Category Archives: Hiking

Cloud Cap to Elk Cove – 8/17/2019

For the grand finale hike of our August vacation we headed for Mt. Hood to do the section of the Timberline Trail from Cloud Cap to Elk Cove. We had been to Cloud Cap in 2016 during our hike up Cooper Spur (post) and we’ve visited Elk Cove a couple of times (most recently in 2017 post) via a western approach on the Timberline Trail. We had not however been on the 5 mile section of the Timberline Trail between the Coe Branch (we turned back at the crossing in 2014 post) and the Cloud Cap Saddle Campground.

We had a bit of a scare on the way to the trailhead as most of the drive was spent in a light drizzle which became heavier at Government Camp. At the White River sno-park Mt. Hood was hidden behind a layer of gray clouds but as we continued north on Highway 35 we emerged from the grey. By the time we were winding our way up Cloud Cap Road the sky was blue and there were no signs of the clouds hiding on the other side of the mountain. We parked at the Cloud Cap Trailhead and hiked through the campground to a pair of signboards marking the Timberline Trail.
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We turned right onto that trail and followed it through a short stretch of green trees before emerging into a recovering fire scar.
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The trail turns north toward Mt. Adams and away from Mt. Hood as it prepares to drop steeply into the gorge carved by the glacial Eliot Branch which could be heard roaring in the chasm below.
IMG_6951Mt. Adams ahead above the clouds.

We descended a series of switchbacks which provided ample views of Mt. Hood without having to strain our necks looking behind us.
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The Eliot Branch has a reputation as being one of the trickier crossing on the mountain ever since a bridge was swept away over a decade ago. In fact the Timberline Trail had “officially” been closed for years (there were still unofficial crossings) until the Forest Service completed a reroute of the trail in 2016. As we neared the stream the first looks were impressive.
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The combination of the cloudy water, thundering noise, and swift current make glacial streams seem particularly daunting. Crossing earlier in the day minimizes the amount flow making morning crossings easier than those later in the afternoon or evening. We arrived at the crossing shortly before 8am so that was in our favor. There was also a promising looking log a bit downstream but it looked like it might be a tricky descent to reach it from this direction and we were (or at least I was) hoping to get a little fording practice in so we picked a reasonable looking spot and made our way through the water which was only just reaching our calves at its deepest.
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It was a fairly uneventful crossing except for having forgotten just how cold a glacial stream is. Brrrr!!

We had lost over 350′ of elevation getting down to the Eliot that needed to be made up now that we were across. The Timberline Trail gained over 500′ in the next three quarters of a mile as it climbed out of the canyon.
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IMG_6973We entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the way up.

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The burned trees allowed for fairly consistent views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
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IMG_6981Mt. Rainier peaking over the clouds to the left of Mt. Adams.

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The trail leveled out near the 6000′ elevation and passed through a stand of green trees before arriving at a small wildflower lined stream. A pair of marmots ran into the rocks as we approached.
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IMG_7006Penstemon

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IMG_7008Monkeyflower

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IMG_7011Jacob’s ladder

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A second stream followed shortly after.
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20190817_082231Paintbrush

20190817_082250Lupine with a beetle.

Continuing on we passed a hillside covered with western pasque flower seed heads, often referred to as hippies on a stick.
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As we rounded a ridge end we stopped to talk to a backpacker going in the other direction. He asked if we were from the area and wanted to know which mountains he had been seeing to the north. In addition to Adams and Rainier, Mt. St. Helens was just barely visible from that spot which we were able to point out to him.
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We rounded the forested ridge and came to a large rock field below the Langille Crags.
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Just over a mile from the Eliot crossing we arrived at the first of Compass Creeks three branches.
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Compass Creek is fed by the Langille Glacier and each branch sports a waterfall above the Timberline Trail.
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A short scramble up the rocks along the creek brought us to the base of the falls.
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IMG_7076Mt. Adams from Compass Creek.

IMG_7079Wildflowers along Compass Creek.

IMG_7083Monkeyflower and paintbrush

IMG_7101Hummingbird near Compass Creek.

After admiring the falls we continued on rounding two small ridges before arriving at the middle branch of Compass Creek .3 miles from the first.
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This branch didn’t have nearly the amount of water as the first leaving the waterfall a little wispy.
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There was yet another stream a short distance away which was putting on a wonderful wildflower display including a nice combination of pink and yellow monkeyflowers.
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IMG_7123Lupine, paintbrush and monkeyflower.

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This alpine stream was sublime and a reminder of why Mt. Hood is such a wonderful place. We kept going passing an aster covered hillside and then another meadow full of other types of flowers.
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It was another .3 miles between the middle and final branches of Compass Creek where another waterfall crashed down behind a snow bridge.
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After crossing the final branch of Compass Creek the trail headed down a ridge along the creek passing views of a lower waterfall.
IMG_7157Mt. Adams (again) from Compass Creek.

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IMG_7164Waterfall on Compass Creek below the Timberline Trail.

In the next mile we passed through a wildflower meadow, green trees, a fire scar, and lost 350′ of elevation before arriving at yet another little stream.
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The trail then headed downhill more quickly as we approached the Coe Branch.
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A little over a mile and a half from Compass Creek we arrived at the Coe Branch and were pleased to find a pair of nice makeshift log bridges spanning the stream.
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The crossing was no issue at all and we soon found ourselves climbing away from the Coe.
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The climb away from the Coe Branch wasn’t nearly as steep as the descent had been and after three quarters of a mile we arrived at a sign for Elk Cove.
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We followed the trail into the meadow where the view of Mt. Hood and Barrett Spur (post) was as impressive as always.
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We explored a bit and then rested at a familiar spot along the stream that flows through Elk Cove.
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IMG_7249Coe Glacier

After resting and soaking in the scenery we headed back. We stopped again below Compass Creek Falls where we watched a hummingbird moth visiting the monkeyflowers.
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When we had finally made it back to the Eliot crossing we used the log we’d seen that morning as suggested by some hikers who we passed shortly before reaching the stream.
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We actually wouldn’t have minded the ice cold water at that point, but the flow had increased now that it was after 1pm so the log was the safest option. We made the final climb back up to Cloud Cap taking our final look at Mt. Hood and the Eliot Glacier.
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The hike was 12.3 miles round trip with approximately 2700′ of cumulative elevation gain, most of which came from dropping down to and climbing up from the Eliot and Coe Branches. It was a perfect day, blue skies and cool temperatures, and there couldn’t have been a better way to end our 6 days of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cloud Cap to Elk Cove

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Bull of the Woods Lookout & Pansy Lake – 8/16/2019

For the 5th hike of our vacation we finally got around to one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we hadn’t done yet, Pansy Lake.  Pansy Lake is located in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in a basin below the Bull of the Woods Lookout.  In his guidebook Sullivan has you start the hike from the Pansy Lake Trailhead which is just over a mile from the lake. He gives two options, a 2.4 mile out-and-back to Pansy Lake or a 7.1 mile loop past the lake up to the lookout and then back down passing Dickey Lake along the way. Either of these options would have caused us to break our self-imposed rule against driving for more time than we spend hiking due to the driving time to the Pansy Lake Trailhead being roughly 2:45 for us. Fortunately Sullivan also mentions the option of starting at the Bull of the Woods Trailhead for an easier hike to the lookout. The Bull of the Woods Trailhead was about a 15 minute closer drive and it added almost 3 miles to the round trip which provided an acceptable drive/hike ratio.

With our plan in place we set off on the drive which proved to be a bit of an anomaly. The trailhead is located at the end of Forest Road 6340. Where the road was good it was an excellent gravel road but there were a couple of ugly obstacles along the way. The first was a slide that covered the road, half of which was impassable while the spot that could be driven over required a very slow, bumpy crossing (high clearance is probably necessary until it gets cleaned up). This was prior to a fork where the right hand fork (FR 6341) continued to the Pansy Lake Trailhead. After this fork sections of FR 6340 were deeply rutted by channels created by runoff again requiring careful placement of tires. We arrived at the trailhead no worse for wear though and set off on the signed trail.
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The first few hundred yards were a little brushy but soon the vegetation gave way to a huckleberry filled forest.
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There were ripe berries everywhere and they were big juicy berries too. In fact for most of the day there were ripe berries available and we ate quite a few. We weren’t the only ones feasting on berries though as we counted no less than 13 piles of berry filled bear scat along the trails.
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Although we kept our eyes open for a bear all we ran into on the trail was a rough skinned newt.
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The Bull of the Woods Trail climbed gradually as it passed below North and South Dickey Peaks.
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A little over 2.25 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Dickey Lake Trail. We would be coming back up that trail later after visiting Pansy and Dickey Lakes.
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As the trail continued to climb we were treated to a couple of different views. First was to the west across the Pansy Lake Basin.
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A little further along, when the trail crested the ridge, we got a look a Mt. Hood which was rising above some clouds.
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The trail left the ridge for a bit and then regained it where the view also included Mt. Jefferson to the SE.
IMG_6763Mt. Hood

IMG_6772Mt. Jefferson

The trail then followed a narrow rocky ridge passing below the lookout and coming up to it from the other side, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
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A lizard scurried into the rocks beneath the lookout as we approached. Aside from a bit of morning haze the view was great. The clouds to the north hid the Washington volcanoes from sight but Mt. Hood stood out just fine.
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To the south Mt. Jefferson was cloud free and so was Three Fingered Jack for a bit. Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters played peek-a-boo through the clouds though.
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IMG_6796Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6846Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

In the basin to the NE Big Slide Lake (post) was visible.
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To the SW the flat topped Battle Ax Mountain (post) rose up above the surrounding peaks.
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We sat below the lookout for awhile enjoying the cool morning air as we watched the procession of clouds around us. After our break we headed steeply downhill via switchbacks for just over half a mile to the Mother Lode Trail.
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IMG_6855Bull of the Woods Trail ending at the Mother Lode Trail.

We turned right onto the Mother Lode Trail.
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We continued to descend as we followed this trail for approximately 1.25 miles, passing a viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson shortly before arriving at another junction.
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We turned right again, this time onto the Pansy Lake Trail.
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More downhill hiking ensued as we dropped into the basin. The trail was a bit rockier than the others and passed over a couple of talus fields.
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We’re always on the lookout for pikas and have had quite a bit of luck in spotting them this year, enough so that we have started calling it “the year of the pika”. As we came to the second section of talus Heather spotted one of the little “rock rabbits” scurrying along the hillside.
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After talking to the pika (I don’t know why but we tend to have a lot of one sided conversations with the wildlife) we continued on. Shortly before reaching the lake we found a couple of ripe thimbleberries, they were delicious.
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IMG_6885First look at Pansy Lake.

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We passed by the lake and reached a junction .8 miles from the Mother Lode Trail. We turned left and quickly arrived at the lake where we were a bit surprised that we were the only people there.
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We wandered around the lake passing through numerous empty campsites before finding a little log to sit on by the lake where we could watch the dragonflies and ducks.
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After a short break we returned to the trail junction and turned left continuing on the Pansy Lake Trail for another .2 miles to the Dickey Lake Trail junction.
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It was time to climb now and we headed up the Dickey Lake Trail which climbed relatively steeply at times. After .6 miles we came to a spur trail on the right which led down to Dickey Lake.
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The lake was quite a bit smaller than Pansy Lake and a lot brushier. After getting a look we returned to the Dickey Lake Trail and continued the climb back up to the Bull of the Woods Trail. A bit beyond the lake the trail passed through a little meadow with some remaining wildflowers and a few more thimbleberries.
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We gained approximately 800′ over the next .8 miles before reaching the junction. There was a few more downed trees along this trail than we had encountered on any of the others but none of them were too troublesome.
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We turned left onto the Bull of the Woods Trail and followed back to the car getting one last look at Mt. Hood along the way.
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With the extra exploring around the lakes we wound up doing 10.6 miles (for the third time in the week). We both thought that the elevation gain doing the loop from the Pansy Lake Trailhead would have been quite a bit worse so the extra miles were worth it in our minds, plus it gave us that much more time to eat berries. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pansy Lake and Bull of the Woods Lookout

Old Baldy and Tumala Mountain – 8/15/2019

Hike number four of our vacation week was chosen in an attempt to avoid the sound of gunfire which seems to be extremely prevalent along the Forest Service roads near Estacada. We figured our best chance to minimize that unpleasant noise would be a mid-week early morning hike so when the forecast for the area called for sunny skies Thursday we jumped on the chance and headed to the Old Baldy West Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to start by hiking up to the summit of Old Baldy then returning past the Trailhead and heading SE to the summit of Tumala Mountain, a rare double out-and-back.

A bonus for this hike are the paved roads to the trailhead which is a small pullout near some boulders.
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Reminders of the penchant for shooting guns in the area were everywhere.
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Just beyond the trailhead we met the Old Baldy Trail where we went left toward Old Baldy. The trail briefly follows the Forest Road before they veer away from one another.
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The Old Baldy Trail runs right along the border of the Salmon-Hucklberry Wilderness through a nice quiet (on this day) old growth forest. It was too late for the Rhododendron bloom which happens in early summer but there was a great variety of mushrooms to look at as we climbed up and down for nearly 3 miles to a cliff top viewpoint.
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IMG_6547Wildcat Mountain (post) and Mt. Hood

The sunny forecast appeared to be being threatened by some encroaching clouds as we continued on from the viewpoint.
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More varieties of mushrooms followed as we made our way toward Old Baldy.
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The final pitch up Old Baldy was a steep one as the trail launched straight uphill to the site of a former lookout tower.
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A thin layer of fog had moved in over the mountain, but that didn’t matter here because there are no longer any views except for back down through the trees.
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After catching our breath at the summit we headed back the 3.8 miles to the trailhead, stopping again at the viewpoint to note the creeping clouds as they moved east over the Eagle Creek Valley (post).
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We walked past the spur to the trailhead and ignored the unmarked Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail that descended to the left.
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The Old Blady Trail quickly launched uphill briefly entering the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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After a short but extremely steep climb the trail leveled out for a bit. That was both good and bad news because it was only 1.7 miles from the trailhead to the top of Tumala Mountain but we needed to gain nearly 800′ so every step that wasn’t going uphill meant that the ones that did would need to be that much steeper. Just for kicks the trail dropped about 80′ to a saddle before starting abit of a more gradual climb to a junction with the Fanton Trail.
IMG_6617Huge mushroom along the downhill.

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IMG_6624Fanton Trail coming up from the right.

The trail did give back a little as we began finding ripe huckleberries to snack on.
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Approximately 1.3 miles from the trailhead we ignored a semi-signed trail to the left that went to Twin Springs Campground.
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We stayed right climbing briefly along a narrow rocky ridge then beneath a rock outcrop to a rocky road bed where we turned uphill.
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There were a few flowers clinging to the cliffs along the road.
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A short road walk brought us to a tower just below the summit.
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From the summit we had a pretty good view of Mt. Hood although the clouds had begun to get in the way.
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To the south though we had a clear view of the more distant Mt. Jefferson.
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IMG_6671Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters even further south.

IMG_6673Looking west into the cloud covered Willamette Valley.

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We joined a chipmunk and took a snack break before exploring the old lookout site.
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IMG_6698Stairs to the former lookout.

IMG_6702Mt. Hood from the former lookout site.

By the time we began our descent Mt. Hood had vanished behind the clouds. Our timing had been pretty good, not only for the views but we made it back to our car without seeing another person or hearing a single gunshot.

The hike was 10.6 miles and approximately 2200′ of cumulative elevation gain. Skipping the viewless summit of Old Baldy would shed 1.8 miles and a couple hundred feet of elevation and only going to one viewpoint instead of both would lower the numbers even further. It was a really nice hike so hopefully the reputation of the area doesn’t scare hikers off. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Old Baldy & Tumala Mountain

Four-In-One Cone – 8/14/2019

The third hike of our vacation was another repeat (this time only partially) of a viewless outing. In 2012 we had embarked on “the hike that shall not be named” (post) It was an ambitious hike that went wrong in a couple of ways. First I misunderstood the guidebook and turned a 15 mile loop into an 18.6 trudge and second the persistent low cloud layer denied us of virtually any views. Our plan to hike to Four-In-One Cone would cover part of that hike.

We chose the Four-In-One Cone portion of that hike for two reasons. First Four-In-One Cone is a really cool volcanic feature and second much of the remainder of that loop passes through the Obsidian Limited Entry Area for which we didn’t have a permit nor were any available. We started the hike at the Scott Trailhead located along Highway 242 (17 miles from Highway 126 or 20.3 miles from Highway 20).
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The Scott Trail briefly follows along the highway before crossing it and entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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A third of a mile from trailhead we came to a somewhat familiar junction.
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Neither of us quite remembered it looking like it did now (for one thing the trail sign was missing) but the right hand fork led to the Obsidian Trailhead and had marked the final .6 miles of THAT hike. We forked left and began to climb via several switchbacks which we had no recollection of. We also passed a viewpoint at one of the switchbacks.
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After the viewpoint the trail continued to climb but more gradually as it passed through a mixed forest.
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IMG_6252A very blurry deer spotted through the trees.

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Three miles from the trailhead we arrived at the first of two short lava flow crossings. A large western toad was in the trail here and there was also a squirrel nearby which seemed like a suspicious combination.
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The lava crossings are separated by an island of forest that escaped the flow.
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IMG_6284North Sister

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IMG_6288More spies watching us.

Beyond the second lava crossing we spent a little time back in the forest before once again entering a volcanic landscape as we came around the south side of Four-In-One Cone.
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Unlike our previous visit the Cascade Mountains were visible.
IMG_6301North and Middle Sister behind the Little Brother.

IMG_6312Mt. Jefferson beyond Four-In-One Cone

IMG_6317Mt. Hood over the right shoulder of Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_6319Mt. Washington’s spire behind the cone with Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson.

The route up Four-In-One Cone is just under 1.5 miles from the first lava crossing and is marked by a signpost.
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Before going up the cone we decided to continue another .8 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow. We had of course been to that junction during our loop in 2012 but we’d also visited it in 2013 from the north on the PCT from South Matthieu Lake (post). Lupine is said to bloom profusely from mid-July through August but we hadn’t seen much in 2013 (2012 was late September) so we thought we’d give it another try. Prior to reaching Scott Meadow we did pass a couple of hillsides with a decent amount of lupine but I don’t know that we considered it profuse
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There wasn’t any lupine at all around the PCT junction but the view of Little Brother next to the North and Middle Sisters is nice.
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After a short break and pointing a group of trail runners toward Opie Dilldock along the PCT we turned around and headed back for Four-In-One Cone.
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Four-In-One Cone is just that, four cinder cones which erupted at different times but are joined together creating a .4 mile long ridge.
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To the SE the North and Middle Sister are closer than the Cascades to the NW the position of the Sun made the view of the further peaks a little clearer.
IMG_6398North Sister, Middle Sisters behind Little Brother and The Husband.

IMG_6392North Sister with Collier Cone in front and South Sister behind Little Brother.

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IMG_6443Scott Mountain (post) beyond the lava flows of Four-In-One Cone.

IMG_6404One of the craters.

After visiting the southern end of the cones we made our way to the northern end.
IMG_6434Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Black Crater (post)

IMG_6444Looking back south.

IMG_6460Belknap Crater (post)

IMG_6459Mt. Washington beyond Little Belknap Crater with Three Fingered Jack behind.

IMG_6462Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood

After fully exploring the cones we returned the way we’d come capping off a 12.3 mile, 1750′ elevation gain hike. We were happy to have finally gotten to see what we’d missed back in 2012. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Four-In-One Cone

Thayer Glacial Lake – 8/13/2019

For the second hike of our vacation we chose the off-trail scramble to Thayer Glacial Lake. The hike is described in the second edition of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall” guidebook. The book is older (ours is updated for 2012) and predates the Pole Creek Fire which happened to take place in 2012. The main change on the hike is that there is a lot of travel through the fire scar so there aren’t a lot of green trees, but there are more views of the mountains.

We had had this hike on our to do list and a recent trip report in a Facebook group prompted us to move it up and do it sooner rather than later. We drove over Santiam Pass to Sisters and took Highway 242 for 1.3 miles to Forest Service Road 15 (Pole Creek Road) where we turned left. We followed FR 15 for 11 bumpy miles to the Pole Creek Trailhead.
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We followed the Pole Creek Trail uphill through the burned forest for 1.5 miles to a junction with the Green Lakes Trail crossing the dry bed of Pole Creek not far from the trailhead.
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IMG_5820Dry bed of Pole Creek.

IMG_5822Black Crater, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte to the north.

IMG_5825Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.

IMG_5831A few survivors amid the snags.

IMG_5832Green Lakes Trail junction.

We stayed straight at the junction continuing on what was now the Green Lakes Trail. This trail descended a little before arriving at Soap Creek three quarters of a mile from the junction.
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IMG_5839Broken Top and the South Sister

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IMG_5844Monkeyflower along Soap Creek

On the far side of the creek was a familiar junction, the Camp Lake and Green Lakes Trail junction where we had been on our 2014 loop around the South Sister (post).
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Instead of crossing the creek we left the trail here and headed west. This portion of the hike requires off-trail navigational and route finding skills. There was, at times, what appeared to be a user trail but it was faint and prone to disappearing only to reappear in an unexpected place. In general we followed the directions in the guidebook although our routes there and back were quite different (at least for a 1 mile stretch). The instructions were to follow the climbers trail for 2ish miles then head cross country toward a yellow bulge on North Sister. The lack of green trees allowed for a lot more views of North Sister which assisted in keeping us oriented. We used our topographic maps to help us stick to what appeared to be the gentlest terrain and eventually found ourselves looking at the daunting moraine to the left of the yellow bulge.
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IMG_5863View of the North Sister that would not have been there pre-fire.

IMG_5868Soap Creek and the Middle and North Sister

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IMG_5891Might be a trail in there, might not.

IMG_5894Decent look at the yellow bulge on North Sister.

IMG_5895Broken Top and South Sister

IMG_5896Soap Creek

IMG_5903Meadow where there was no discernible trail apparent.

IMG_5909Typical cross country obstacles.

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IMG_5930Dry creekbed.

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IMG_5946The moraine to the left of the bulge.

We stopped briefly to watch what appeared to be a golden eagle soaring overhead trying to evade a smaller raptor that was annoyed by the larger birds presence.
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We wound up a bit further north than intended and had to veer NW to reach the meadows around the springs feeding Soap Creek.
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IMG_5963A clump of Monkeyflower

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IMG_5986Penstemon

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After a little over two hours and approximately three miles from where we’d left the Green Lakes Trail we found ourselves resting in the shade of a large rock near the moraine.
IMG_6001Our shady spot.

While we rested by the rock we discussed our planned route up the moraine. The steep loose rock would not be easy and we wanted to try and find the safest route to what was hopefully the lowest point along the moraine. After agreeing on a route and picking a point to aim for we set off on the final three quarters of a mile climb to the rim above Thayer Glacial Lake.
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IMG_6015Paintbrush growing on the moraine.

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IMG_6021More flowers amid the rocks.

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After a couple (dozen) course corrections I passed between a pair of large cinder rocks I dubbed “Thayer Gate” and a few moments later was looking at the lake.
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While Heather headed down to the lake shore I detoured up along the rim to the south to check out the views.
IMG_6057The yellow bulge, Mt. Hood, Black Crater and Black Butte to the north.

IMG_6059Mt. Hood

IMG_6037Broken Top to the north.

IMG_6043The rim above Thayer Lake.

IMG_6045North Sister and the Thayer Glacier

IMG_6061Heather near some large boulders in the lake.

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We explored along the lake looking at the remaining ice, one piece resembled a listing boat, and admiring the textures and colors of the volcano.
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The water was frigid but the temperature by the lake was pleasantly cool and we would have liked to have stayed there for hours but we still had to get back so we eventually pulled ourselves away and headed back down the moraine.
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We headed toward the springs feeding Soap Creek and kept working our way north trying to stay to the left of the wildflower lined streams.
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This proved to be a little trickier than expected as we kept coming upon more springs as we went.
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We followed Soap Creek into a narrow canyon which turned out to be a bit of a mistake and had to climb steeply over the north ridge when it became to steep and narrow.
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IMG_6173Starting to get too narrow and the topographic map showed it getting more so further downstream.

IMG_6174Climbing out of the gully.

IMG_6176Broken Top and South Sister from the ridge.

We descended the ridge heading NE using our GPS to hook up with our earlier route up. After a couple of ups and downs over smaller ridges we found ourselves in the general area through which we’d come up. We roughly followed our route back to the Green Lakes Trail without much excitement. The one thing that was different was the creeping wire lettuce blossoms which had opened up to the Sun and dotted the ground in places.
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We then followed the trails back to the Pole Creek Trailhead which was full of cars. It surprised us a bit being a Tuesday, but it’s one of the stated reasons by the Forest Service for the permit requirements that go into effect in 2020 for many of the trailheads in the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness areas.

Cook lists the hike as 5 miles one way, but we wound up with 11.5 miles round trip with nearly 3000′ of cumulative elevation gain. The off-trail travel makes it an even harder hike than those state would indicate. All that being said it was worth the effort and we were glad we’d made the trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Thayer Glacial Lake

Maxwell Butte – 8/12/2019

We spent another vacation doing day hikes from home as we continue to take care of our elderly cats. It has created a delay in our plans to visit all of the designated wilderness areas in Oregon, but it also has given us a chance to redo some hikes that didn’t go as planned the first time around and hit a few other hikes sooner than planned.

The first hike of the week was a repeat of a cloudy September 2015 climb to the summit of Maxwell Butte (post). We’d had no views whatsoever that day so a sunny forecast gave us the green light to try again. Once again we parked in the paved Maxwell Butte Sno-Park lot instead of driving the additional .4 miles of gravel road to the actual Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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From the official trailhead the Maxwell Butte Trail climbed gradually through a nice forest entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after 1.75 miles. It was sad to find that the unique wilderness sign was missing.
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First wilderness sign we'd seen that looked like thisThe wilderness sign in 2015.

A little more than two and a quarter miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Lava Lakes Trail near Twin Lakes.
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There was significantly more water in the lakes this time around (and better visibility too).
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Low water levels at Twin Lakes2015

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Low water at Twin Lakes2015

Our presence raised a ruckus from a Stellar’s jay.
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Twin Lakes2015

One the way back by later (after the Sun had moved out of the way) we stopped at the lakes to get a photo of Maxwell Butte.
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We followed the Maxwell Butte Trail past the lakes as it began to climb up and around the butte. Closer to the lakes we passed a few remaining flowers and some ripe huckleberries.
IMG_5619Penstemon

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IMG_5626Lousewort

IMG_5631Scarlet gilia

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IMG_5625A couple of short (and late) beargrass plumes.

As the trail got closer to the butte we passed through some meadows and open rocky areas where we kept on the lookout for pikas.
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IMG_5647This looked like prime pika habitat to us.

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The trail made its way to the south side of Maxwell Butte where our first good mountain view was of Diamond Peak beyond Sand Mountain which we had visited earlier in the year (post).
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The trail steepened a bit as it made its way up the south side of Maxwell Butte via a series of switchbacks.
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Butterflies and increasingly better views helped keep our minds off the climb.
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IMG_5665Hogg Rock (near left), flat topped Hayrick Butte next to Hoodoo Butte, Mt. Washington with Broken Top behind left and the Three Sisters behind right.

Five and a quarter miles from the sno-park we arrived at the summit of Maxwell Butte where a fire lookout once stood.
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The view now included Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the north.
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IMG_5676Mt. Hood in the distance to the left of Mt. Jefferson.

Less than three miles away as the crow flies Three Fingered Jack dominated the view east.
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IMG_5699Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Santiam Lake in the forest below.

IMG_5706The view south.

IMG_5728Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters with Hayrick Butte in the forefront.IMG_5701Santiam Lake

IMG_5702Duffy Lake (post)

IMG_5703Mowich Lake

After a nice long break taking in the views and naming as many of the lakes dotting the forest below as we could we headed back down. We took a quick detour to check out Maxwell Butte’s crater.
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IMG_5742Paintbrush in the crater.

There were quite a few more butterflies out as we made our way back and we managed to spot a pika gathering greens in the rocky area we had thought looked like a good spot for one.
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IMG_5767Golden-mantled ground squirrel in the same rocky area as the pika.

It had been a successful do-over getting the views we’d missed out on before. Round trip the hike was 10.6 miles with a little over 2500′ of elevation gain. It was a solid start to what we hoped would be six straight days of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Maxwell Butte 2019

Harris Ranch Trail (Drift Creek Wilderness) – 8/3/19

Our annual family reunion at the Oregon Coast always provides us an opportunity to work up an appetite by starting the morning off with a shorter hike on the way there. This year we chose to revisit the Drift Creek Wilderness.

This would be our second visit to the area with the first having been in 2010 (post), the year we really started hiking. At that point we hadn’t developed the appreciation for old growth forests that we have now so we were interested to see what our opinions of this hike would be compared to that first visit.

We began our hike at the Harris Ranch Trailhead which was located .3 miles down the rather brushy FR 346.
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It was a foggy morning which we expected to keep things a bit on the cooler side but instead it was a warm, humid morning as we set off on a decommissioned road.
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The first three quarters of a mile followed an old roadbed which gradually descended before ending just before the start of the Drift Creek Wilderness.
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Once the trail entered the wilderness it began a steeper 2.3 mile descent along a ridge down to Drift Creek. The trail was in good shape with signs of some recent clearing of brush near the top and only one muddy section (which is saying soemthing for a trail near the coast).
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IMG_5413Fern clippings in the trail showing some trimming had been done.

IMG_5419Whoever had done the brushing hadn’t made it down the whole trail.

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IMG_5433There were a few monkey flowers scattered about.

IMG_5445Obligatory coastal trail muddy section.

Several clumps of Monotropa uniflora aka Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe were present along the upper portion of the trail as well. We’d only seen this plant one or two other times so it was exciting to see so much of it.
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Near Drift Creek the trail reaches the site of the pre-world war II homestead pasture of Harris Ranch. A few campsites now occupy the area.
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Drift Creek was much more inviting from this side. There wasn’t a steep embankment to descend and a shelf of exposed bedrock made exploring easy.
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We watched several crawdads moving around in the water while we rested by the creek.
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The crawdads we saw in the water were greatly outnumbered by the remains strewn about the rocks though. Something had been dinning on them, perhaps the kingfisher that flew past twice while we rested.
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By the time we headed back up the fog had burned off which added a little extra heat to the 1300′ muggy climb back to the trailhead.
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IMG_5526Chickadee

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IMG_5559Woodpecker

Approximately a tenth of a mile from the trailhead there was an interesting tree above the road. It appeared that the tree had begun to fall but its root system stayed in tact so a couple of the original trees branches began to grow as their own trees. At first we thought it was a nursery log, but the two vertical “trees” don’t seem to have their own root systems.
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When we got back to the car we picked a handful of ripe thimbleberries to take to the reunion since they are one of my Dads favorites.
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With the creek exploration the hike was just over 6.5 miles and it had been much more enjoyable for us than our first visit now that we understood better what a special place the designated wilderness areas are. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Harris Ranch Trail