrossed to the original trailhead.
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The trail continued to climb through the forest before leveling out for a bit as it crossed a series of overgrown streams on footbridges.
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IMG_0801One of the bridges.

IMG_0804Overgrown stream

When we finally popped out of the trees around the mile and a half mark we found ourselves in some pretty thick fog.
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We had hoped to see some of the elk herd that lives on Cascade Head but we couldn’t see much of anything, although we did spot a few birds.
IMG_0811White crowned sparrow

IMG_0818One of three hummingbirds

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There were just a few flowers scattered about as we made our way through and up the grassy meadow.
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Parsley-leaf Lovage
Parsley-leaf Lovage

IMG_0853Foxglove with a spider web

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With no views from the meadows when we finally reached the upper viewpoint we headed into the forest.
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When we came to Siuslaw National Forest boundary my lack of attention to detail became apparent. I had seen where the road to the Upper Trailhead was closed annually from January 1st through July 15th, but I hadn’t noticed that the entire area starting at the boundary was closed to all traffic during that time period.
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So much for that plan. We gathered under the awning over the Nature Conservancy signboard and mulled over our options. We decided that it might be a decent time to check out a couple of other nearby hikes – Whalen Island and Sitka Sedge. These two hikes would be just a little less mileage than our original plan with quite a bit less elevation gain, plus they were close to Pacific City which gave us a great excuse to have lunch at the Pelican Brewing Company.

With a new plan we headed back to the upper viewpoint where the conditions had improved slightly. We could make out the trees and even a bit of the ocean in the distance through the fog.
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The problem seemed to be that the clouds/fog wasn’t coming in from the Pacific but was instead coming from inland up the Salmon River. We paused for a moment wondering if the view might clear up. While we were watching we spotted a doe walking along the tree line.
IMG_0877Look for the head to the right of the tall foxglove stalk.

We decided to keep descending figuring that we would still have a good view if the fog did happen to lift.
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As we were headed in the direction of the Salmon River the fog did indeed clear in a span of just over a minute.
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It was a remarkable change. As we were admiring the new, clearer view we noticed a pair of deer feeding in a gully far below us.
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As we continued downhill we were encourage to see an actual pocket of blue sky.
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We stopped to take in the view from the lower viewpoint.
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From the lower viewpoint the trail turned back inland where things were taking another turn. It was now beginning to rain.
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It was a fairly quick, damp, descent back to the car. We were briefly followed by a young fawn who quickly ran the other way when we turned around and spotted it. We had heard a couple of odd noises which caused Heather to turn and notice it. Were aren’t sure what prompted it to follow but hopefully it got back to it’s bed and mother.

The rain had ended by the time we arrived back at Knight Park and we headed north along Highway 101 for 12.7 miles to a sign for Pacific City and Sand Lake where we turned left. This was Brooten Rd. which we followed for 3.5 miles before turning left onto a bridge across the Nestucca River and into Woods. After 2.3 miles on what was now Sandlake Rd. we turned right at a T-shaped junction remaining on Sandlake Rd. for 2.9 more miles to the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island on the left.
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It was overcast here but not raining or foggy so that was a plus. We began our loop hike here by taking a trail near the southern end of the parking area.
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The 1.5 mile loop here passes several viewpoints of Sand Lake and the Lillian Parker Craft wetland. Near the first viewpoint we spotted a rabbit.
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The trail was nice and there were a few flowers along with the views.
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IMG_0969Lupine

IMG_0972White crowned sparrow

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IMG_0974Cape Lookout (post)

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At the wetlands a curious hummingbird came to check us out.
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After completing this short loop we drove back south along Sandlake Rd a mile and turned right into the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area. Purchased by the State in 2014 this is a relatively new hiking area offering a couple of loop options.
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We followed the Beltz Dike Trail to the start of the loops.
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With water and wetlands on both sides of the dike we were a bit surprised by the lack of wildlife which was basically just a few ducks, some crows, and a number of smaller birds.
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There appeared to have been quite a display of roses a bit earlier in the year.
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On the far end of the dike we turned right onto the Estuary View Loop.
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This trail passed through a typical coast forest and climbed to a viewpoint above the Sand Lake Estuary.
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We scanned the estuary for any interesting wildlife but didn’t spot anything so we continued on. As the trail looped around and began heading south it became quite a bit sandier requiring a little extra effort.
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At a rise in the trail there was a view south to Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock (post).

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We missed the the pointer for beach access where the Woods and Estuary View Loops met and continued south on what was now the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop.
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This section was much less sandy which made it easier to walk on.
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At the next trail sign we did follow the beach access pointer but we mistook it on the map for the one we had already passed.
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This path was a slightly longer route to the beach as it first paralleled it for nearly two tenths of a mile before a short spur trail to the right led out to it.
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Cape Lookout lay to the north while Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock were to the south.
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When we left the beach we turned right thinking that this was still the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop but a quick look at the Garmin showed that we were quickly approaching the outskirts of Pacific City so we promptly turned around and headed back to the junction and got ourselves back on the correct path.
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We took a final short detour at the pointer for the Elk Knoll Trail.
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This 500′ long path led to a bench atop a small knoll, there were no elk present.
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After sitting briefly on the bench we completed the loop but not before Heather did one of the craziest dances I’d ever seen as we were walking along the trail. She had suddenly seen something right in front of her and thought it was some kind of big insect coming for her. It wasn’t.
IMG_1087Obstacle hanging over the trail.

We both got quite a laugh out of her fancy moves and chuckled all the way back to the trailhead. Despite our detour the hike here was still under 4 miles bringing the days total to 11.1 miles.

After a quick change we drove into Pacific City and stopped at the Pelican Brewery before heading back to Salem. The food and drink were a nice way to end four days of hikes. With more rain in the forecast over the next couple of days we’ll see when and where our next hike takes us. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cascade Head, Whalen Island, and Stika Sedge

Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista – 6/24/2019

We continued to rearrange our vacation plans based on a seemingly ever changing forecast. On Sunday night the Monday forecast for Silver Star Mountain was mostly sunny so we decided to make our third visit to the area. Our first hike at Silver Star Mountain began at the Silver Star Mountain Trailhead in 2013 (post). The road to that trailhead has become extremely rough and is now only recommended for high clearance vehicles. Then in 2015 we used the Bluff Mountain Trail to visit Silver Star (post). A better road but still a bit rough and further away.

For this visit we would start at the Grouse Vista Trailhead. We took the Battleground approach described in the trailhead link which was a mostly paved road approach with just a final 5.5 miles of decent gravel driving.

The Tarbell Trail crosses the road at the trailhead. The route to Silver Star begins on the far side of the road, opposite the restrooms and signboard. (A Washington Discover Pass is required to park here.)
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The trail climbs from the start as it follows an old roadbed uphill.
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The Tarbell Trail splits off just before the .2 mile mark allowing for a loop. We stayed right at the fork on the Grouse Vista Trail.
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The trail gains 500′ over the next half mile as it climbs up a ridge end. The rocky surface provides an added challenge.
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As the trail begins to emerge from the trees Sturgeon Rock is visible across the Rock Creek Valley (when clouds aren’t hovering over it). The loop route that we were considering would have us descending beneath Sturgeon Rock.
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The trail continued to climb around the ridge and we soon found ourselves with a view of Pyramid Rock (and the Sun).
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IMG_0311Sturgeon Rock (still with cloud) and Pyramid Rock

A smattering of flowers were popping up along the trail as we approached Pyramid Rock.
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IMG_0304Paintbrush and lupine

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Shortly before reaching Pyramid Rock we detoured on a spur to the right that lead up to a meadow in a saddle.
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Here we had what would turn out to be our only view of a Cascade volcano on the day as Mt. Hood rose above a mass of clouds over the Columbia River Gorge.
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We returned to the trail and continued heading toward Sturgeon Rock past ever improving flower displays.
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IMG_0344paintbrush and mountain spirea

IMG_0345Beargrass

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IMG_0361Columbine

IMG_0373A penstemon

IMG_0374More penstemon

IMG_0377Variety pack

IMG_0378Tiger lily

IMG_0381Golden pea and paintbrush

IMG_0392Another variety pack

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As we neared the junction with the summit trail we could see that clouds had now overtaken Pyramid Rock.
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They were moving up the Rock Creek drainage heading for the summit of Silver Star so when we arrived at the large rock cairn marking the junction we decided that we would skip the summit for now and head north on the Silver Star Trail.
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IMG_0402Avalanche lilies near the junction.

IMG_0404Sign for the Silver Star Trail.

IMG_0405Silver Star Trail

We headed out along the Silver Star trail which began on top of the ridge. This was a new section of trail for us as we had done a big loop around the ridge on our first visit. There wasn’t much visible at the first viewpoint we arrived at but we were able to see Little Baldy which the Bluff Mountain Trail passes along.
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We followed this trail along the ridge for just over a mile and a half passing in and out of the clouds as they in turn passed over the area. The lack of views was mildly disappointing but the flowers more than made up for it.
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IMG_0441Sturgeon Rock momentarily out of the clouds.

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IMG_0582White crowned sparrow

We arrived at Ed’s Trail having already seen a wide variety of flowers.
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We turned up Ed’s Trail wondering if we could possibly see any more types.
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For the most part it was the same cast but in continuously different combinations.
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There were a few new sightings though.
IMG_0627Cat’s ear lily

IMG_0632Rose

IMG_0635Violets

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And some we’d seen but not a lot of yet.
IMG_0652Bleeding heart

IMG_0660Candy flower

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IMG_0672Lousewort

IMG_0682An aster or fleabane

A unique feature of Ed’s Trail is a rock arch just past the one mile mark.
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IMG_0680Backside of the arch.

Beyond the arch the next quarter of a mile gets a little tricky. There are two short but steep scramble sections. The first was a bit muddy making it a little slick. The second is a rocky section with pretty good holds.
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We had forgotten just how steep these places were and had considered doing the loop in the opposite direction. We were glad we had not.

Silver Star’s summit soon came into view and although it was cloud free there didn’t appear to be much hope for views of the surrounding mountains anytime soon.
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When we arrived back at the junction we eschewed the .3 mile climb to the summit opting to skip the 250′ climb since we’d been up there twice before and there weren’t going to be any views. Instead we continued past the rock cairn two tenths of a mile and turned down hill on a rocky unmarked roadbed.
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This return route would add about 1.6 miles to the hike, but it would cut down on the amount of time spent descending on a rocky roadbed. We find that toward the end of hikes our feet and lower legs are much more sensitive to uneven terrain, especially loose rocks. We had been down this 1.4 mile section of road before passing the basalt columns of Sturgeon Rock.
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Silver Star was not done with the flower show even though we were now in denser forest as we spotted some marsh marigolds and marsh corydalis near a wet area.
IMG_0712Marsh marigold

IMG_0714Marsh corydalis

The section of the Tarbell Trail that runs from the Grouse Vista Trailhead to Hidden Falls had been closed on weekdays during much of 2018 due to an active logging operation. There were plenty of signs of it when we arrived at the junction with that trail.
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We turned left onto the Tarbell Trail which followed the new logging road for a bit before crossing it into the clear cut.
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IMG_0733Pyramid Rock from the Tarbell Trail

IMG_0741Black headed grosbeak

IMG_0737Mountain parnassian

After descedning a series of switchbacks the trail left the clear cut and reentred the forest before reaching a footbridge over Rock Creek.
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Beyond Rock Creek the trail traversed the hillside beneath Pyramid Rock wrapping around the ridge end to meet the Grouse Vista Trail. Along this final stretch we noticed some green orchids near a seep that was also popular with butterflies.
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The trailhead parking lot had filled up while we’d been hiking but we only ran into a half dozen people on the trails, far fewer than the number of different flowers we had seen over our 11.1 miles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista

Sand Mountain – 6/23/2019

For our second trip this year we had planned on heading to the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness and then to the John Day area for a couple of days but the week before our trip our 16 year old cat Buddy wasn’t doing well. After a couple of visits to the vets (and having nearly a pound of fluid removed from his lungs) he was placed on several medications. He’s doing much better now (he is currently on my lap helping me write this entry) but we didn’t want to leave him so soon so we decided to stay home and do a series of day hikes instead.
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Not only was this a fairly last minute change of plans but the forecast for the week was all over the place concerning chances of precipitation and the amount of clouds vs sun. We decided on a handful of potential hikes then checked the forecast for each one trying to come up with an optimal schedule. The process led us to choosing Sand Mountain for our second hike (Vista Ridge and Owl Point (post) being the first).

Sand Mountain is located near Santiam Pass in the Cascade Mountain and is a geologic study area. The U.S. Forest Service and the Sand Mountain Society seasonally staff the Sand Mountain Lookout in part to keep off highway vehicles from damaging the fragile area. Off trail travel off any kind is banned in the study area, but as we were shown by one of the Rangers in the lookout all the signs and barriers in the world can’t stop some morons from doing whatever it is they want to do as there were several tracks visible in the volcanic soil where OHVs or snow moblies had torn things up but I digress.

We chose to follow William L. Sullivan’s suggestion in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (hike #129 in the 4th edition) by parking at the intersection of FR 810 and Big Lake Road.
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To get here turn south off of Highway 20 toward the Hoodoo Ski Area and follow Big Lake Road for 3.1 miles. FR 810 is open to vehicles which allows one to park 2.9 miles closer to Sand Mountain, but why drive on a rough 15mph dirt road if you don’t have to? Additionally FR 810 follows the route of the Santiam Wagon Road which connected the Willamette Valley to Central Oregon and was used from 1865 to 1939. The 400 mile long route is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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It was a pleasant walk with a few scattered flowers along the way.
IMG_9971Lupine

IMG_9968Beargrass plumes amid the trees

IMG_9979Pussypaws

At the two and a half mile mark we came to a somewhat confusing junction.
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There were snow mobile signs here, one of which had a pointer for Sand Mountain.
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We turned left here following the pointer.
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After about a third of a mile we realized that we were on the wrong side of Sand Mountain so we pulled up the map and compared it with GPS to confirm our suspicions of being on the wrong track. We were indeed so we turned around, but not before getting a decent view of the Sand Mountain Lookout which appeared to be in a bit of a cloud.
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We turned left after getting back to the junction and continued on the Santiam Wagon Road another .4 miles to a sign for the Sand Mountain Special Interest Area. This would be the starting point for the shorter hike option.
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Here we turned left again passing a gate and several notices regarding the prohibited activities in the area.
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The road bed passed by a dark bed of ash as it began climbing up Sand Mountain.
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We were seeing a bit of blue sky overhead as we climbed around and up the west side of the cinder cone but the only cloud free mountain we could make out was Iron Mountain (post).
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IMG_0011Iron Mountain

After a mile and a half we arrived at the old trailhead, now a large parking area for the Forest Service and volunteers who staff the lookout.
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We headed up the trail which again had several notices stating foot traffic only and reminders to stay on the marked trail.
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From this trail we could see Hoodoo, Hayrick Butte, and Black Butte (post)along with the blue waters of Big Lake.
IMG_0029From left to right – Hoodoo, flat topped Hayrick Butte, and Black Butte (behind Cache Mountain).

There was just a bit of snow left over on the trail and a few western pasque flowers were starting to bloom and a western toad was out and about.
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We arrived at the base of the lookout tower after climbing for about a third of a mile.
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A Forest Service Ranger came out to greet us and give us an informative lesson on Sand Mountain and the surrounding geologic area. Sand Mountain is the largest in a series of 23 cinder cones formed along a N-S fissure which also includes 42 distinctive vents and over three quarters of a cubic mile of lava. She informed us that the snow melt from Sand Mountain seeps through the cinder and ash into a large aquifer where after approximately 2 years it makes its way into Clear Lake via the Great Springs and then down the McKenzie River. (post)

We were also informed that Sand Mountain is home to pygmy short-horned lizards but the ranger wasn’t sure that we would see any given the cloudy conditions and chilly breeze. She let us know that we could follow a path down to a viewpoint on the rim of the northern crater and that we were also allowed to hike around the rim if we wanted but she did mention that the climb up the northern end was somewhat steep. We thanked her for the information and headed down to the viewpoint.
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20190623_085411Dwarf lupine at the viewpoint.

The clouds appeared to be breaking up to the west over the Old Cascades.
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The same didn’t appear to be true to the SE though where the snowy Cascade Mountains were still squarely behind the clouds.
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We opted to go around the rim in a counter-clockwise rotation. That way we would be hiking directly toward the Cascades as we looped around in hopes that they might yet clear up.
IMG_0057Starting the loop from the viewpoint.

There really wasn’t any visible tread to speak of on the side of the rim below the lookout and we briefly wondered if we had done something wrong. We stepped as lightly as possible and avoided the patches of vegetation along the way.
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IMG_0060Penstemon and snowbrush

We eventually made it to what appeared to be an old road bed where the path became a bit clearer.
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The hike around the crater was very interesting. A surprising amount of wildflowers were blooming in the rocks and the views down into the crater were impressive.
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As we rounded the crater there was a nice view across to the lookout.
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About this time the Old Cascades had finally shaken off their cloud cover allowing us to identify some additional features.
IMG_0089The Three Pyramids with Scar Mountain (post) to the far right.

IMG_0090Crescent Mountain (post)

IMG_0091Browder Ridge (post)

As we continued toward the Cascades things began looking up that way as well.
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We paused when we were directly across the crater from the lookout to watch the Three Sisters become nearly cloud free.
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IMG_0120Belknap Crater (post), the Three Sisters, and the Husband.

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I pushed on heading steeply uphill now hoping to get a view of Mt. Washington as well. As I was climbing I thought I saw another toad, but it turned out to be on of the pygmy short-horned lizards the ranger had told us about.
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IMG_0143Mt. Washington joining the show.

Another short but steep section of climbing brought me up to an even better view which now also included Big Lake and to a second lizard.
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I waited with the lizard for Heather who had stopped at the first lizard.
IMG_0152Can you see Heather’s hat?

We hung out with our new lizard friend while we watched the mountains uncover further.
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IMG_0171The Husband

IMG_0178Mt. Washington

IMG_0182Scott Mountain (post) and a snowy Maiden Peak (post) in the distance.

The only one that wasn’t playing nice was Three Fingered Jack to the NE.
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Near the viewpoint area below the lookout we spotted our third lizard.
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Interestingly they all seemed to have slightly different coloration but each blended very well with their surroundings.

From the viewpoint we could now also see part of Mt. Jefferson, but like Three Fingered Jack it was still partly obscured by clouds.
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IMG_0190Maxwell Butte (post) in front of Mt. Jefferson.

We headed back down Sand Mountain hoping that as we did so the other peaks might come out.
IMG_0197Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a quarter to ten.

IMG_0215Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a quarter after ten.

IMG_0224Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a 10:23am.

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As we wound our way down we ended up heading directly toward Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters. Each of the Three Sisters seemed to be working on small lenticular clouds.
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We returned the Santiam Wagon Road and headed back. On the return trip we spotted a few butterflies, a golden-mantled ground squirrel and some orange agoseris which we had somehow missed on our way in.
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I also briefly detoured to check out a beargrass patch along some of the official OHV trails.
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With our .6 mile detour up the snowmobile track we wound up with an 11.3 mile hike, another 5.8 of which could have been removed by driving up FR 810.

We took the long way back to Salem opting to follow Highway 20 over Tombstone Pass to stop at the Rooster Rock Trailhead.
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This was less of a hike and more of a quest for a picture of a Menagerie Wilderness sign. We had hiked to Rooster Rock in 2016 (post) from a different trailhead but there had been no wilderness sign on that route. The shorter but steeper Rooster Rock Trail enters the Menagerie Wilderness less than a quarter mile from the trailhead and before the trail starts its climb so I hopped out of the car and hustled up the trail to see if there was a sign along this path.
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There was part of a sign at least at the wilderness boundary which was better than nothing.
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I did do a quick search in the immediate vicinity hoping to locate the other half but was unable to. Satisfied with the outcome I returned to Heather and the car and we headed home to Buddy (and Hazel our other kitty). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sand Mountainm

Vista Ridge and Owl Point – 6/22/2019

In 2017 we hiked the Vista Ridge Trail to Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove in the Mt. Hood Wilderness (post). It had been a cloudy August day which deprived us of any views of the mountain save for a brief glimpse from Elk Cove. The lack of views was enough to put the trail back on our to do list, but there were a couple of other reasons we had wanted to get back to this trail. First was the side trip to Owl Point along a segment of the Old Vista Ridge Trail which was reclaimed by volunteers in 2007. The second was a desire to see the avalanche lilies that bloom profusely on Vista Ridge in the fire scar left by the 2011 Dollar Fire.

We had been following reports on the avalanche lilies from fellow hikers and after seeing that they were blooming we checked the weather forecast for a clear day and headed up to the Vista Ridge Trailhead.
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The view of Mt. Hood had been clear on our drive so we decided to head out to Owl Point first and then up Vista Ridge for the lilies. We followed the Vista Ridge Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Old Vista Ridge Trail at the edge of the 2011 fire scar.
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We turned left onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and headed toward Owl Point. The trail, which relies on volunteers to keep it maintained, was in good shape.
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As we made our way north along though we began to run into some fog.
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We had gone a little over half a mile from the junction and decided to turn back and save the viewpoint for later not wanting to risk missing out on a view. We backtracked to the junction, filled out a wilderness entry permit and headed up a fog free Vista Ridge.
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Unlike our last visit this time we could see Mt. Hood through the snags as we climbed.
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Looking back over our shoulders we could see the cloud that had caused us to turn back was not actually over Owl Point.
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IMG_9690 Mt. Adams beyond Owl Point

Most of the avalanche lilies were already past until shortly after entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness a mile up the Vista Ridge Trail.
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At first the lilies were sparse but then small patches appeared followed by increasingly large fields of white.
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As we gained elevation we left the heavy bloom behind and began seeing flowers that had yet to open.
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We hit snow about two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
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It was patchy and navigable without needing our microspikes and we continued uphill for another quarter mile passing a nice view of Mt. Adams and the Eden Park Trail along the way.
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IMG_9749Eden Park Trail

We ended our climb at a snowfield where the Vista Ridge Trail headed left of the ridge toward its junction with the Timberline Trail.
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The trail looked passable with the microspikes but we had a nice view from where we were and didn’t see a point in continuing on given we still wanted to get out to Owl Point and we were planning on hiking for the next three days straight.
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Near our turn around we spotted some other early bloomers – western pasque flowers aka hippies on a stick.
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IMG_9774western pasque flowers already going to seed

Paintbrush and cinquefoil was also present.
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After an extended break enjoying the view of Mt. Hood we headed back down to the Old Vista Ridge Trail junction stopping along the way to once again admire the avalanche lilies and also to share a moment with a friendly yellow-rumped warbler.
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We turned back onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and repeated the first section which seemed to climb more this second time. (At least our legs felt like it did.) This time there was no fog though and we soon found ourselves at a viewpoint looking at Owl Point.
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There was also a decent view of Mt. Hood.
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After the initial climb the trail leveled out some along the ridge top where a few patches of snow remained.
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That meant more avalanche lilies, although nowhere near the numbers that Vista Ridge was home to.
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After climbing to a saddle we came to a sign for The Rockpile viewpoint.
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The short spur trail led out to a nice view of Mt. Hood but we had startled a dog that was with some backpackers and it wouldn’t stop barking so we quickly took our leave heading for quieter surroundings.
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The spur trail to Owl Point was just a tenth of a mile from the trail to the Rockpile.
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We followed this spur to it’s end at a register at Owl Point.
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Laurance Lake lay below to the east with Surveryors Ridge beyond.
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Mt. Hood was the main attraction though.
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We sat for awhile admiring the mountain and studying Vista Ridge where we could see the trail cutting across the snow beyond where we had turned around.
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We also spent some time looking for pikas but never saw (or heard) any. We did however have a butterfly join us briefly.
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When we had returned to the Old Vista Ridge Trail we continued north for another tenth of a mile to visit Alki Point.
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This viewpoint looked north and on a cleared day would have offered views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. We settled for a glimpse of Rainier’s summit above some clouds (that’s Mt. Defiance in the foreground) and a semi-obstructed view of Mt. Adams.
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IMG_9939Mt. Rainier (sort of)

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We headed back to the trailhead completing a 10.8 mile hike that would have been under 10 had we not had the false start on the Old Vista Ridge Trail in the morning. The avalanche lilies had not disappointed, it was a great way to start a four day stretch of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Owl Point and Vista Ridge

Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

After striking out on a view of Mt. Hood during our previous hike on the Boulder Ridge Trail (post) we planned on trying again during our next outing by visiting Lost Lake. The hikes around Lost Lake and up Lost Lake Butte had been on our schedule in both of the previous years but changes in those plans had bumped it back to this year.

A featured hike in Sullivan’s NW Oregon book (hike #74 in the 4th edition) it presented an issue with our rule to not have our driving time be longer than our hiking time. At a little under 8 miles for both trails we figured the hike would wind up taking us around 4 hours based on our typical pace leaving us an hour short of the 5 hour round trip driving time. Our solution was to add a pair of stops along the way where we could do a couple of short hikes which would bring the times closer in line with each other.

Our route to Lost Lake would be via Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River so for our first stop of the day we chose the less than a mile and a half round trip to Gorton Creek Falls. This hike began at the same trailhead (at Wyeth Campground) that we had used in 2016 for the Wyeth Trail (post) which REMAINS CLOSED after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Wyeth Trailhead

In fact with closures still in place over numerous parts of the gorge we stopped to consult the closure map both at the trailhead and then at the fence erected blocking access to the Wyeth Trail at its junction with the Gorge Trail.
Eagle Creek Fire closure map

With Gorton Creek outside of the closure area and no visible signs of closure we followed the unofficial trail along Gorton Creek from the junction.
Trail along Gorton Creek

A nice path follows the creek for about a half mile where it ends near Emerald Falls, a small 10′ cascade.
Emerald Falls

Emerald Falls

The much taller Gorton Creek Falls is another 100 yards up the creek and requires a bit of scrambling along the left side of the creek over boulders and through trees.
Gorton Creek

Gorton CreekLooking down the scramble route.

Obstacles along Gorton CreekSome of the obstacles

Gorton Creek below Gorton FallsFirst sight of Gorton Creek Falls through the trees.

Gorton Falls

It is a nice two tiered waterfall but the upper tier is only visible from certain angles.
Gorton Falls

Gorton Falls

After admiring the falls we headed back down to the trailhead completing the very nice 1.3 mile hike. We then continued driving east on I-84 to Hood River where we took exit 62 and followed our GPS to the Punchbowl Falls Park Trailhead. Not to be confused with the more famous Punch Bowl Falls which is located on Eagle Creek (also CLOSED due to the Eagle Creek Fire) this Punchbowl Falls is located on the West Fork Hood River in a county park established in 2016 after the land was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy. Trailkeepers of Oregon have since constructed trails (with a new one set to open this year) allowing for a short loop hike through oak woodlands and past a pair of waterfalls.

The trail starts at a gated service road.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Just beyond the gate are a signs for the park and trails.
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Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

We took the West Fork Trail which led to an open hillside with a few lingering ookow in bloom overlooking the West Fork Hood River.
West Fork Hood River

Ookow

The path followed the river gorge through the oak woodland where there had been a nice lupine display by the looks of it.
West Fork Trail

Lupine

As we neared Punchbowl Falls we could see the crumbling remains of a staircase that had led down to a fish ladder along the river.
Old staircase to a fish ladder

Old staircase to a fish ladder

A very short side trail led to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and the wide bowl at the base.
Punchbowl Falls

Pool below Punchbowl Falls

We could also see the top of Mt. Hood rising up above the trees up river. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen near the mountain which was a great sign for our hike up Lost Lake Butte later.
Mt. Hood above the trees

Mt. Hood

From the viewpoint we continued on the West Fork Trail toward Dead Point Falls.
Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

Another viewpoint along the way looked back up river to Punchbowl Falls and Mt. Hood as well as across the gorge to Dead Point Falls.
Punchbowl Falls

Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Just a little further along was a signed spur trail to another viewpoint of Dead Point Falls and the confluence of Dead Point Creek and the West Fork Hood River.
Sign for Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Beyond the Dead Point Falls viewpoint we came to a junction with the Dogwood Trail which could be used to make a short loop back to the trailhead. We stuck to the West Fork Trail which descended slightly to another viewpoint, this time of the confluence of the West and East Forks of Hood River.
Trail junction in Punchbowl Falls Park

Punchbowl Falls Park

The East Fork Hood River was noticeably siltier having the clouded color indicitive of glacier runoff.
Confluence of the West and East Fork Hood Rivers

At a junction just beyond the viewpoint we turned right at a point for the East Fork Trail opting not to continue down to the river which was only a tenth of a mile or two away but we didn’t really feel like climbing back up.
East Fork Trail sign

By the end of this year the East Fork Trail will extend out along the East Fork Hood River but for now this path brought us to the gated serviced road which we turned right onto and followed back toward the trailhead.
Punchbowl Falls Park

After about 150 yards we came to the Dogwood Trail as it crossed the road where we turned uphill to the left.
Dogwood Trail

A lone pink pyrola was blooming along this trail which we followed through the wood for two tenths of a mile to signboards and completing a .9 mile loop.
Pink pyrola

Dogwood Trail

From Punchbowl Falls Park we drove back the way we’d come a mile to Lost Lake Road were we took a right and followed a car with Florida license plates nearly the entire 13.5 paved miles to the entrance to the Lost Lake Campground. I bring this up to ask that if people aren’t comfortable driving on the narrow curvy forest roads that’s fine but when you have cars following you and are going 20 mph below the speed limit and have multiple chances to pull over, please do it (end mini-rant).
Lost Lake Campground entrance

There is currently a $9 day-use fee charged to enter the Lost Lake area but the OregonHkers Field Guide mentioned a possible starting point along gated Jones Creek Road just before the campground entrance. We parked at a small pullout here (room for a couple of cars).
Pullout near Lost Lake Campground

The precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Skyline Trail (now the Old Skyline Trail) could be accessed here and followed up to the Lost Lake Butte Trail. The only problem was we didn’t read the field guide closely enough. It states that there is a sign for the Old Skyline Trail at the road junction, but the GPS map showed the trail leaving the road a little beyond the gate. Having missed that detail we headed up the road watching for the trail which didn’t materialize. Just under a quarter mile from the gate the road forked and we followed the left hand fork which led toward the location of the trail on the map. Approximately 100 yards later we found the unsigned Old Skyline Trail crossing the road.
Old Skyline Trail

We turned right onto the trail and followed it through the forest looking for a four way junction where we would turn onto the Lost Lake Butte Trail. That trail was also not where the map on the Garmin indicated it would be. The junction was about a tenth of a mile further south than shown on the map but it was obvious and well signed.
Lost Lake Butte and Old Skyline Trail junction

Old Skyline Trail junction with the Lost Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we took the Lost Lake Butte Trail and began the 1000 plus foot climb to the summit. A Forest Service Crew had just come through the weekend before to do maintenance, so it was in great shape.
Lost Lake Butte Trail

Lost Lake Butte Trail

The forested route offered no views to speak of and there was as an unusual lack of flowers along the route but it wasn’t a bad climb and in 45 minutes we were passing the remains of the Lost Lake Butte lookout tower.
Foundation from the old lookout on Lost Lake Butte

Although much of the former 360 degree view is now blocked by trees the view south to Mt. Hood remains and is spectacular.
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

To the right of Mt. Hood we also had a pretty good view of the upper portion of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

It was also possible to look north across the Columbia River and see Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

After spending some time enjoying the view and talking with a couple form Astoria who were staying at the Lost Lake Lodge we headed down. When we arrived back at the four way junction we crossed over the Old Skyline Trail and followed the trail down to a paved road crossing.
Trail crossing of the Lost Lake Camground road

Google has this marked as the Old Growth Trailhead but the sign here called this the Rhododendron Trail which led to the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail to the Old Growth Trail

Rhododendron Trail

We followed this trail through the forest to a junction where we turned left onto the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail

Trail sign at Lost Lake

The Old Growth Trail is an interpretive trail with a number of informational signboards along the way. It joined the Shrader Old Growth Trail (post) as one of our favorite interpretive trails. Much of the trail was boardwalk and there were a few pullouts with benches where one could sit and enjoy the forest.
Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Bench along the Old Gowth Trailone of the pullouts

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

The Old Growth Trail ended at another paved road crossing (it was a mile one-way in between the two roads).
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

We crossed the road and followed a pointer for the Lakeshore Trail.
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

The Lakeshore Trail, as it’s name suggests, loops around the shore of Lost Lake. We turned left when we reached the trail and started our way clockwise around the lake.
Lost Lake

We passed the Huckleberry Mountain Trail which connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail on the ridge above Lost Lake. We had passed the upper end of the trail on our visit to Buck Peak in 2016. (post)

Lakeshore Trail junction with the Huckleberry Mountain Trail

The trail looped around to the west side of Lost Lake where the hillside was much steeper than that of the opposite side where Lost Lake Butte rose up from the forest.
Forest along Lost Lake

Lost Lake Butte from Lost Lake

There was one short section where the trail was under water and a brief but steep detour led up the hillside and back down. Other than that the trail was in good shape. Flowers including rhododendron, anemones, bleeding heart and wild bugbane were in bloom.
Lakeshore Trail

Rhododendron blossoms

Anemone

Bleeding heart

Wild bugbane

The trail briefly becomes a boardwalk as it passes over the lake’s inlet creeks where small fish and rough skinned newts could be seen swimming.
Lakeshore Trail

There were some little fish swimming here

Rough skinned newt

As we made our way around the lake Mt. Hood finally began to come into view.
Mt. Hood across Lost Lake

Numerous side trails led down to the shore between the boardwalk and the Lost Lake Resort providing excellent views of Mt. Hood and lots of newts to watch in the clear water.
Mt. Hood from the Lakeshore Trail

Rough skinned newts

Rough skinned newt

Bench along the Lakeshore Trail

Mt. Hood from the bench

Things were pretty hectic as we neared the day-use area and only got busier as we neared the lodge.
Sign for the Lost Lake General Store

We left the Lakeshore Trail near the lodge and cut up through the resort toward the entrance road in hopes of following it back to our car. We had just popped out of some trees onto that road when a pickup passed us and we heard someone call out my name. We turned to look as the truck stopped and realized it was my cousin Lance and his family. They were visiting the lake for the first time too and were planning on doing some kayaking. It was quite the random encounter. After saying hi we went our separate ways and returned to our car and headed home. We wound up taking Highway 35 to Highway 26 around Mt. Hood instead of returning via I-84 after pulling up Google traffic and seeing that there were at least two accidents holding up traffic on the Interstates.

Our route on the trails at Lost Lake added up to 7.7 miles giving us 9.9 miles combined. It turned out to be a nice combination of hikes with varying scenery and different types of trails and best of all we got to see Mt. Hood this time around. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

Boulder Ridge Trail and Wildwood Recreaction Area

Our most recent hike brought us to the BLM managed Wildwood Recreation Site. We were going to be taking the Boulder Ridge Trail from the site to a viewpoint along Huckleberry Mountain in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. The view had escaped us during a 2015 hike the same viewpoint using the Bonanza Trail (post). Cloudy conditions that day had been our downfall so we were a little apprehensive when we saw the forecast calling for a slight chance of showers in the morning but then it called for the skies becoming mostly sunny.

With the Wildwood Recreation Site not opening until 8am (the road is gated) it meant we would be getting a little later start than we normally would which would hopefully give the clouds more time to burn off. After paying the $5 day use fee we parked at the trailhead parking area which acts as the trailhead for the Boulder Ridge Trail as well as for two short interpretive trails – The Cascade Streamwatch and the Wetlands. We decided to do both of these before heading up the Boulder Ridge Trail to give the weather even more time to clear up.
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We began with the paved Cascade Streamwatch Trail.
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The trail led down through the forest to the bank of the Salmon River with several interpretive signs along the way.
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Of particular interest was a 3D model of the Salmon River drainage including Mt. Hood. It mapped out the southern and western flowing creeks and rivers drain into the Sandy River and eventually the Columbia.
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Further along the loop is an underwater viewing area. There were only a few small fish visible on this day but we imagined that at times it would be quite a sight.
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We continued on the loop which passed a sandy beach near a deep hole in the Salmon River where at times spawning steelhead trout and chinook salmon can be seen.
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After completing this short (under a mile) informative loop we returned to the trailhead parking and walked over to a signboard for the Boulder Ridge Trail.
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A paved path here lead to a bridge spanning the Salmon River and the start of the Wetlands Boardwalk.
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We took each of the side trails along the boardwalk starting with the detour to Cattail Marsh.
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The next side trip was to see the results of beaver dams and how they help create the wetlands. We didn’t see any beavers (yet again) but there were some newts swimming in the waters.
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Next up was a “Ghost Forest” caused by rising waters caused by the beavers work.
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The boardwalk then passed a large amount of skunk cabbage before reaching a final detour to a view of the transition from a wetland to a stream.
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The boardwalk ended at a junction where a left turn led to the Boulder Ridge Trail while a right turn would complete a short loop back to the parking area (also under a mile total).
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Left we went passing a sign for the Boulder Ridge Trail and signing in at a signboard.
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The trail wasted little time in launching uphill needing to gain 3100′ to reach the top of Huckleberry Mountain. Not only did it head uphill immediately but it crossed a rocky area that had been exposed by a series of seeps. It looked narrow and possibly slick.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining 1400′ in then next two and a quarter miles where a rocky viewpoint looked into clouds instead of Mt. Hood. Just a bit before reaching the viewpoint we had entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. One thing that has never disappointed us about the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and surrounding area is the beauty of the forest. The clouds might have been blocking our views of Mt. Hood but the fog added a nice element to the forest.
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IMG_9169Rhododendron

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IMG_9172Beargrass and rhododendron along the trail.

IMG_9180Coralroot and sourgrass

IMG_9188Candy stick

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IMG_9197Damp iris

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We passed by the viewpoint hoping that maybe there would be a view by the time we were headed back down. The trail continued to climb gaining another 800′ over the next mile and a quarter where another rock viewpoint looked east.
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IMG_9222Green lichen

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IMG_9255A few trees peaking through the clouds along McIntyre Ridge (post)

With no view to speak of we turned our attention to the flowers in the area.
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IMG_9245Paintbrush

IMG_9250Biscuitroot

IMG_9252Beargrass

IMG_9358Lupine

For the next half mile the trail climbed more gradually spending some time on the ridge top amid a carpet of green before dropping off and arriving at a small seasonal stream where some Scouler’s corydalis was blooming.
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Another half mile of climbing brought us to the end of the Boulder Ridge Trail at a signed junction with the Plaza Trail.
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The only choice to continue here was to turn right onto the Plaza Trail as there is no longer any discernible continuation of it to the left of the junction.
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It was almost 11:45 now and we had been hoping that the skies would be starting to clear but looking up revealed no sign of it happening anytime soon. We still had approximately a mile and a half to our goal though so we sallied forth. After a brief respite from climbing the trail headed uphill into more fog.
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As the trail passed the 4000′ elevation it passed through a small grassy meadow where a few phlox were blooming.
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As the trail gained the final 280′ of elevation there were more open areas where indian plum was blooming while the beargrass was just starting.
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We passed by a large ant pile.
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When we reached the viewpoint the clouds had not only not lifted but they were actually worse than they had been in 2015.
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Huckleberry Mountains summit2015

Slightly disappointed we made our way to a rock outcrop and again looked to the nearby flowers instead of Mt. Hood.
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We stayed for a bit looking for any hint of the clouds breaking but they sky remained a canvas of white so we started back down shortly before 1pm. The view had changed quite a bit at the eastern facing viewpoint when we arrived 45 minutes later. It was still overcast but the clouds had lifted noticeably.
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By the time we reached the lower viewpoint that we had not stopped at earlier there was a significant amount of blue sky overhead.
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The only problem was a mass of clouds directly over (or in front of) Mt. Hood.
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You win some you lose some. We made our way back down to the Salmon River stopping to admire some yellow coral root along the way.
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Despite missing out on the view again the 12.9 mile hike was a good one albeit challenging with over 3000′ of elevation gain. The interpretive trails were a lot of fun and the Mt. Hood National Forest in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness was as scenic as ever. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Boulder Ridge

Sardine Mountain

Having done quite a bit of driving over our Memorial Day Weekend trip to NE Oregon we stuck close to Salem for our next hike. The hike up to the summit of Sardine Mountain from Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region“. Reeder recommends the hike in Winter when you can snowshoe the route, but as we have yet to get into snowshoeing (we’ve talked about it) an early June visit seemed appropriate. Located toward the western edge of the Old Cascades Sardine Mountain has an elevation of 4948′. This combination allows it to melt out sooner than some of the other peaks in the Old Cascades.

The peak is named after nearby Sardine Creek which purportedly gained that name when Thomas Henness found a sardine can in the creek in 1867. There are no official trails to the mountain but there is a scramble trail from Knutson Saddle which can be reached via Forest Road 2223 or by the route we took following Sardine Road (which becomes a 4wd track) up from Highway 22. Sardine Road is an unsigned gravel road located .4 miles east of Big Cliff Dam (2.3 miles west of Detroit Dam). In his description Reeder had parked just beyond a bridge over Sardine Creek just .2 miles up this road which is where we had planned to park but a van was already occupying it so we proceeded up the road another 150 yards to the next pullout.
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There had been a “road closed ahead” sign just after we had turned onto the road and Matt had mentioned that high clearance vehicles could make it as far as 3-4 miles up the road and other cars probably shouldn’t go further than a mile up. In addition to avoiding the bumpy drive the first mile of the road follows close to Sardine Creek so by parking sooner we were able to get some good looks at the creek.
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There were a lot of rough skinned newts out on the road which made us wonder how many have been on roads we’ve been driving on. 😦
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A half mile from where we parked we passed an scenic unnamed side creek.
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Despite being a road walk there was a lot to see between the creek, flowers, and the forest.
IMG_8762Paintbrush above Sardine Creek

IMG_8752Iris

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Approximately a mile and a half from where we had started the road veered away from Sardine Creek at a sharp switchback. In another quarter mile we arrived at a fork.
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The right hand fork was the continuation of the route up to Knutson Saddle and Sardine Mountain but we detoured left on Reeder’s recommendation to visit a huge logjam. We followed this road for four tenths of a mile to one of Sardine Creeks forks where there was indeed an impressive logjam.
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On the way to the logjam we came across a tennis ball and a slug and wondered if this was the worlds slowest game of fetch.
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Also there were more newts.
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There were even more logs jammed upstream on the creek.
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We returned to the fork and continued climbing up toward the saddle. We still had about 2000′ to gain just to reach the saddle. We tried to keep our minds off the climb by focusing on the sights along the way. There was one quarter mile section (1.4 miles from the fork) where the road lost 200′ of elevation before steeply climbing again.
IMG_8798Beargrass

IMG_8802Iris

IMG_8828Mushroom in the middle of the road

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IMG_8813A hillside spring

The road deteriorated as we climbed although there were some noticeable tire tracks and there had been some recent clearing of brush.
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Shortly after passing the 4000′ elevation we passed a lingering patch of snow (with tire tracks).
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A total of 5.5 miles from where we’d parked (6.3 if you add in the side trip to the logjam) we arrived at Knutson Saddle where the trilliums where still white. We took a seat near some snow and rested.
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Before continuing up I walked NE along the level Forest Service road 100 yards to a view of Dome Rock and Mt. Jefferson. Unfortunately it was a very hazy morning so the mountain was blending with the haze.
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After our rest we located the use trail heading uphill where the 4wd track arrived at Knutson Saddle.
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After a brief stint in some trees we emerged in a meadow of huckleberry bushes and beargrass.
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At times the route was overgrown or became faint but pink flagging helped mark the way.
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The bushes gave way to an open rocky hillside where yellow wallfowers and red paintbrush colored the slopes.
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IMG_8873Red flowering currant

It was a fairly steep but non-technical class 2 scramble.
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The combination of the haze and time (the Sun we still to the east of us) really impacted what would have been spectacular views.
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Along the way up we spotted a northern alligator lizard.
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We reached the summit of Sardine Mountain where a long ridge extended north toward Rocky Top.
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The view west was marred by clearcuts.
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To the NE Mt. Hood stood out with Mt. Adams being barely visible through the haze.
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IMG_8961Mt. Hood with North Dicky Peak in front.

Mt. Jefferson rose to the east behind Dome Rock (post).
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Beyond Tumble Lake to the SE was Three Fingered Jack behind Coffin Mountain (post), Mt. Washington, and the barely visible Three Sisters.
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IMG_8964Three Fingered Jack

IMG_8951Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_8939Tumble Lake

After another nice rest we started back down stopping to get pictures of some of the flowers we hadn’t noticed on the way up.
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IMG_8953A saxifrage

IMG_8972Blue-eyed mary

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IMG_8996Butterfly on red flowering currant

After picking our way down the exposed slope we made our way back to Knutson Saddle and headed back downhill on the 4wd road. We didn’t see anymore newts along the road on our descent but we did see a few other critters.
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IMG_9028Another northern alligator lizard

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20190601_121157These two long legged spiders got into a brawl when they met crossing the road.

With the Sun now overhead the candy flower had opened up and many of the other flowers were showing up better so we stopped to get some pictures of them as well.
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20190601_123148Candy flower

20190601_121738Iris

20190601_121916Beargrass

IMG_9047Cinquefoil and candy flower

IMG_9049Fringecup

IMG_9056Monkeyflower

20190601_124017Thimbleberry

20190601_124131Stonecrop

20190601_125119Youth-on-age with an interesting insect

The sunlight also helped bring out the colors of Sardine Creek.
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Aside from the unfortunately hazy conditions the only real drawback to the hike was that we each managed to pick up a couple of ticks, likely taking pictures of the flowers and creek at the end of the day where the grass was tall along the road. A good reminder to always check thoroughly, best a couple of times as even though we did a check and knocked three off us at the car one managed to make it all the way home with Heather where a second check found it before it had started to dig in.

We did not see another person the whole day although we did hear a car drive past Knutson Saddle as we approached it. There was plenty of evidence that people do spend time along the road though based on the used shotgun shells, pieces of clay targets, and trash filled fire pits at several of the pullouts. 😦

From where we parked, with the logjam side trip, our GPS recorded a 12.8 mile hike which was a bit shorter than we’d expected based on Reeder’s book where he put it at 14.4 miles without the side trip. The stat that did agree was the 4600′ cumulative elevation gain making this a pretty good early season training hike for climbers. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sardine Mountain

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

For our last day of hiking on our Memorial Day weekend trip to NE Oregon we planned on visiting Zumwalt Prairie. Managed by the Nature Conservancy there are four trails open to hikers totaling approximately 9.5 miles combined. We had originally planned on doing all four but for reasons to be explained later we wound up skipping the Canyon Vista Trail this trip.

We had had a mix of weather so far during the trip with a snow shower on Friday (post) and nearly 80 degree temperatures on Saturday (post). Sunday was again up in the air as the forecast called for a 50% chance of showers and possible thunder storms after 11am. We got our typically early morning start and made the 45 minute drive from Wallowa Lake to the the preserve.

As we left Wallow Lake we were surprised to see that the Wallowas were mostly cloud free so on the way to the hikes we decided to start with the viewpoint hikes first in hopes of getting some nice looks at both the Wallowas and the Seven Devils in Idaho. Based on the trailhead locations we thought we might start with the Canyon Vista Trail but as we turned onto Duckett Road and passed Duckett Barn and the information kiosk there we noted how rough and wet the dirt road was. The map of the preserve mentioned that between the turn off for the Harsin Butte Trail and the Canyon Vista Trailhead “high clearance /4wd vehicles are recommended….This road may be impassable at times during the winter or when wet”. We decided that there was no reason to risk getting stuck, especially since there seemed to be quite a bit of fog toward the area where the trail looked to be. When we reached the spur road for the Harsin Butte Trail we turned down it and started our day there.
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Described as sort of a scramble route the Harsin Butte Trail gains just under 700′ in .8 miles to the summit viewpoint. Even before we started climbing though the views were good.
IMG_8266Looking toward the Seven Devils in Idaho

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IMG_8272Findley Buttes (You can see some of the standing water on Duckett Road on the right hand side.)

From a distance and especially while driving it’s a bit difficult to notice all the flowers but once we got onto the trail we realized there were a whole lot of different flowers present.
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IMG_8283Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8286Phlox with larkspur in the background

IMG_8279Cusick’s paintbrush

IMG_8295White-stem frasera

IMG_8290Paintbrush

IMG_8297A wild onion

IMG_8298Larkspur

IMG_8304Milk vetch

IMG_8312Chickweed

IMG_8314Woodland stars

IMG_8311An assortment of flowers

We were following a clear path and could see the continuation of the path going up the side of Harsin Butte so we were a little confused when we passed a couple of rock cairns about a quarter mile from the trailhead.
IMG_8322One of the carins and the trail going up Harsin Butte in the background.

We ignored the cairns and stayed on the clear path.
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After another quarter mile of walking we realized that this was not the trail to the butte, it was heading around the west side of the butte to what looked like a corral instead. We backtracked to the cairns and followed them to find the continuation of the correct path.
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It seemed the higher up we went the more flowers we were spotting.
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One exciting find for us were the monument plants which we don’t get to see all that often.
IMG_8329Monument plant

IMG_8332Top of the monument plant

IMG_8343Shooting star

As we were climbing we noticed that the low clouds behind us seemed to be moving our way fairly quickly. I decided to try and double time it up to the summit in an attempt to avoid being over taken by clouds before getting to see the view. Apparently 3 days of hiking had taken more of a toll on me than I had realized and I was quickly sucking wind. The 5000′ elevation probably wasn’t helping me any and I regretted my decision every time I had to stop to try and catch my breath.
IMG_8347Here comes the clouds.

One of the times that I found myself gasping for air I noticed this rockcress.
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The path led briefly into a stand of pines where game trails crisscrossed and elk sign abounded.
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A few different flowers showed up in this area.
IMG_8353Bluebells

IMG_8426Yellow bell

IMG_8410Violets

IMG_8397Ball-head waterleaf

After a brief disappointment upon realizing there was a false summit I made it up to the actual summit with its solar powered antenna.
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The cloud scare proved to be a false alarm, at least for the moment as they passed to the north of Harsin Butte between it an one of the Findley Buttes.
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There were a few clouds over the Wallowas to the southwest but also some sun shining on the northern end.
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To the southeast the Seven Devils had a similar look.
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After a nice rest (I needed it) at the summit we headed back down. The clouds over the northern end of the Seven Devils lifted a little reveling a little more of the mountains.
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By the time we were finished, with what turned into a 2.1 mile hike, our shoes were pretty well soaked from the dew on the grass but the flowers seemed to love it.
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We didn’t see any elk but we did spot a Belding’s ground squirrel who had popped up to check us out.
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We hopped back in the car and drove back to the Duckett Barn and parked at the information kiosk there.
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Those clouds we’d been watching were starting to move overhead as we set off on Patti’s Trail, a short lollipop loop which began on the opposite side of Duckett Road from the kiosk.
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There weren’t as many flowers along this trail as we had seen on Harsin Butte but there were still quite a few and some that we had not seen during the first hike.
IMG_8481Camas

IMG_8490Old man’s whiskers and white-stem frasera

We followed blue posts and pointers to a fence.
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This area was a bit rockier and had quite a bit of phlox and large head clover.
IMG_8496Lots of phlox

20190526_075112Phlox

IMG_8506Large head clover, larkspur, and wild onion

20190526_075335Large head clover

IMG_8500Wild onion

The trail descended slightly as it approached Camp Creek. Although we still had some clouds passing overhead we had a clear view of the prairie and the flowers we were passing by.
IMG_8513Duckett Barn starting to disappears as we descended.

IMG_8510Possibly hoary balsamroot

IMG_8514Hoary balsamroot?

IMG_8515Phlox

20190526_081858Diffuseflower evening-primrose

IMG_8526Camp Creek

Patti’s Trail followed along Camp Creek to a small pond where red-winged black birds were hanging out.
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Beyond the pond the trail continued following the creek passing more flowers and blackbirds along the way.
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IMG_8529Possibly a mustard

IMG_8536White-stem frasera blooming

20190526_080638Violets

20190526_081638Hairy clematis

IMG_8549Old man’s whiskers

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20190526_082540Cusick’s paintbrush

The trail veered left at a stock pond.
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We paused at the pond and Heather spotted a deer running up a nearby hillside.
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The trail continued to bend back around to the left following what was described as the swale of a dry creek but again with the recent precipitation there was water flowing creating a nice little stream.
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The trail eventually left the creek and was headed straight for Harsin Butte in the distance.
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We’d lost sight of the posts at one point and were just sticking to what appeared to be the main track and ended up veering left of the butte and coming to a small watering hole where the track petered out.
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Looking back from this higher vantage point we could see the next post we should have been aiming for so we backtracked and found another fainter track that put us back on the right course.
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The clouds were breaking up nicely as we ended this hike and the butterflies were coming out.
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After completing the loop and returning to our car we headed back toward Zumwalt-Buckhorn Road and our final hike of the day and trip on the Horned Lark Trail. While we were still on Duckett Road though we spotted a pair of elk running up the Findley Butte near the barn and stopped to get a picture.
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Shortly after turning right onto Zumwalt-Buckhorn Rd we stopped again to get a picture of a Wilson’s snipe. One had flown up from the grass while we were on Patti’s Trail but we hadn’t been able to get a picture of that one.
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When we were finally done with stopping for wildlife we parked at the Horned Lark Trailhead just over 3 miles from Duckett Road.
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This trail was described as an “easy 1.9 mile loop which sounded like a perfect way to end our trip. We began by following a clear double track through the prairie. Lupine was blooming nicely in this area and there was a view of the Wallowa Mountains beyond the Findley Buttes.
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As with Patti’s Trail the route of the Horned Lark Trail was marked by blue posts.
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The trail descended toward a pond near Pine Creek.
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Once again flowers were good supply.
IMG_8642Paintbrush and biscuitroot

IMG_8643A ragwort or groundsel (I think)

IMG_8646False sunflower?

IMG_8648Old man’s whiskers and milk vetch

20190526_094353Western stoneseed

We spotted another ground squirrel ahead in the path.
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He may have been on high alert due to the presence of a merlin nearby.
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IMG_8664I had to dip into the digital zoom to get this photo so it’s a bit blurry.

We followed the path and posts to the fenced pond but the path disappeared near a post a bit beyond the pond.
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We consulted the map that we’d printed out and it appeared to show the trail following a fenceline near Pine Creek so that’s what we did until we were able to spot another post in the distance.
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The fence was popular with the birds.
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We picked up a faint path and followed it toward the post.
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We followed the posts up a draw where the tread was often indiscernible.
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Even now we were still seeing different flowers.
IMG_8707Dwarf yellow fleabane

IMG_8711Blue dicks

Maybe it was simply due to the fact that this was our fourth staight day of hiking and it was early in our hiking season but this loop despite being only 2 miles long didn’t feel easy. The deer that we spotted bounding up and over the hill ahead of use didn’t seem to think it was too difficult though.
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IMG_8717Looking back down the draw.

Back on top we were headed ESE and could see the Seven Devils and Harsin Butte on the horizon.
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The Wallowas were still visible too behind Harsin Butte and the two Findley Buttes (from left to right).
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With the completion of the Horned Lake Trail our total milage for the three hikes came to 6.9 miles. It would have been a bit less had we not followed a couple of wrong paths. Harsin Butte was the most difficult with the 700′ elevation gain followed by the Horned Lark Trail with the easiest being Patti’s Trail. The Canyon Vista Trail which we skipped would have been about 3.6 miles round trip and possibly around 500′ of elevation gain. It was a beautiful place to visit and I guess we have a good reason to go back with one trail left undone.

As we were driving back toward Enterprise we encountered a vehicle stopped in the road. They flagged us down and let us know that they thought there was a golden eagle sitting on a rock on the hillside. Between the distance and the angle of the sun it was hard to tell but then the bird flew and it looked awfully small for a golden eagle. It landed on a telephone pole allowing us to see that it was indeed only a hawk, but it was a nice scene regardless.
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We said goodbye to the Wallowas and drove into Pendleton for the night where, after having been threatened by their possibility all weekend we finally got a thunderstorm. Luckily we had already walked back from our dinner at OMG! Burgers and Brew where we had another excellent meal. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Zumwalt Prairie

Lower Wenaha River

After dealing with snow the day before at Freezeout Saddle (post) we called an audible and decided not to try hiking at Hat Point. That trailhead is a little higher in elevation along Hells Canyon than we had been during the Freezeout Saddle Hike. We turned instead to the Wenaha River Trail starting from Troy, OR. This trail provided us with the opportunity to make our first visit into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. We planned on visiting this wilderness later on this year but knowing our plans are always subject to change we jumped on the chance for a warmer, drier hike that visited another of Oregon’s wilderness areas.

The drive to Troy from Wallowa Lake was an eventful one. The wildlife was out in force. We kept our eyes on the numerous deer that we spotted along Highway 3 between Enterprise and the turnoff to Flora. At one point several elk ran across the highway ahead of us from one field to another. There were two deer in the second field that upon seeing the elk running away from the road toward them decided they should run too, only they ran toward the road (and us). The lead deer realized its mistake and turned around chasing after the elk leaving the second deer looking confused before also turning around. A short while later we were slowed by a turkey in the road. Its escape plan appeared to be to try and outrun our car. If you’ve seen a turkey try and sprint its a pretty funny sight. Eventually it remembered its wings and flew to the side of the road.

Thirty five miles from Enterprise we turned left at a sign for Flora, a ghost town that peaked in the early 1900’s. Beyond Flora the road was paved for the first 4 miles but then turned to mostly dirt with some gravel. For about 7 miles this road wound steeply down to the Grande Ronde River and Troy. Numerous hairpin turns with steep dropoffs made for a bit of a tense drive down but we arrived at the Troy Trailhead in one piece.
Troy Trailhead

Not only were we at a much lower elevation (under 2000′) but the forecast was for just a 30% chance of showers on this day so we were optimistic that we’d have a little better weather experience. The sky seemed to back that up as we looked back over Troy and the Grande Ronde River.
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This lower portion of the 31.3 mile long Wenaha River Trail passes through the 2015 Grizzly Fire scar.
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Some of the trees survived the fire.
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We had seen a trip report from the end of April over on Oregonhikers.org which indicated that the trail was in pretty good shape, but might be a bit brushy in spots. The author had also spotted big horn sheep during the hike so we were going to be keeping on the lookout for those.

In April it looked like there had been a nice display of balsamroot along the trail but most of that was now done but we were pleased to still find some flowers in bloom.
IMG_7762Vetch

IMG_7768Spreading dogbane

IMG_7776Wild rose with a beetle

IMG_7778Yarrow

IMG_7787Houndstongue

IMG_7784Paintbrush

IMG_7792Catchfly

IMG_7795sticky purple geranium

The trail itself began above the Wenaha River but soon dropped down to river level passing through a flat. This pattern would repeat itself over the course of the hike. The sections along the flats ranged from open grass to overgrown brush. We appeared to be the first to be going through the brush since the leaves were heavy with water which quickly soaked the lower halves of our bodies.
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As we made our way along the trail we discovered additional flower types.
IMG_7812Oregon sunshine

IMG_7818Monkey flower

WatercressWatercress?

IMG_7822Fiddleneck

IMG_7827Rough eyelashweed

IMG_7829Blanket flower with two sleeping bees

After a mile we arrived at a gate which we at first mistook for the boundary with the Umatilla National Forest.
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While we were on the lookout for big horn sheep it was colorful birds that we kept seeing (and hearing).
IMG_7848Yellow breasted chat

IMG_7865Lazuli bunting

The contrast in the hillsides on the opposite sides of the river was interesting. The north side consisted of smooth rounded terrain while the south side was much more rugged.
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While we were admiring the ruggedness of the opposite hillside we spotted some promising brown dots (they are in the picture above). With a little help from the zoom on the camera and our monocular we were able to confirm they were some of the big horn sheep we’d been looking for.
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Just a bit further down the trail we spotted another group. These were engaged in some rowdy play around a burnt ponderosa trunk.
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We watched them for quite a while before continuing on. The north side of the river became a bit more rugged and the rockier terrain provided more diverse flowers.
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IMG_7919Penstemon

IMG_7921Clarkia

IMG_7932Phlox

IMG_7945More spreading dogbane

IMG_7949Buckwheat

IMG_7952Scabland penstemon

IMG_7953Cinquefoil?

While the trail was up on the hillside we had nice views of the Wenaha below.
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A little over two and a half miles in we passed a second fence which was the actual forest boundary.
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Just beyond the boundary was a viewpoint across from Dry Gulch.
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From the viewpoint the trail made a couple switchbacks down to another brushy flat.
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Although it wasn’t thick there was a few pockets of poison ivy along the trail so we kept a watchful eye when the vegetation was close to the trail. It was along these flat sections where we spotted most of the birds.
IMG_7970Woodpecker with a snack.

IMG_7978Northern flicker

IMG_8003Black headed grosebeak

We also spotted a few big horn sheep on our side of the river.
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After climbing up a bit again we found a nice combination of false sunflower and balsamroot blooming along a ridge end along with a few other flowers.
IMG_7985Blue dicks with a beetle

IMG_8010Lupine

IMG_8012Salsify

IMG_8021False sunflowers

IMG_8024Balsamroot

IMG_8013Clarkia with beetles

IMG_8028View from the ridge end.

We repeated the dip and climb a couple more times before arriving at a neat rock overhang a bit before the 6 mile mark (at least according to our GPS). Along the way spotted more birds, a deer, and what appeared to be a rattlesnake that had met its demise along the trail.
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IMG_8040Another bunting

IMG_8045Wallflower

IMG_8052Another chat

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20190525_095959Geranium

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Beyond the overhang we could see Crooked Creek Canyon ahead to the right where it joined the Wenaha to the left.
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From the overhang it was a little over a mile to Crooked Creek. The stretch began with another nice selection of flowers.
IMG_8077Skullcap

IMG_8081Stream globemallow

IMG_8083Thimbleberry

IMG_8084Threadleaf phacelia

The the wildlife kicked back in and not in the most welcome way for Heather. I had stopped to try and get a picture of a garter snake that had just moved off the trail.
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I heard Heather say snake a couple of time and I was thinking “Yeah I know I’m trying to get a picture of it” only she was talking about a second garter snake that was slithering into the grass on the other side of the trail. Then she notice the third one coiled a couple of inches from her left foot. She is not a huge fan of snakes but has gotten quite a bit more comfortable around them, but three in one spot was getting close to too much. The third snake slithered away when I approached and we continued on.

More welcome wildlife came in the form of a family of geese, a pair of Lewis’s woodpeckers, and butterflies.
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At the 6.3 mile mark we passed a rock cairn with a “6” on top. We weren’t sure but thought that it might have been marking the boundary of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
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Whether or not that was the official boundary somewhere near the cairn we did enter the wilderness crossing one more off of our list to visit.
IMG_8134Officially inside the wilderness

We followed the trail to the site of the former footbridge over Crooked Creek which was lost in the Grizzly Fire.
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We spent some time pondering what the crossing would be like for backpackers wanting to continue on the Wenaha Trail. The water level looked like fording would be possible but we couldn’t see how one would get up to the trail on the far side. The best we could figure is that you would need to ford closer to the mouth of Crooked Creek and not at the old bridge site but we didn’t investigate further.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The day was warming up nicely as blue sky began to emerge overhead. We ran into several groups of backpackers heading in and they all asked about Crooked Creek. We told them that we thought fording would be possible but they’d need to find a spot to get back up to the trail. One of them mentioned what we had suspected, that there was a way up a little further downstream.
IMG_8165Blue sky

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On the way back we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed the first time by.
IMG_8177Wren

IMG_8190Spider and blue dicks

IMG_8194Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8220Wild onion

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Near the spot where we had seen the first group of big horn sheep across the river Heather spotted a small group on our side along the river bank.
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By the time we made it back to the trailhead the sky was mostly blue and temperatures were in the upper 70’s. It was a far cry from the snow shower the day before.
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20190525_134957The bees woke up at some point.

For some reason I had started craving pizza near the end of our hike so when we got cell signal I did a quick search of restaurants in Joseph and decided a calzone from Embers Brewhouse which really hit the spot and provided breakfast for the next day as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Wenaha River