Bonney Meadows and Boulder Lake – 7/27/2019

For the final hike of our vacation we again used one of Matt Reeder’s hikes as inspiration. We based this hike off of his Boulder Lake and Bonney Butte description (Hike #31 in “Off the Beaten Trail”). The starting point for Reeder’s 8.8 mile hike is the Boulder Lake Trailhead but for us that would mean a 3+ hour drive. A little research on Oregonhikers.org though gave us the idea to start at the Wamic Road Trailhead (okay it’s more of a pullout along the road than an actual trailhead) located along Forest Road 48 (Wamic Road) 6.5 miles from Highway 35. Starting here would take approximately 45 minutes off the drive time each way but it added over 4 miles and 1600′ of elevation gain to the hike.

Even though we were watching for the Bonney Meadows Trail we only spotted it as we passed by so we had to turn around and go back. We had been scanning the shoulder for the trail and missed a big white X in the road marking the spot.
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The Bonney Meadows Trail climbed from the start angling up the hillside as it passed through a nice mixed forest. The climb was constant but never particularly steep.
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Approximately a half mile from Wamic Road the trail arrived at FR 4890 which it followed to the left for a short distance to a wide intersection.
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The trail resumed a short distance up a spur road to the left at the intersection.
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Shortly after passing a signboard near the road we entered the Badger Creek Wilderness.
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The forest changed subtly as we gained elevation.
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IMG_5004Twin flower and prince’s pine

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After approximately 2 1/4 miles we left the wilderness and arrived at Bonney Meadows Road.
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We faced a choice here. We could have turned left and walked up the road a little over half a mile to the gated road up Bonney Butte or we could continue on the Bonney Meadows Trail and visit the Boulder Lakes before heading up Bonney Butte later in the day. We’d had a fairly clear view of Mt. Hood from Highway 35 at the White River Bridge, but it was overcast in that direction now so we opted to try for Bonney Butte later. We crossed the road and continued on the trail.
IMG_5015Overcast skies over Bonney Butte

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The Bonney Meadows Trail began to pass along the outskirts of Bonney Meadows.
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It was past prime for the flowers but there was still a decent number to be seen.
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IMG_5039Mountain chickadee

The meadows were bigger than we had expected and on a clearer day we would have been looking across them at the top of Mt. Hood.
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As it was we settled for looking at the different flowers still in bloom.
IMG_5045Bog orchids

20190727_080905Shooting star

IMG_5055Elephants head

20190727_081229Lupine

We ignored the Hidden Meadows Trail which left to the right a quarter mile from the road crossing.
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Just beyond that junction we passed a small pond as we continued our way around the Bonney Meadows.
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IMG_5069Clouds dropping down after passing over Bonney Butte, it looked like we’d made a good choice.

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A half mile from the Hidden Meadows Trail junction we arrived at a second junction, this time with the Forest Creek Trail. This would be our return route from the Boulder Lakes but the trail also forms a loop with the Hidden Meadows Trail.
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IMG_5077Mt. Hood should be straight ahead.

We continued on the Bonney Meadows Trail for another eighth of a mile to a third junction. Here we turned right onto the Boulder Lakes Trail.
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After a short stint passing by more meadow the Boulder Lake Trail dove downhill.
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IMG_5085Mock orange

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There had been a decent number of small birds around the meadows but as we headed down this forested hillside we started seeing dozens of little birds flying every which way. A couple of times they zoomed right by our heads, possibly plucking insects out of the air. We noticed several different types but getting any of the little guys to sit still long enough for pictures was a challenge.
IMG_5101Red-breasted nuthatch

IMG_5114Another nuthatch

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After .4 miles on the Boulder Lake Trail we came to a switchback where the trail turned SE and leveled out a bit near a spring.
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Beyond the spring the trail passed a series of talus fields where we spotted pikas, golden-mantled ground squirrels, chipmunks, and more birds.
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IMG_5124First pika

IMG_5128Second pika

IMG_5135Paintbrush

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IMG_5138Washington lily

IMG_5140Moth

IMG_5144Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_5146Chipmunk

IMG_5149Penstemon

IMG_5153Tall bluebells

IMG_5154Rainiera

IMG_5161Nuthatch

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IMG_5169Columbine

IMG_5174Gray jay

After passing by Kane Spring (off trail to the NE) near the 1.5 mile mark the trail dropped down for a quarter mile to Boulder Lake.
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There were a couple of groups camping at the lake but also some vacant spots. We walked along the lake shore trail checking out a couple of the empty camp sites before arriving at a junction with the trail coming from the Boulder Lake Trailhead on Forest Road 4880.
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We took a short detour and followed this trail a tenth of a mile to check out Spinning Lake.
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IMG_5191Spinning Lake

After taking a quick look at the little lake we hiked back up to Boulder Lake and turned left following a point for the Little Boulder Lake Trail.
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This trail made a short climb and then descent over a ridge before arriving at Little Boulder Lake in half a mile.
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The trail ended at Little Boulder Lake but several short paths led to a road to the SE of the lake.
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After sitting by the lake we hiked to the road and turned right.
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The road gradually climbed for a little over three quarters of a mile to a ridge top where the Forest Creek Trail crossed over. We turned right onto the trail which passed though some old clear cuts where huckleberries were ripening. We passed a couple of berry pickers not far from the road in fact.
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We climbed along the ridge for almost a mile before coming to a cliff top viewpoint above Little Boulder Lake.
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The trail continued its gradual climb beyond the viewpoint on its way to Echo Point, the high point of the trail. A little over 1.25 miles from the Little Boulder Lake viewpoint a short off-trail jaunt led us to a view of Boulder Lake.
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We arrived at Echo Point in another .2 miles.
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IMG_5251Gunsight Butte, Lookout Mountain, and Badger Butte.

20190727_114115Boulder Lake from Echo Point

After taking a break at Echo Point we began the .3 mile descent down to the Bonney Meadows Trail where we discovered Mt. Hood making a bit of an appearance.
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We took that as an encouraging sign for Bonney Butte and turned right on the Bonney Meadows Trail retracing the eighth of a mile to the Boulder Lake Trail junction. This time we turned left toward the Bonney Meadows Campground.
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The trail crossed Bonney Creek before arriving at the campground.
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We turned right at the campground and followed the entrance road to Bonney Meadows Road where we turned right.
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We followed this rocky road for .3 miles to the gated road up Bonney Butte where we turned left.
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We hiked up this very rock road a half mile gaining 250′ to the summit of Bonney Butte.
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Just prior to the summit was a viewpoint where it appeared that there were fewer clouds to the south. Mt. Jefferson was partially hidden but Broken Top and the Three Sisters looked to be under mostly blue skies.
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IMG_5306Broken Top

IMG_5309Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Jefferson

Upon arriving at the summit we found a stubborn cloud between us and Mt. Hood.
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Plaques at the summit recount the history of the Bonney Butte fire lookout as well as telling about raptor migrations. Hawkwatch International volunteers perform raptor counts here from late Summer into Fall.
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We spent some time reading the plaques and hoping that the clouds would miraculously part long enough to get a clear view of the mountain but it wasn’t to be.
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IMG_5328Highway 35 bridge over the White River

IMG_5329Timberline Lodge

IMG_5332Close but no cigar.

IMG_5338Turkey vulture

IMG_5358There’s the summit for a second.

The view was better to the north where the peaks of the Badger Creek Wilderness were cloud free.
IMG_5320Lookout Mountain (post) in the center.

We finally called it when it became apparent that the clouds were not going to relent and headed back down to Bonney Meadows Road.
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IMG_5366Bonney Meadows

We walked back along the road past the campground entrance for .2 miles. Just after crossing Bonney Creek we came to the Bonney Meadows Trail where we had come up to the road that morning.
IMG_5369Bonney Creek

IMG_5371Approaching the Bonney Meadows Trail

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We turned downhill and headed back to Wamic Road. After reentering the Badger Creek Wilderness there were a couple of negatives. First fresh mountain bike tracks had been made in the trail cutting into the sides in some places. Mountain bike are not allowed in designated wilderness areas so this was disappointing. The other bummer was the steady sound of gunfire that was coming from the spur road near the junction where the Bonney Meadows Trail shortly follwed FR 4890. Despite ending on a bit of a downer the majority of the hike was excellent and we were already planning a return trip, possibly during the raptor count some year.

Starting at Wamic Road the hike wound up being 14.3 miles according to the GPS and gained between 3000 and 3500′. Going in the direction we had on the loop past the Boulder Lakes kept the steepest setions of trail as downhills which helped make the hike feel a little less challanging than the numbers sound. It was a good bookend to our vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bonney Meadows and Boulder Lakes

Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain – 7/26/2019

Sticking with our Matt Reeder inspired vacation, on Thursday we selected a hike featured in both his “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and “Off the Beaten Trail” second edition. In the latter he doesn’t describe the extended hike to Baty Butte. We started our hike at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead where, just as at the Pine Ridge Trailhead, we were greeted by mosquitoes.
IMG_4576Spur road leading to the trail from the pullout.

IMG_4580Signage at the end of the closed spur.

The trail began climbing almost immediately via a switchback that passed us through a thimbleberry and devil’s club covered hillside.
IMG_4581Thimbleberry crowding the trail.

IMG_4582Devil’s club along the trail. We each had our hands brush against some and it doesn’t feel pleasant.

IMG_4587Lupine and paintbrush in the thimbleberries as the trail enters the forest.

After the initial battle with the brush the trail entered the forest where some old growth was present and the trail much clearer.
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IMG_4600It looked like these two trees fell out of the same hole but in different directions.

IMG_4609Anemone and queen’s cup

IMG_4612Beargrass and huckleberry bushes.

After climbing for a mile we reached a viewpoint at a switchback with a view of Mt. Jefferson.
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IMG_4618Schreiner Peak in front of Mt. Jefferson.

Another .2 miles of climbing along a wildflower dotted ridge brought us to a junction just below the summit of Thunder Mountain.
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IMG_4626Small sign on the tree marking the trail to Thunder Mountain’s summit.

We decided to save Thunder Mountain for the return trip due to the position of the Sun and the presence of quite a bit of haze. We followed the pointers on a temporary sign for Skookum Lake and Baty Butte.
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The Skookum Lake Trail began to descend along a steep hillside that looked to have had an excellent wildflower display just a week or two earlier. As it was there were still a decent number of flowers in bloom.
IMG_4631Columbine

IMG_4635Washington lilies

IMG_4647Penstemon

IMG_4648Assorted flowers

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IMG_4650Oregon sunshine

20190726_075546Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_4653Columbine and a couple different types of penstemon.

IMG_4663Cat’s ear lily

IMG_4666Lupine

20190726_080627Pyrola

The trail left the wildflowers as it made a horseshoe shaped turn into thicker trees.
IMG_4671Skookum Lake Trail below coming out of the horseshoe turn.

Approximately a mile from the Thunder Mountain junction we passed a rocky viewpoint where large basalt boulders were jumbled along the hillside.
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We didn’t stop to check out the view until our way back by, but there was a decent view of Mt. Hood and through the trees we could make out Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_4933Mt. Hood

IMG_4938Mt. Rainier

The trail descended another half mile beyond the rocks before leveling out along a meadow.
IMG_4675The trail skirts a talus slope above the meadow.

IMG_4681Finally leveling out by the meadow after losing approximately 700′.

The meadow is also the site of the junction with the abandoned Baty Butte Trail which was marked by a sad little rock cairn and tattered flagging along with an easy to miss temporary sign.
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IMG_4889I missed the sign until we had come back and started down the Skookum Lake Trail.

There were a few mosquitoes patrolling the meadow so we didn’t linger long but we did stick around long enough to notice several types of flowers still blooming.
IMG_4686Tall bluebells

IMG_4687The yellow might be a groundsel.

IMG_4689Aster

The tread of the trail was difficult to make out but there was some flagging on the far side and a faint path to it.
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Beyond the meadow the trail became a bit more obvious as it passed through the trees. Occasional flagging assisted in keeping us on track.
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The trail climbed a bit before arriving at an old roadbed .4 miles from the meadow.
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The road was a casualty of the 1996 storms that caused flooding in Oregon and washed out much of the Fish Creek road network. The roadbed is now more of a wildflower garden. We turned right onto the road following a faint path through the flowers.
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Shortly after setting off on the road there was a nice view of Mt. Hood to the north.
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This was by far the most enjoyable stretch of old roadbed we’ve been on. The wildflowers were profuse and there were dozens of butterflies flying about. It was the tail end of the flowers but they were still very impressive.
IMG_4705Paintbrush, penstemon and lupine

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IMG_4721Mostly past lupine

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IMG_4732Several butterflies on Oregon sunshine.

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IMG_4742Scarlet gilia

IMG_4745Fireweed

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At about the .4 mile mark another old road joined from the right which wasn’t a problem on the way to Baty Butte but it is worth noting because coming from the other direction it looked like it might be easy to continue straight on the wrong roadbed.
IMG_4840Left is the wrong way on the return, the correct route is to the right through the brush.

IMG_4841Flagging marking the correct path.

Near the three quarter mile mark on the road we passed some rock out crops and a talus slope where we spotted a pika and some golden-mantled ground squirrels.
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Shortly after passing along a narrow ridge the road arrived at the base of Baty Butte.
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The road continued around the butte to the left but the Baty Butte Trail headed uphill amid some small trees.
IMG_4790Baty Butte Trail to the right.

The trail climbed around the side of the butte and showed some signs of recent trail maintenance.
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After .4 miles on the trail, as it began to curve around a ridge, we turned uphill on a scramble trail.
IMG_4797Baty Butte Trail starting to curve around the ridge.

IMG_4798Scramble route up the ridge.

It was a steep quarter mile climb up the ridge which devolved into a narrow rocky spine toward the top.
IMG_4800Looking down from the start of the spine.

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It required the use of our hands to navigate this and we stopped at a wide (for the ridge) spot. From here it appeared that the number of trees increased to a point that would make continuing even more difficult.
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From this viewpoint we had a view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
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IMG_4820Mt. Jefferson

IMG_4821Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

There was also an excellent view of Table Rock and Rooster Rock in the Table Rock Wilderness (post).
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IMG_4813Rooster Rock is the formation to the far left.

IMG_4823Looking down from Baty Butte.

After a brief rest we headed back eager to see more of the butterflies and flowers along the road.
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20190726_105330Orange agoseris

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IMG_4860Pearly everlasting

IMG_4861Penstemon

We also got to sample a few ripe strawberries.
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The trail heading off of the road was easier to spot than it had been at the meadow.
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Back through the meadow we went to the Skookum Lake Trail.
IMG_4877Monkeyflower along the trail.

IMG_4887Crab spider on aster.

We turned left following the pointer for Skookum Lake.
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The Skookum Lake Trail descended for three tenths of a mile to Skookum Lake.
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IMG_4893Rhododendron along the Skookum Lake Trail.

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The little lake was full of activity with butterflies flying along the shore and rough skinned newts floating lazily in the water. Trout were also visible swimming in the shallows.
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We followed the trail along the lake shore to the Skookum Lake Campground.
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A forest road used to provide access to the primitive campground. It still sees some use though as the litter left in a bucket near the picnic table showed.
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As we headed back along the lake Heather spotted a crawdad on a log.
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After watching the crawdad for a bit we climbed back up to the junction with the Baty Butte Trail and then made the steep climb back up to the Thunder Mountain spur trail where we turend left.
IMG_4939Small sign on a tree marking the trail to the summit of Thunder Mountain.

It was just a tenth of a mile climb to the site of the former lookout tower at the summit.
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From the summit we could again see Mt. Jefferson but now we also had a view north to Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.
IMG_4945The view north.

IMG_4947Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4949Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams beyond Fish Creek Mountain (post).

IMG_4967Mt. Hood

IMG_4966Mt. Jefferson

From the summit we headed back down to the car stopping at the lower viewpoint which had a better view of Mt. Jefferson.
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Shortly before reaching the brushy section we passed a group of backpackers headed up the trail, the only people we saw all day. This was a really nice hike with a variety of scenery. Even if the scramble up Baty Butte is a little too much for some with the exposure the road walk to the butte was well worth a visit during wildflower season. The hike came in at just over 10 miles with a little over 3000′ of elevation gain making it a bit of a challenge but nothing too crazy. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain

Temple Lake and Marion Mountain – 7/25/19

A day after taking my brother and his family to Opal Creek (post) we were back on the trails with a visit to Temple Lake and Marion Mountain. This is another hike take from Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region”. The hike starts from the Pine Ridge Trailhead
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There were a few mosquitoes waiting for us a the trailhead so we applied a bit of deet and set off through the forest for .2 miles to a 4-way junction.
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From the junction the Pine Ridge Trail continued straight while the Turpentine Trail departed on the right and to the left was a trail to the Boy Scout owned Camp Pioneer (the camp is private so do not take this trail or any others heading left between the trailhead and the junction).
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We continued on the Pine Ridge Trail past a unique Mt. Jefferson Wilderness sign.
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The trail dropped from the junction to cross a dry creek bed before climbing around a ridge and dropping again.
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We took a brief off-trail detour to visit one of several lakes in the area.
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We returned to the trail and continued on to the junction with the Temple Lake Trail which was approximately 2 miles from the trailhead.
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We decided to save the lake for later in the day in hopes that the mosquitoes would be less active. Continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we passed through some sections of forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Complex.
IMG_4387Turpentine Peak

IMG_4394Washington lily

IMG_4395Unburned forest

IMG_4397Mt. Jefferson from the Pine Ridge Trail.

At the four mile mark we arrived at the signed Marion Mountain Trail.
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We turned right here and began to climb up a ridge to Marion Mountain. A little less than three quarters of a mile up we came to a cinder viewpoint.
IMG_4408Mt. Jefferson and Marion Lake (post)

IMG_4415Three Fingered Jack

The view here was good but just a tenth of a mile further the trail led out to the former site of the Marion Mountain Lookout where the view was even better.
IMG_4427The cinder viewpoint from Marion Mountain.

IMG_4426Mt. Hood in the distance with Mt. Jefferson, and Marion Lake.IMG_4426

IMG_4430Mt. Hood and Dynah-Mo Peak

IMG_4435Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4443Tops of the Three Sisters.

IMG_4456Coffin Mountain (post)

We had a nice view of the crest between Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack where we could make out North and South Pyramid Peaks (post).
IMG_4437South Cinder Peak is the high point along the ridge.

We sat on the rocks enjoying the breeze which was keeping us cool and mosquito free. When we finally did leave we decided to follow a faint path the continued out along the ridge to the south of Marion Mountain. The open forest made cross country travel fairly easy.
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We continued along the ridge entering the B&B scar again where there were more obstacles.
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We wound up going a little under a mile along the narrowing ridge until it dipped to a saddle under forested Marion Peak. We didn’t see any reason to lose any elevation and have to gain it back so we declared victory. The view here was better yet with more of the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington visible.
IMG_4479The saddle that we didn’t want to drop down to.

IMG_4485Three Fingered Jack with the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington in the gap.

IMG_4481The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington beyond Red Butte (post)

IMG_4488Jenny and Melis Lake

IMG_4489Marion Mountain at the end of the ridge.

IMG_4496Bear Point (post) and Dynah-Mo Peak with Mt. Hood in the background.

IMG_4492Turpentine Peak along the ridge.

IMG_4510Black Butte (post) on the far opposite side of the crest.

In addition to the views there were a few flowers along the ridge and Heather spotted a Northern Alligator Lizard but it ran off before we could get a photo.
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IMG_4517Prince’s Pine

IMG_4518Penstemon

IMG_4520Washington lily

We headed back down the ridge to Marion Mountain and then returned to the Pine Ridge Trail where we turned left. When we got back to the Temple Lake Trail we turned right and headed downhill.
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The half mile trail crossed a dry creek before reaching the lake.
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It wasn’t overly buggy which allowed us to admire the view of Mt. Jefferson from the lake and check out the campsites.
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IMG_4542Dragon fly

While Heather was looking at one of the sites a western toad popped its head out of a hole.
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I’m not sure who was watching who as the toad wound up coming all the way out while we stood there.
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We kept our distance (thanks 30x zoom) and headed back up to the Pine Ridge Trail. Aside from a garter snake sighting there was no excitement on the return trip, just a nice forest walk.
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With our off-trail exploring the hike came in at 11.6 miles and a little under 2000′ of elevation gain. The off-trail was just the right balance of challenging but not frustratingly difficult. It was a lot easier than what we had done the day we visited Bear Point earlier in the week for sure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Temple Lake and Marion Mountain

Opal Pool – 7/24/19

As luck would have it one of our weeks of vacation coincided with a visit from my brother and his family from Missouri. We offered to take them on a hike and they accepted so we tried to come up with a worthy “Oregon” hike. We decided on the hike to Jawbone Flats and the Opal Pool. We had been to Jawbone Flats three other times, twice on the Whetstone Mountain Loop (post) and in 2012 (prior to starting this blog) using the route we planned on taking this time.

We picked them up at my parents house and headed for the Opal Creek Trailhead. My parents were also going to do at least part of the hike at their own pace so they drove separately.
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We hiked the gated road to Jawbone Flats for a little over two miles to the site of the former Merten Mill. Equipment from the 1943 lumber mill can still be seen including the old boiler but the mill itself is now gone. Along the way we passed over Gold Creek at the .4 mile mark, crossed over wooden half-bridges along cliffs, and entered the areas famous Douglas fir forest.
IMG_4192Gold Creek

IMG_4201Fireweed along one of the half-bridges.

20190724_090256Beetle on a half-bridge.

IMG_4209Creek in the forest.

IMG_4211Boiler at the Merten Mill site.

Old building along the trailMerten Mill in 2012

A day-use trail leads down to Sawmill Falls from the old mill site.
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Being a weekday and still relatively early (we left at 7am instead of our usual 5am because I’m a nice big brother ;)) there was no one else at the falls. We spent some time watching fish swim in the pools and admiring the clear water of the Little North Santiam River. At one point an ouzel stopped by to take a dip.
IMG_4213Fish in the pool below the falls.

IMG_4215Little North Santiam River

IMG_4220Sawmill Falls

IMG_4221Ouzel

After carefully exploring the rocks around the falls we returned to the trail and continued nearly a quarter mile to a signed fork. Here we turned right on the Opal Creek/Kopetski Trail and crossed the river on a footbridge.
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Having left the road we were now on an actual trail which made a series of ups and downs along the hillside. When the trail was close to the river we took the opportunity to visit the water where after a little searching we found a couple of rough skinned newts.
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IMG_4240Ridiculously clear water.

IMG_4245Newt floating in a small pool.

IMG_4249Cascade along the river.

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When the trail was away from the water there was a lot of berry picking going on. We had managed to find a few ripe thimble and salmon berries along with a variety of huckleberries while hiking the road but it was all huckleberries along the Opal Creek Trail.
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IMG_4266Red huckleberries

After 1.3 miles on the Opal Creek Trail we arrived at Opal Pool. There were a few other people here including to our surprise my parents who had apparently passed us at some point while we were down along the river.
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IMG_4286Bridge over the river above Opal Pool

IMG_4293Little North Santiam River below Opal Pool

IMG_4297Opal Pool Falls

My parents had missed Sawmill Falls so we let them know where to turn off on their way back. We stayed at the pool for awhile watching some cliff jumpers before crossing the footbridge and heading for Jawbone Flats.
IMG_4302Cliff jumpers sitting down by the pool.

IMG_4305Opal Pool Falls from the bridge.

Approximately a quarter mile from the Opal Pool we arrived at Jawbone Flats, a 1930s mining town that is now a non-profit educational center.
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IMG_4323Pelton Shed provides power to Jawbone Flats.

Battle Ax Creek flows through town.
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From Jawbone Flats it was a 1.2 mile road walk back to the junction with the Opal Creek/Kopetski Trail and then the 2.1 miles back to the trailhead. Many more berries were consumed along the way. Our niece, Rebekkah, spotted two garter snakes on the hike out.
IMG_4349One of the garter snakes.

IMG_4352A millipede

We were fortunate to have had a lot of trail and river time to ourselves as a steady stream of people were headed in as we exited. My brother said he could see why we go as early as we do.

With the combination of old growth forest, crystal clear water, a couple of waterfalls, and lots of ripe berries it had been a good choice for a hike. Without any wandering around it would be a 7.1 mile hike, but with several explorations along the river my GPS had me at 9.1 miles. Everyone survived though and seemed to have a good time and my parents did make it to Sawmill Falls before heading home themselves. It was a lot of fun to be able share this hike with Jason and his family and we are already preparing for a “next time”. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Opal Creek

Bear Point – 7/22/2019

We had passed the Bear Point Trail twice when hiking into Jefferson Park on the South Breitenbush Trail, most recently last August. (post) It was finally time to tackle that trail which gains almost 1700′ in just over one and three quarters of a mile to the site of a former fire lookout.

We set off from the South Breitenbush Trailhead a little after 6am hoping to get the climb over before the day heated up too much.
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We followed the familiar South Breitenbush Trail for 2.2 miles to a signed junction.
IMG_3870Lots of spent beargrass along the trail.

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At the junction we went left on the Bear Point Trail.
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At first this trail continued the gradual climb that we’d been making on the South Breitenbush Trail as we passed around a spring set in a green forest.
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IMG_3886Thimbleberry bushes near the spring.

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IMG_4179Spring near the trail.

Shortly after passing the spring the trail began to climb in earnest via a series of swithbacks. The hillside below Bear Point was covered in talus slopes, the perfect spot to see a pika.
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IMG_3901Spotted the first pika of the day at this switchback (it’s on one of the red rocks)
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The hillside was pretty dry and the trees began to give way to manzanita, chinquapin and snowbush which allowed for some excellent views of Mt. Jefferson and the surrounding area as we trudged up the switchbacks.
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IMG_3921The Three Pyramids, Bachelor Mountain, and Coffin Mountain in the distance with Triangulation Peak in a cloud shadow along the near ridge to the right.

IMG_3928Mt. Jefferson with Three Fingered Jack now fully visible.

IMG_3935Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4169Grouse in the brush to the left of the trail.

IMG_4171Grouse

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As we neared the top the trees began to reappear in larger numbers and the beargrass was still blooming.
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We spotted the second pika of the day in a talus slope just below the summit.
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Despite the 3000′ of elevation gain to reach the summit the climb wasn’t particularly steep until the final 100 yards or so.
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IMG_3981Almost to the top.

IMG_3989Bear Point summit.

The views from the summit were amazing and there were a few wildflowers scattered about. We would have loved to have spent quite a bit of time relaxing there but the mosquitoes were a nuisance and there was no breeze to keep them at bay.
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IMG_4018The Three Sisters and Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4009Mt.Jefferson

IMG_4013Park Ridge (post)

IMG_3991Bear Lake, Dinah-Mo Peak, and Park Ridge

IMG_4146Triangulation Peak and Devils Peak

IMG_4148Boca Cave below Triangulation Peak (post)

IMG_4147Devils Peak (high point to the right of the ridge), which we had just hiked to a couple of weeks earlier (post)

IMG_4152Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte (The Breitenbush Cascades are also out there amid the trees.)

IMG_4137Mt. Hood with Slideout and Mildred Lakes in the forest below.

IMG_3986Fleabane

IMG_3996Columbine and fleabane with Bear Lake in the background.

IMG_4022Snow patch near the summit.

The round trip to Bear Point is just 7.6 miles so we had some energy left and with the early start coupled with not stopping for very long due to the bugs we also had some time so we decided to tackle another challenge and visit an off trail lake. Due to the lake being off-trail I’m not going to go into much detail although it probably wouldn’t take a lot of detective work to figure it out. This was a challenge to reach and required route finding and navigational skills.
IMG_4031Typical terrain, it’s hard to tell here but this was a steep hillside.

IMG_4023There were tons of these butterflies around.

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IMG_4045Crossing a talus slope.

IMG_4050More typical conditions.

IMG_4053Pond near the lake.

IMG_4055Bird at the pond.

IMG_4058The lake

IMG_4076Spirea and shooting stars

20190722_094856Crab spider with a bee

IMG_4080The lake

IMG_4102Aster

IMG_4104Lupine and beargrass

There were of course mosquitoes here too, being July and near water, so we didn’t linger and were soon attempting to follow our route back. It was slow going but we managed to get back just fine. It was a fun and challenging day and it felt good to be able to practice our off-trail skills a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Point

Cinnamon Ridge – 7/20/2019

It had been a couple of years since our hikes had taken us to the Mt. St. Helens area. We didn’t want to go a third year without making a visit so we picked the 14.1 mile Cinnamon Ridge Loop Hike described here in the Oregon Hikers field guide. A shorter loop was also described in Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” guidebook.

We started at the Kalama Horse Camp Trailhead and consulted the signboard map to confirm our route. (We had a paper map, a downloaded pdf track, and our GPS with us, but you can never consult too many maps.)
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We set off on the Toutle Trail just to the right of the signboard.
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After a short descent the trail crossed an unnamed creek. Ripe berries were everywhere.
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Two tenths of a mile from the trailhead we came to a junction with the Cinnamon Ridge Trail, our return route. We stayed left on the Toutle Trail.
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IMG_3619Toutle Trail

IMG_3618Candy sticks

A short distance later we stayed right at a junction with the Kalama Ski Trail.
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Beyond this junction the trail approached the Kalama River as it passed through the forest.
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Yet another junction followed about three quarters of a mile later just after climbing away from the river via a switchback. Again we stuck to the Toutle Trail.
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The trail was now a good distance above the river avoiding a series of slides.
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IMG_3648Pinesap

IMG_3651Pinesap and a puffball

Just over 2 miles from the trailhead we arrived at the third and final junction signed for the Kalama Ski Trail where we also stuck to the Toutle Trail.
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There had been plenty of ripe huckleberries and lots of pinesap but not too many flowers. There were a few lousewort and twin flowers though along this section of trail.
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IMG_3660Twin Flower

At the 2.5 mile mark we came to a Forest Service Road.
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Reeder’s shorter/easier loop utilizes this road which he lists as FR 8122 (our maps showed it as 8022). He also has you hike in the opposite direction so we would have been coming down the road to this junction then returning to the horse camp the way we’d come on this hike. Since we were doing the longer loop we crossed over the road and continued on the Toutle Trail which was once again closer to the Kalama River.
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Along this stretch we noticed a few really large mushrooms.
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Approximately 1.2 mile from the road crossing we crossed a second road bed where the trail hopped to the opposite side of the river.
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A good sized frog jumped off the trail in front of us here.
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As we neared McBride Lake (now more of a wetland) we obtained our first glimpses of Mt. St. Helens.
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IMG_3706Mt. St. Helens beyond the remnants of McBride Lake.

We averted disaster when a rough skinned newt charged Heather but it was only a bluff.
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The trail climbed through a nice forest as it passed McBride Lake on its way to Red Rock Pass.
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IMG_3722Cars parked at Red Rock Pass

We didn’t go all the way down to Red Rock Pass as the Cinnamon Trail headed uphill at an unsigned junction about 100 yards above the trailhead.
IMG_3723Cinnamon Trail on the left and Toutle Trail on the right from the unsigned junction.

While the Toutle Trail had gained almost 1200′ in the 5.7 miles from the trailhead to the Cinnamon Trail junction the Cinnamon Trail gained nearly 700′ in less than a mile. Although the climb was never particularly steep it provided a good workout. It also provided some nice views of Mt. St. Helens and our first (and best) look at Mt. Adams.
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Things leveled out a bit after gaining the ridge where the trail passed through a variety of scenery.
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IMG_3749Fungus on a stump.

After a little of two and a half miles on the Cinnamon Trail we came to a small meadow with a view south to Mt. Hood.
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Just beyond the meadow the trail reached a saddle with a view NW to Goat Mountain.
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The trail continued to follow the ridge west and then south as it passed around a butte.
IMG_3770The butte ahead (we didn’t want to have to climb that.)

IMG_3774Trail wrapping around the south side of the butte.

On the far side of the butte we arrived at another saddle.
20190720_113203Toad near the saddle.

IMG_3780Mt. St. Helens from the saddle.

The trail stuck to the north side of the ridge for a bit allowing for some good views of Mt. St. Helens and another Mt. Adams sighting.
IMG_3781Goat Mountain

IMG_3783Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams

IMG_3796Another frog.

At the 4.5 mile mark of the Cinnamon Trail we arrived at the first of three successive road crossings (all of the same road).
IMG_3799Crossing #1

IMG_3800Crossing #2

IMG_3801Crossing #3

Approximately a quarter mile from the third road crossing the trail began to descend through a small meadow with a few cat’s ear lilies.
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Soon we were dropping down along a narrow ridge where we were able to see the top of Mt. Rainier beyond Coldwater Peak.
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The sun was glinting off of the equipment on top of Coldwater Peak (post).
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The trail continued to descend crossing over another old roadbed before reaching FR 8022 (or FR 8122 per Reeder) 6.2 miles from Red Rock Pass.
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IMG_3825old road crossing.

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IMG_3830Dropping to FR 8022(8122).

We crossed this road onto an old roadbed which we followed for four tenths of a mile.
IMG_3831Goat Mountain from the roadbed.

IMG_3835Goat Mountain and Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3838Ripening berries

IMG_3842Rock slide along the roadbed.

Shortly after passing through the rock slide the roadbed ended and we were back on a trail.
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The trail descended for another mile and a half eventually coming back within earshot of the Kalama River but not close enough to provide many views until we arrived at a footbridge across it.
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From the bridge it was just 100 yards to the end of our loop and .2 miles from the trailhead. The 14.1 miles combined with nearly 3000′ of elevation gain make this a challenging hike. Despite the difficulty and lack of any real big WOW moments it was a really enjoyable hike. There were plenty of positives; the ripe berries, the river, mountain views, a little wildlife (including some grouse which as always gave us a start when they flew off.), a few wildflowers, and some nice forests to keep us entertained the entire way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cinnamon Ridge

Breitenbush Cascades & Devil’s Ridge Trail – 7/13/2019

We were looking for a relatively short, nearby hike so that we could get back to Salem early. It was Salem Summit Companys (our favorite local outdoor store)7th anniversary so they were having a sale, raffle, and free pizza. We turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region” for inspiration and chose a pair of hikes not far outside of Detroit, OR.

Our first stop was at the Breitenbush Cascades. The trailhead for this short (a third of a mile) hike is located on one of the worst Forest Service roads in NW Oregon, FR 4220 aka Skyline Road. We had braved this road once before on a hike to Jefferson Park Ridge (post). That had been a much longer drive on this road than the 3.5 miles we had to endure to reach the pullout on the right shortly before the the road crossed North Fork Breitenbush River. A very small temporary Forest Service sign was all that marked the trailhead where a pair of paths led into the forest. In hindsight we should have taken the path leaving to the left of the parking area, but instead we took the path straight ahead.
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As we would discover in a few minutes the trail to the left went straight to the river then turned right along the water to meet up with the path we’d taken. The path we took descended a bit and also brought us to the river near a small cascade.
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There was also a view here to Bear Point across the valley, a hike that we are hoping to do later this month.
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The trail switchbacked down to what Reeder describes as the top tier of the Breitenbush Cascades.
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The river almost immediately spills over the lip of another cascade.
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This second tier is reachable via another switchback although the trail down is steeper and there is a bit of an awkward drop down some exposed rock.
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Slick rocks and moss make caution here important as the river plunges downhill yet again beyond the second tier.
IMG_3294The river below the second tier.

The river actually loses over 1200′ from this second tier as it cascades down to join the South Fork North Fork Breitenbush River. By all accounts this is likely the tallest waterfall in Oregon if the cascades are considered a single feature, but the steepness of the terrain make this second tier the final tier that is safely reachable, at least without special equipment.

We headed back uphill to the small cascade above the first tier where we stayed right along the water. This led us back to the parking area via that left hand trail and past another nice little cascade on the river.
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We drove back down FR 4220 and wound up passing what appeared to be a brand new Mercedes SUV (complete with dealer plates) coming up the rocky, rutted road. I guess that’s one way to break a new car in.

Once we’d finished with the 3.5 miles of FR 4220 we turned left on paved FR 46 and drove 5.6 miles to FR 50 (11 miles from Highway 22 at Detroit). After .2 miles of potholes on this gravel road we parked at a pullout on the left at the remains of a guard station that burned in 2000.
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From the pullout we walked down the road to a gate for the Breitenbush Hot Springs Resort and turned left onto the signed Gorge Trail.
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We had been on this trail before in 2013 (post). This time we planned on the more strenuous hike to Devil’s Peak.

Even thought we’d been on this first section of trail there had been some changes. Namely the footbridges that lead across the North Fork Breitenbush River which need to be repaired or replaced routinely.
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After crossing the river the trail climbed gradually through the forest where we spotted our first blooming Washington lily and prince’s pine of the year.
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Just over a mile from the parking area we passed a spur trail on the left joining from South Breitenbush Gorge Trailhead.
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At the 1.5 mile mark we arrived at the signed junction with the Emerald Forest Trail.
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While the South Breitenbush Gorge Trail is maintained by the Forest Service a network of trails including the Emerald Forest and Devil’s Ridge Trails are maintained by the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center.

We turned onto the Emerald Forest Trail which descended for 100 yards to a footbridge over the South Fork Breitenbush River. A previous version of the bridge could be seen to the left.
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Beyond the river the trail steadily climbed for nearly a mile to a junction with the Spotted Owl Trail. Here we turned left following pointers for the Cliff Trail and Devil’s Lookout.
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This trail also climbed as it transitioned from unburned forest to the fire scar of the 2017 Little Devil Fire.
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Just over a quarter mile from the trail junction we arrived at a second junction along a ridge where the Devil’s Ridge Trail continued climbing to the left while the Cliff Trail dropped to the right.
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We turned left and as we started what would be a fairly intense climb a woodpecker tapped away at the trees.
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A little less than a quarter mile from the junction we came to a somewhat ominous sign.
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While “at your own risk” gave us something to think about at least the trail wasn’t closed so we ducked under the sign and continued. We were ready to turn back if either of us felt uncomfortable but in the meantime we continued to climb.

Because the trail follows the spine of a ridge there isn’t a lot of room for it to zigzag up so at times it was brutally steep. We tried to entertain ourselves with the remaining flowers which included our first fireweed, diamond clarkia, scouler’s bluebells (lots), and pearly everlasting of the year.
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IMG_3399A clump of fireweed.

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IMG_3408Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_3411Diamond clarkia

IMG_3416Cat’s ear lily

IMG_3419yarrow

IMG_3429Pearly everlasting

A little over a half mile from the junction we arrived at the Devil’s Lookout, a rocky viewpoint. Although we had some blue sky overhead clouds seemed to be encircling us.
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The trail then dropped a bit as it crossed a somewhat level saddle before launching itself uphill again.
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IMG_3442Another Washington lily

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After gaining 200′ in a tenth of a mile the trail became more reasonable as it climbed along a much gentler slope. There were some interesting rock formations along this section.
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IMG_3455Devil’s Peak ahead

In addition to the rocks we spotted a spectacular Washington Lily with various stages of blooms. It smelled just as good as it looked too.
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As the trail neared Devil’s Peak it took a different approach than launching straight uphill and wound around to the left. The tread along the hillside had been damaged by the fire and required a little caution.
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The trail wrapped around to the opposite side of Devil’s Peak where there were a few reaming wildflowers from what looked like it had been a decent display.
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A trail used to continue along the ridge all the way to Triangulation Peak (post) but that trail had long been abandoned before the fire.
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The trail now got back to business and did indeed head basically straight up to the top of Devil’s Peak.
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The view had reportedly been great of Mt. Jefferson before the fire and with many trees now burned the view was even more open, but those pesky clouds just weren’t cooperating.
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Ironically we had been able to see Mt. Jefferson clear as a bell during our drive to Detroit but the best we could get now that we were closer was a glimpse of the snowy lower flank.
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Triangulation Peak was below the clouds though.
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We spent some time resting and exploring the summit which had some excellent rocks to sit on.
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After a nice break we stared down. The steepness of the descent made it necessary to keep our speed under control and it was tough on the knees.
IMG_3553A typical steep section.

We stopped when we could, breaking for insects and ripe strawberries.
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When we arrived back at the trail junction we stayed straight on the Cliff Trail which continued the theme of steep descents. After just 200 feet we veered left at a “Cliffs” pointer.
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Short spur trails led out to a couple of cliff top viewpoints which overlooked the forest.
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Beyond the cliffs the trail really dropped as it descended into a narrow valley.
IMG_3572Looking back up from the bottom.

IMG_3575Still dropping but much more gradually.

Approximately a half mile from the cliffs the trail ended at the Spotted Owl Trail. Here a right turn takes you back to the Emerald Forest Trail in half a mile where you can then return to the trailhead via the earlier route.
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If you have a shuttle car that you left at the Spotted Owl Trailhead or if you are a guest at the resort you can turn left here and follow the Spotted Owl Trail a little over a mile to the visitor parking area at Breitenbush Hot Springs. The description in Reeder’s book has you loop through the resort but the resort has apparently hardened their stance on allowing hikers to pass through the resort itself.

This wasn’t a particularly long hike (9-10 miles) and the roughly 2400′ of elevation gain isn’t all that high a number but the steepness of those gains made this a surprisingly tough hike. It would have been nice to have had a view of Mt. Jefferson but this year seems to be the year of partly cloudy skies so all we can do is keep trying. In any event it was a nice hike and gave us a good excuse to check out the Breitenbush Cascades. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Breitenbush Cascades and Devil’s Ridge Trail

Grassy Knoll & Big Huckleberry Mountain – 7/06/2019

It has been an interesting couple of months where the weather is concerned. We have spent a lot of time checking forecasts trying to find the most favorable hiking conditions. It seems that in years past when the forecast hasn’t been good it hasn’t been good anywhere within our driving range but this year has been different. For the most part we have been able to find at least one location with the possibility of “partly sunny” conditions. For our most recent hike that location was Grassy Knoll in Washington.

A quick scan of forecasts the night before our hike showed that the forecast for Grassy Knoll was partly sunny skies moving to mostly sunny later in the day. Nearby Big Huckleberry Mountain, which was to be our turn around point, was a little less favorable but mostly cloudy to partly sunny didn’t sound too bad.

We followed the directions to the Grassy Knoll Trailhead from the Oregonhikers.org field guide. While the forecast had been good the roads were not. The roads weren’t the worst we’d been on, but they did take home the award for most unavoidable potholes. High clearance was helpful and driving was slow at times but we arrived at the trailhead in one piece.

We had driven through quite a bit of drizzle between Portland and Cascade Locks but had been encouraged by the sight of the edge of the cloud cover to the east. Unfortunately the break was further east than we were so we set off on the trail under a full cover of clouds.
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The trail started off in a past peak wildflower meadow but there were still a few flowers blooming.
IMG_2729Arrow leaf buckwheat

IMG_2730Blue-head gilia, stonecrop, wild onion, and arrow leaf buckwheat

IMG_2735Farewell-to-spring waiting for the Sun (just like us)

After climbing through the meadow the trail entered the forest and continued to climb fairly steeply at first.
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There were a surprising number of flowers blooming amid the bushes and trees along the forested ridge.
IMG_2746Tiger lily

IMG_2765Twin flower

IMG_2768Penstemon

IMG_2761Lupine

IMG_2787Arnica?

IMG_2793Patinbrush and penstemon

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IMG_2803Lots of arnica

The trail passed what we took for two viewpoints, but with the cloudy conditions we couldn’t tell what the view should have been.
IMG_2784First viewpoint approximately 1 mile in.

IMG_2774First viewpoint

IMG_2807Second viewpoint, about 1.5 miles in. The hillside was covered in cat’s ear lilies.

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IMG_2811Penstemon and cat’s ears

IMG_2824Cat’s ears and wild onion

Beyond the second viewpoint the trail alternated between forest and wildflower meadow for a quarter mile before starting a fairly steep climb up the open hillside of Grassy Knoll.
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IMG_2834Two kinds of paintbrush

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20190706_081442Onion

20190706_081510Looks to be some sort of orchid

IMG_2848Blue-head gilia and an unknown yellow flower.

IMG_2852Arrow leaf buckwheat and blue-head gilia

IMG_2857A bunch of flowers

IMG_2862Starting up Grassy Knoll

We were a little late for peak flowers but the hillside still had a lot to show us.
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IMG_2865Balsamroot

IMG_2877Catchfly

After just two miles of hiking we came to the site of the former lookout tower atop Grassy Knoll. It wasn’t even close to partly sunny by the way.
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With no view to speak of we continued on hoping that the clouds would start breaking up soon, or at least by the time we were passing back by. The trail leaving Grassy Knoll was a bit brushy at first but then cleared up. There were plenty more flowers to see as we continued along a somewhat level ridge.
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IMG_2894A little better view down for a moment.

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A little under a quarter mile from the lookout site we entered the first in a series of impressive wildflower meadows along the ridge.
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This first meadow had a bit of a beetle infestation.
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IMG_2926Phlox and a cat’s ear lily

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IMG_2952Another type of penstemon

IMG_2957Beargrass

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IMG_2996Not sure what this is either, it’s the first time we recall seeing it.

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Finally, after nearly one and a quarter miles of wildflower bliss the trail veered off the ridge to the left and entered the forest.
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It was a nice forest with a bright green understory.
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Around the 3.75 mile mark we arrived at Cold Springs Camp
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A spur trail led down to what we presume was Cold Spring but it was hidden in brush. The unofficial (but signed) Alway Trail led downhill on a faint path to FR 68 from the camp as well. Just beyond this camp was another sign for Hilltop Camp, but unlike Cold Springs Camp this one looked to no longer be used.
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The trail was part of the Cascade Crest Trail which was the precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail. The current route of the PCT is further to the west but it does pass Big Huckleberry Mountain and we would briefly be on it later.

From the camps the trail lost some elevation as it passed beneath a rock outcrop which looked to have a pretty good sized cave or at least a big overhang at its base.
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We arrived at the PCT five and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
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From here we were about five miles south of the trailhead where we had set off on the PCT on our 2018 hike to Indian Racetrack in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (post). We turned right, took a couple of steps, and veered right again following the pointer for Big Huckleberry Mountain. A .2 mile climb brought us to the open summit where the forecast was right for the first time today, it was mostly cloudy.
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Big Huckleberry Mountain was also home to a lookout at one time but now aside from a few remains the summit was just occupied by wildflowers.
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A fairly long rocky spine extended east from the former lookout site with a couple of pockets of trees separating the open areas where the flowers were prevalent.
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The slope eventually steepened enough to make for a good stopping point.
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The end here was just a little further beneath the clouds which allowed for a good view of the Big Lava Bed which lay between Big Huckleberry Mountain and Mt. Adams but not for much else.
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There was also a view south where the Bridge of the Gods could be seen (barely) spanning the Columbia River.
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After exploring the summit and also resting a bit we headed back. There were some encouraging signs that the clouds might actually move on as we made our way back through the wildflower meadows.
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IMG_3146Snowy flank of Mt. Adams through the clouds.

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Back at Grassy Knoll the conditions were better than they had been earlier in the morning but they still weren’t great.
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IMG_3212Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The same was true for the other viewpoints.
IMG_3227Little Huckleberry Mountain and Big Lava Bed

IMG_3229A bit of Mt. Adams again.

It was a little frustrating to be able to see clear blue sky beyond the edge of the clouds, but what can you do. The flower show had been more than entertaining and to cap the hike off the farewell-to-spring near the trailhead had started to open up despite the lack of sunshine.
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Missing out on the view will put this 11.8 mile hike toward the front of the list for a revisit, although the roads might hold it back just a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Grassy Knoll and Big Huckleberry Mountain

Bunchgrass Ridge – 7/04/2019

For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.

We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.

After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
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In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
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A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
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The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
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IMG_2117The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.

20190704_072419orange agoseris beginning to open.

20190704_072403Cat’s ear lily

IMG_2120Pussytoes

At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
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It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
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We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
IMG_2132The Three Sisters and Broken Top

IMG_2136Larkspur along the trail.

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IMG_2138Bunchberry

IMG_2142Anemone

IMG_2149Another meadow

IMG_2159The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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IMG_2170Queen’s cup

IMG_2181The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_2208Rhododendron

IMG_2210Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.

The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
IMG_2214View from the SW facing hillside.

IMG_2215Looking SE

The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
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IMG_2221Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.

After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
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IMG_2229Diamond Peak through the trees.

After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
IMG_2241Valerian in the saddle.

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IMG_2270Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey

IMG_2276Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2272Mt. Bailey

IMG_2656View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2658The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2281Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
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Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
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In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
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There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
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After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
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From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
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Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
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From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
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We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
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Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
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IMG_2332Giant blue-eyed Mary

20190704_091315Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_2328Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia

IMG_2334Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia

IMG_2339Coneflower

IMG_2342Cow parsnip

IMG_2345Tall mountain bluebell

IMG_2347More of the blue flowers

IMG_2350Larkspur

20190704_092323Jacob’s ladder

20190704_092346An aster or fleabane

IMG_2361Columbine and valerian

IMG_2362Lupine

IMG_2370Not sure what type of flower this one is.

IMG_2364Valerian filled meadow below the trail.

IMG_2373White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells

Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
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The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
IMG_2381Looking back at our route so far.

IMG_2383The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.

The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
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The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
IMG_2414Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.

IMG_2403Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2401Mt. Bailey

We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.

This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
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20190704_101615A few orange agoseris were scattered about.

IMG_2425Scarlet gilia

IMG_2432More scarlet gilia

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At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
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The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
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IMG_2452A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.

IMG_2456Wallflower

Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
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We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
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Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
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The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
IMG_2479Owl’s head clover

IMG_2488Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia

IMG_2491Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris

IMG_2508Coneflower

IMG_2510Hyssop

IMG_2514Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily

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20190704_105633Wait that’s not a butterfly.

As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
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IMG_2499Fuji Mountain

Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
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As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
IMG_2513The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.

We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
IMG_2552Heather at the rock outcrop.

I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
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IMG_2543Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain

IMG_2544Diamond Peak

I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
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After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
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IMG_2567Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)

IMG_2585Turkey vulture

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IMG_2594Back in the valerian meadows

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IMG_2683Not sure what this is going to be either.

We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge

Tidbits Mountain – 6/29/2019

As we continued to let the weather dictate our vacation plans we couldn’t pass up a “sunny” morning forecast for Tidbits Mountain near Blue River, OR. Another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, the trip to the site of a former lookout tower atop Tidbits Mountain is just 4.4 miles round trip from the Tidbits South Trailhead. This was actually a bit of a problem as the drive from Salem was a little over two and a half hours which meant our hiking time would most likely not be greater than our driving time which would break our rule of not driving longer than hiking. Our original plan to solve this was going to be making a second stop at the Lower McKenzie River Trailhead where we could hike as far as we liked on the McKenzie River Trail, but while researching the Tidbits Mountain hike another option presented itself.

The Gold Hill Trail travels 3.2 miles along a ridge to a junction with the Tidbits Mountain Trail three quarters of a mile from the summit of Tidbits Mountain. Instead of driving to a different trailhead we could spend some time on the Gold Hill Trail which the Forest Service warned sees only periodic maintenance.

We started our hike not at the Tidbits South Trailhead but rather along Forest Road 1509 where FR 877 headed uphill .2 miles to the trailhead on the left.
IMG_1504FR 877 at FR 1509

Both the Forest Service and Sullivan pointed out that FR 877 was steep and Sullivan added that turning around at the trailhead was “awkward”, thus our decision to walk up the road.
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As we hiked up the road there were a couple of views of the rocky pinnacles of Tidbits Mountain on the left.
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A sign marked the start of the Tidbits Mountain Trail.
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The trail climbed gradually for 1.3 miles to a junction on a ridge crest. This section of trail passed through some old growth trees and was full of rhododendron blooms. It was by far the best display of rhododendron that we had seen.
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There were a few other flowers along the way as well but none in anywhere near the numbers as the rhodies.
IMG_1531Penstemon

IMG_1535Showy phlox

IMG_1538<script async src=”//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js” charset=”utf-8″Paintbrush and stonecrop

IMG_1544Anemone

IMG_1546Iris

IMG_1555Arnica

At the junction we turned left following a pointer for the Tidbits Mountain Lookout.
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This section of trail traversed a rocky hillside on the north side of Tidbits Mountain. Being on the north facing slope trillium were still in bloom and a few remnants of glacial lilies remained.
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The talus slopes below Tidbits Mountain allowed for some previews of the views to come at the summit.
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IMG_1605Looking west toward the Green Mountain Lookout.

IMG_1607Green Mountain Lookout

IMG_1603Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1601Three Fingered Jack

The talus is also home to one of our favorite wild animals, the pika! They are not particularly easy to see but once you know what you are looking for with a little luck you’ll spot one of these rabbit relatives. It was a lucky day for us as we spotted two.
IMG_1614There is at least one pika in this picture.

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IMG_1648There is another one in this picture.

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When we weren’t scanning the rocks for pikas we did a lot of looking up at the formations above us.
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IMG_1636Columbine and solomonseal in the talus slope.

IMG_1630Last of the snow along the talus.

At a saddle a half mile from the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we came to a second junction. This one was unsigned. To the right a trail headed downhill to the Tidbits West Trailhead. The Gold Hill Trail used to continue straight here but it was so faint and overgrown that we didn’t even see it on the first pass. We turned uphill to the left and began the steep .2 mile climb to the summit.
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IMG_1684Catchfly on the way up.

IMG_1685Lookout remains below the summit.

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IMG_1693Foundation remains

IMG_1696Wildflowers at the summit.

The 360 degree view from the summit was very good although our timing meant the sun was overhead between us and the Cascades impacting the ability to get clear photos of those mountains.
IMG_1698NE we could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_1703Mt. Hood

IMG_1705Mt. Jefferson behind Iron Mountain and Cone Peak

IMG_1707Three Fingered Jack

The eastern view added Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_1708Mt. Washington

IMG_1750Three Sisters

IMG_1718Mt. Bachelor

We could also just make out the lookout tower atop nearby Carpenter Mountain (post).
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To the SE we could make out Maiden Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Diamond Peak.
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IMG_1719Maiden Peak (post)

IMG_1762Mt. Thielsen (post)

IMG_1722Diamond Peak

We spent a good amount of time on the summit taking in the view before descending to a lower viewpoint with a number of flowers.
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IMG_1802Cat’s ear lilies

IMG_1806Oregon sunshine amid buckwheat

IMG_1807Penstemon and paintbrush

IMG_1816A fleabane or aster

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IMG_1819Looking down from the lower viewpoint.

We then headed back down to the trail junction where we found the faint tread of Historical Gold Hill Trail. We followed it just far enough to get a close up view of a flower garden.
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IMG_1850Western wallflower

IMG_1853Larkspur

20190629_092727Paintbrush

20190629_093003Cinquefoil

We returned to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and recrossed the talus slopes, this time we didn’t spot any pikas. We did stop to admire some of the flowers though.
20190629_093755Baneberry

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IMG_1879Bleeding heart, trillium and wood violets

20190629_093952Wood violet

With the Sun starting to pass overhead Mt. Jefferson was a little more photogenic.
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When we arrived back at the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we briefly searched for any sign of a former shelter that was indicated on the map.
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After failing to uncover any sign of it we headed out on the Gold Hill Trail. Given the Forest Service mentioned that this trail only receives periodic maintenance we weren’t sure how far we might go but we were curious to check it out.
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The trail was pretty overgrown, not crowded with brush, but it had a lot of vegetation growing in the middle of it indicating a lack of use.
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We soon passed a rock outcrop where a patch of small monkeyflowers were blooming.
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We followed the trail a total of 2.7 miles losing a total of 800′ through a series of ups and downs as it followed a ridge to the north and east. We passed through some lovely forest filled with more blooming rhododendron and by several rock outcrops. There were occasional views of the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor through the trees and also spotted some deer, at least one doe and fawn, as they dashed away through the trees. Despite the lack of use and periodic maintenance the trail was in pretty good shape with just a few trees to step over.
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IMG_1914North and Middle Sister

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IMG_1927Mt. Bachelor

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20190629_104300Showy phlox

IMG_1939Washington lilies getting ready to bloom

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At the 2.7 mile mark the trail began a final 400′ descent in the remaining half mile to FR 1509. We weren’t overly keen on having to climb back up that just to say we reached the road plus we had set an 11:30 turn around time and it was just after 11:20. We noticed an open knoll just off trail to the right so we decided to check it out and make this be our turn around spot.
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The knoll turned out to be very interesting. In addition to some nice views there were a number of flowers.
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IMG_1975The Two Girls

IMG_1999Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_1986Wolf Rock an Mt. Washington

IMG_2007North Sister

IMG_2008Middle Sister

IMG_2010South Sister

IMG_1990Mt. Jefferson had been overtaken by clouds but Iron Mountain and Cone Peak were still visible.

IMG_1996Buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_2021Wallflower and cat’s ear lilies

IMG_2015Penstemon and paintbrush

After exploring the knoll we headed back looking for anything we missed on our first pass. We did notice a couple of interesting old tree trunks and a grouse crossed the trail in front of us.
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IMG_2040Young tree growing out of an old trunk.

IMG_2049Grouse

We made our way back to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and returned to the trailhead without seeing another person until we ran into a gentleman at the trailhead who seemed to just be out for a drive and looking around. We ended up with a 10.5 mile hike which was perfect. It was a nice way to end our vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tidbits Mountain