Spencer Butte, Shotgun Creek, and Horse Rock Ridge – 2/9/2020

We jumped on a favorable forecast and headed for Eugene for our February outing. On our itinerary was a trio of stops that would allow us to check two more of Sullivan’s featured hikes off our to-do list. The three stops were short enough that even with doing them all the total mileage would remain under 10 miles.

We chose to start off with Spencer Butte (Hike #74 in the 5th edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades”). We started here in hopes to avoid crowds as we’d read that this was a popular hike. We started at the Spencer Butte Trailhead which provides the shortest routes up to the viewpoint atop Spencer Butte.
Spencer Butte Trailhead

Other trailheads and longer hikes are possible using Eugene’s Ridgeline Trail System but we stuck to Sullivan’s described hike this time.
Map for the Ridgeline Trail System

At a fork at the top of some stairs leading uphill from the trailhead we veered left following a sign for the “West (Difficult) Route to Spencer Butte Summit”.
Spencer Butte Summit West Route

This route gained nearly 800′ in less than 3/4 of a mile climbing steeply over exposed rocks and mud. There was a fair amount of fog in the forest which was helping to keep things nice and damp which made the rocks a little slick.
Spencer Butte Summit West Route

Spencer Butte Summit West Route

As we neared the summit we began to break out of the thicker fog and gain some views. A mass of clouds covered the lowlands to the West.
Cloudy, foggy view from Spencer Butte

The trail left the trees a little below the summit and a confusion of trails headed up into the rocks. To fine the recommended route keep left on the main trail to a big switchback in the trees. We turned up a bit early on one of the other, steeper trails which eventually joined the better route above the switchback.
Looking up toward Spencer Butte's summit ridge

A word of warning for this hike (in addition to it being steep) is that there is a fair amount of poison oak in the exposed grassy areas and the butte is home to some rattlesnakes. It was way too cold to be worried about any snakes on this visit but apparently in warmer weather they could be about.

At an elevation just over 2000′ the summit was above most of the clouds although there was some thin fog lifting from the thicker clouds below impacting the views a bit.
Spencer Butte's summitSpencer Butte’s summit high point.

View from Spencer ButteView north from the high point towards Mary’s Peak (post) which was above the clouds.

There is said to be a nice view of the Three Sisters from the summit, but by avoiding the crowds (we hadn’t seen another hiker yet) we were staring directly at the rising Sun which effectively stymied any hopes of a mountain view.
View east from Spencer Butte

The lack of a view was partially mitigated by a really good “glory” or Brocken spectre which is the magnified shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite the Sun’s direction surrounded by a rainbow-like halo.

After a short rest we started getting chilly so we began our descent. We headed down a path on the east side of the butte.
Descending Spencer Butte

This longer route was a little less steep and definitely an easier descent than trying to go down the West Route would have been. After a series of stone steps the trail reentered the foggy forest.
Fog in the forest at Spencer Butte

Descending Spencer Butte

A little over 3/4 of a mile from the summit we came to a junction with the Spencer Butte Tie Trail which connects the loop to the Ridgeline Trail.
Trail junction at Spencer Butte

We stayed right here to complete the loop back to the trailhead passing a grassy picnic area near the end.
Picnic tables near the Spencer Butte Trailhead

We passed quite a few more hikers on the way back to the trailhead. Given that we were back at the car by 8:35am we could only imagine how crowded the summit would be later, so even though the view could have been better we were happy with our choice to start here.

Our next stop was at the Shotgun Creek Recreation Site. There is a $3 fee listed on the BLM website but that appears to only be enforced during busier months although be prepared to pay the fee at any time. We began the hike from the Shotgun Creek Trailhead and immediately started up a trail next to the signboard with a pointer for the Tiki Trail.
Tikit Trail

Not far up this trail we spotted our first wildflower of the year, some little snow queen.
Snow queen

We also quickly realized that we were going the wrong way (at least for the hike Sullivan describes in Hike #76 of the 5th edition. We had only gone about a tenth of a mile so we turned around and returned to the trailhead where we crossed the parking lot and took a paved path past the recreation sites amenities.
Shotgun Creek Recreation Area

We followed paved paths to Shotgun Creek and then along the creek to the signed Upper Shotgun Trail.
Shotgun Creek

Upper Shotgun Trail

This trail followed along the creek for a mile before turning into the forest to loop back toward the recreation site.
Shotgun Creek

Upper Shotgun Trail

We spotted our second variety of wildflower as we began to loop back around, a lone skunk cabbage near a small seasonal stream.
Skunk cabbage in the forest

Skunk cabbage

After a little over 2 miles on the Upper Shotgun Trail we came to a 4-way junction.
Upper Shotgun Trail junction with the Tiki and Drury Trails

The trails straight ahead and to the right were labeled for the Tiki Trail with the right hand trail being the one that we had started out on earlier which would have allowed for a short loop of approximately 2.5 miles. Sullivan’s description of the hike would have had us go straight here on the Tiki Trail loop resulting in a nearly 3.5 mile loop. This time we decided not to stick to Sullivan’s hike and instead turned left past a pointer for the Drury Trail.
Drury Trail

This route was the suggested route in the Oregonhikers.org Field Guide. This trail climbed nearly 500′ over the next mile as it passed through the forest. The climb provided no views but simply began dropping back down after reaching its high point near a BLM road. The second mile of the trail approached a clear cut where there were views out of the forest but the view consisted of clear cut scars which are frankly just depressing to look at. That being said along the 2 mile Drury Trail there were a few nice sights include some older trees and our first yellow violet of the year bringing our wildflower variety county up to three.
Drury Trail

Big tree along the Drury TrailAn older tree along the trail.

Tree mushroomsMushrooms on a trunk near the clear cut view.

Wood violet along the Drury TrailViolet

When we arrived back at the Tiki Trail we turned left.
Drury Trail junction with the Tiki Trail

Initially we were headed back toward the clear cuts but then the trail did a 180 degree turn heading back toward the trailhead. Shortly before arriving back at the recreation site we again had a look at Shotgun Creek.
Shotgun Creek

The loop that we did came in at 5 miles. We were just under 7 miles for the day with one stop to go, Horse Rock Ridge. The Horse Rock Ridge Trailhead was only about 6 miles away but 1400′ higher in elevation than Shotgun Creek. We followed the windy narrow paved roads to find that while we’d seen no other hikers at Shotgun Creek that was not going to be the case here. There were a number of cars here so we parked on the side of the road at a pullout and walked up to the start of the trail behind some boulders and a wire fence.
Horse Rock Ridge Trailhead

The first part of the trail follows an old roadbed which is banned to OHVs and other motorized vehicles. The boulders, fence, and logs laying across the old road are unfortunately necessary because despite having miles of OHV friendly roads and trails in the area some of those folks just can’t respect the fragile habitats set aside for preservation such as Horse Rock Ridge.
Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

After .7 miles the trail entered the first of a series of meadows along the ridge where a reportedly impressive display of late Spring wildflowers occurs in May and June. Being February we were treated to frost :).
Frosty meadow along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Frosty meadow

Steam rose from the wet hillsides as we followed the trail through the meadows past exposed basalt formations.
View from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

About halfway through the meadows the trail passed to the north of a large rock outcrop. It had to drop beneath the rocks which proved to be the trickiest part of this hike because the outcrop shielded the north facing side from the Sun leaving the rocks icy and slick.
Frost on the backside of a rock formation along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

I picked on the OHV folks earlier but they aren’t the only ones that can cause damage. Despite signs at the trailhead to remain on the trail to not damage the vegetation it was obvious many “hikers” had been walking on the grass and other vegetation, especially along this section. In a case like this if the condition of the trail is such that you feel it is not safe or possible to use it then it probably should be your turn around point. We took an inventory of the trail and decided that there were enough exposed footholds that we could carefully navigate the icy conditions and continued.
Horse Rock Ridge TrailHeather emerging from behind the outcrop.

More sunny meadows awaited (as did another little climb) and we passed a small pool of water and the only wildflowers we would see here today on some manzanita.
Small pool along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Manzanita

Near the top of the meadows the trail approached a basalt dike which we are taking to be Horse Rock although we couldn’t confirm that.
Horse Rock Ridge Trail

From this area the view extended to the snowy Cascade Mountains although the clouds that had been covering the valleys from Spencer Butte had lifted and moved east enough to now be interfering a bit with those views. We still managed to get nice looks at Mt. Jefferson and North & Middle Sister.
View from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Mt. Jefferson

North and Middle Sister from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Three Fingered Jack was also somewhat visible above the clouds.
Three Fingered Jack

At the end of the dike was a rock overhang.
Small overhang at the end of Horse Rock

The trail continued on into the trees ending near some towers. We went ahead and followed it finding a reminder that despite the sunny green hillsides it was still Winter for a bit longer.
A little snow near the top of Horse Rock Ridge

A little snow near the top of Horse Rock Ridge

We returned the way we’d come ending this hike just under 3 miles giving us 9.8 total miles for the day. While there were quite a few hikers on Horse Rock Ridge it didn’t seem like as many as the cars at the trailhead suggested. All three of the hikes were relatively short but Spencer Butte was not an “easy” hike. The slick rocks on Horse Rock Ridge made that a little tricky although we saw a child around six and another hiker that was easily in their 80’s on the other side of that tricky section. For kids though the Shotgun Creek Recreation Area would probably be the best with the creek and other amenities. We will probably look at getting to Horse Rock Ridge during wildflower season somewhere down the line, but for now it’s another hike checked off our to-do list and we couldn’t have really asked for a much nicer day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spencer Butte, Shotgun Creek, and Horse Rock Ridge

Goodbye to our Friend – Buddy (8/1/02- 1/27/20

This is a rare non-hiking related post for us but we wanted to share the story of the wonderful gift that Buddy was to our lives. For the last 17 years he brightened our lives and while that seems like a long time in years it felt way too short.

Shortly after we moved into our first house in 2002 we decided to add a cat to our family. In December we visited the Humane Society where Buddy made it clear that we would be taking him home with us. (He never did stop telling us what to do and when to do it.) When we had made our choice (given in to his demands) the folks at the Humane Society gave us a note that had come to the shelter with Buddy, a note that we’ve kept to this day.
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Dominque was 7 so we had the little boy covered.
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Grace also mentioned that Buddy liked having his belly rubbed, something cats often do not care for. He loved a good belly rub though and would curl up around your hand.
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Things got off to a rocky start for us, Buddy was so excited to have a home that he wasn’t bothering to eat. We took him to the vet and tried several things eventually having to leave him there overnight so that they could feed him intravenously and get his stomach used to food again. They explained to us that if cats don’t eat for a while they will stop feeling the need to, some sort of defense mechanism to ease the pain of starving. The stay at the vet worked and after he came back home eating was a favorite of his.
SCAN0072Buddy shortly after coming home with us.

A year after Buddy joined us we brought Hazelnut home. Buddy did his best to welcome her and we would often find them curled up together in the early days.
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Buddy loved to jump up on things to get as high in the house as he could and getting into any drawer or cupboard that he could.
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His jumping days were cut short by arthritis in his hip which required medication but his love of opening drawers and cupboards never faded. Often we would come home from a trip to find half the cupboards and drawers wide open.

He also loved to curl in the sink when he could still get up on the bathroom counter (and fit) and he never met a sack or box (he especially loved boxes) that he didn’t need to get into.
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Buddy’s one vice was that he loved to chew on things. We had a no plant rule in the house (other than grass that he could eat) because he would make a b-line straight for anything green, including the fake Christmas tree which he gnawed ends off. Toys that were attached to strings were largely ignored so that he could simply chew on the string. There was also a strange obsession with pipe cleaners. Dominique had used them at one time for a school project and for years after that Buddy would (if he got into Dominique’s room) somehow manage to find one and drag it out to chew on. None of us, including Dominique, could figure out where he was getting them but he had a stash hidden somewhere. The only time string didn’t temp him was when it was the yarn Heather was using for her crochet. Somehow he knew that was off-limits.
SCAN0103Partners in crime in the Christmas tree.

From day one Buddy was a lap cat.
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He spent all of his 17 years with us by our sides when we were home. On weekends, before work, and in the evenings he was either on one of our laps or laying right next to us. Until his arthritis got bad he had a routine of getting on the bed when I got home and waiting for me to come over so he could stand on his hind paws with his front paws on my chest and nuzzle under my chin. I called it our hugs. When he was a kitten he would sit in one of our laps and bat popcorn out of our hands as we tried to eat it. After growing out of that phase he just tried to lick the olive oil as he loved olive oil and green olive juice.

In addition to the arthritis in his back hip Buddy lost a couple of teeth along the way which earned him the nickname snarls.
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He did have one tooth though that would often stab into us when he fell asleep with his head on our hand/arm as he was wont to do.

He also lost his hearing, but that didn’t stop him from telling us when it was time to get up, time to feed him, or time to go to bed and it didn’t stop us from talking to him.
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He let me know every night when it was time for bed. He would wait for me near the bed and as soon as I got in he would come up to snuggle in.
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He enjoyed being carried around the house so he could get a close up view of everything that was out of his reach. He also liked to take a few minuts after dinner to play, his favorite game was chasing that crazy red dot that he could never quite catch. His other loves were trying to sneak out into the garage, sitting on the heating vents, and of course cat naps.
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It seemed like no matter what we were doing he was there with us. He would wake us up, wait on the toilet seat or vent while we showered (sometimes he would pry open the door and get in only to remember that he didn’t care for water) and sit with us until it was time for work. In the evening he sat on the lap of whoever was sitting down and when it was time for bed he’d let me know. He usually split his time in bed snuggling with each of us during the night. In other words he was a constant companion and his absence is felt in everything we do now. Even in typing up this post he would have been on my lap forcing me to put my arms in awkward positions to try and type.

In June 2019 he started showing signs of difficulty breathing. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a pound of fluid was removed from his lungs. He was placed on medication and responded fairly well. He was slowed down and began losing weight but otherwise seemed like himself for a few months. He took to wearing sweaters to help keep him warm but time finally caught up to him and the fluid returned, worse than before.
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He started showing signs of increased difficulty breathing after Christmas and slowed down noticeably.
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We moved up a follow up appointment at the vet fearing the worst but hoping for the best. That morning before work he laid his head on my forearm and purred while I petted him as that one tooth dug into my skin for the last time.

The vet confirmed our fears, the fluid was back and worse than before. Another procedure to remove the fluid would likely have been to much for him. It was the hardest goodbye either of us had ever experienced. Buddy brought us so much joy and happiness over those 17 years. We couldn’t have asked for a better furry friend. Heather’s friend gifted us with a wonderful framed picture of our Budder-ball which captured his personality perfectly.
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He will always have a special place in our hearts, we miss you Buddy!
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