Category Archives: Badger Creek Area

Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte – 10/14/2019

With a day off and a mostly sunny forecast we looking for a viewpoint hike for our 50th outing of the year. There were two hikes left on our 2019 schedule that fit the bill and it came down to which one kept us out of Portland’s traffic (since it was a weekday) and that was the hike to Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte east of Mt. Hood. We had been to the top of Lookout Mountain in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area during our inaugural backpacking trip (post) but there had been no view that day.

On that previous visit we had started from High Prairie which is less than a half mile from the summit of Lookout Mountain, but this day we chose to start from Highway 35 at the Gumjuwac Trailhead.
IMG_0819Gumjuwac Trail at Highway 35.

From Highway 35 the Gumjuwac Trail wasted no time in heading up hill toward Gumjuwac Saddle.
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The lower portion of the trail climbed via a series of switchbacks before straightening out a bit gaining almost 1900′ in just over two and a half miles to the saddle. There were brief glimpses of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier through the trees which improved as we climbed.
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IMG_0839Mt. Hood in the morning Sun.

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IMG_0871Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

IMG_0866Mt. Adams

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IMG_0884Finally an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood.

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IMG_0896Gumjuwac Saddle

From Gumjuwac Saddle we turned left onto the Divide Trail which briefly paralleled Bennett Pass Road.
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The Divide Trail soon entered the Badger Creek Wilderness.
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We had been on this stretch of trail while returning to our car during the backpacking trip so it was a little familiar, but that trip had been in late June so much of the vegetation looked different as we passed from forest into a series of meadows.
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The wildflowers were long gone but we did get a view of Mt. Hood that hadn’t been there on the previous visit.
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A pair of raucous ravens provided a bit of entertainment as they harassed an unwelcome hawk.
IMG_0911The hawk.

IMG_0913A less than thrilled raven.

There was another thing that we were hoping to see and that was larch trees turning color. Larches are a deciduous conifer whose needles turn a yellow/gold in the Fall. We were hoping that the recent cold temperatures had helped start the process early and there were a few larches scattered about on the distant hillsides in the process of turning.
IMG_0912Light green to yellow larches on the hillside behind the raven.

The trail left the meadows and began a series of switchbacks on the forested flank of Lookout Mountain where we ran into a little snow left over from the week before.
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As we climbed we got another good look at Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens as well as a number of Cascade peaks to the south.
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IMG_0930Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0922View south.

IMG_0923From L to R: Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson.

We had expected to run into the High Prairie Loop Trail about 2 miles from the Gumjuwac Saddle but we missed the final switchback and ended up following a deer trail uphill to rejoin the official trail. We came to a rocky viewpoint where we could see the summit to the east and had a great view south.
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IMG_0946Mt. Jefferson

Beyond the viewpoint the trail passed over to the north side of the ridge into the trees where a little more snow remained.
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There were a number of birds in the area, many of them varied thrushes which you might know are a nemesis of mine. We see them a lot but rarely can I get even a semi-decent picture. On this hike though I lucked out and one landed on a limb that I was already focused on and I was able to get an only slightly blurry photo.
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As we neared the summit we came to the other end of the High Prairie Loop.
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We stayed right on the Divide Trail which passes just below the summit where a short spur trail brought us the rest of the way.
IMG_0964Approaching the summit.

IMG_0965Lookout on Lookout Mountain.

IMG_0968Flag Point Lookout in the distance.

IMG_0969Flag Point Lookout

As we came around to the summit we could see that the larches further east in the wilderness were a bit further along than those we’d seen so far.
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The view was excellent, making up for the clouds on our first visit. A total of 10 Cascade peaks were visible with Mt. Hood being front and center.
IMG_0980Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier

IMG_0988Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0985Mt. Rainier

IMG_0983Mt. Adams

IMG_0993Mt. Hood

IMG_0997Mt. Jefferson followed by Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Broken Top

IMG_1001The Three Sisters

After a long break we started to get a little chilly just sitting up on the summit so we started back down. This time we stayed on the official trail and found the end of the High Prairie Loop that we’d missed on the way up.
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We had stopped briefly near a small talus field as we descended the switchbacks and Heather spotted a pika that was gathering tree bits, presumably getting ready to spend the winter underground.
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The pika wasn’t the only critter running around on the rocks.
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We made our way back through the still frosty meadows and returned to Gumjuwac Saddle.
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The saddle can be a bit confusing as several trails converge at Bennett Pass Road here. The Gumjuwac Trail coming up from Highway 35 crosses the road and continues down the other side to the Badger Creek Trail, the Divide Trail crosses the Gumjuwac Trail and descends to Badger Lake (we came up this way on the backpacking trip). We nearly started back down that trail this time before realizing that the trail to Gunsight Butte (the aptly named Gunsight Butte Trail) was on the other side of Bennett Pass Road.
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We headed up this trail which began a gradual climb through trees which included a few larches.
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The trail emerged from the forest into a burn scar along a rocky ridge with a view.
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IMG_1088Lookout Mountain from the Gunsight Butte Trail.

IMG_1062Clark’s nutcracker

After a mile and a half we found ourselves crossing over the forested summit of Gunsight Butte. Another .1 miles, slightly downhill, brought us to a rock pile with yet another view of Mt. Hood.
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It wasn’t quite as impressive a view as Lookout Mountain but it was still pretty good. We returned to Gumjuwac Saddle and then turned down the Gumjuwac Trail for the final 2.5 miles of the day.
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We took our last looks at Mt. Hood from the trail then enjoyed the signs of Fall as we descended.
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This was a 13.2 mile hike with around 3600′ of elevation gain making it a pretty good workout. This may have been our last viewpoint hike for the year, and if it is, it was a great one to end on. Happy Trails!

Flirck: Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte

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

IMG_5116Sparrow

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

Bald Butte

I’ve already done a lot of shuffling on our hiking schedule this year due to the high amount of snow that fell over the winter/early spring that doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to melt off. We are currently in the midst of some 90+ degree days so that should help but for our latest outing the original plan to visit Lost Lake had been scrapped over a month ago and we were off to the replacement hike – Bald Butte.

Interestingly this hike was less than 15 miles (as the crow flies) from Lost Lake with the high point on Bald Butte coming in at 3770′ while the lake sits a little under 3200′. Location, location, location. In any event the snow coverage maps showed plenty of snow around the lake and none on the butte the day before our visit.

We began our hike at the Oak Ridge Trailhead. To reach the trailhead turn west on Smullen Road off of Highway 35 approximately 14.4 miles south of Hood River, OR. At a sharp right turn take a left off of Smullen Road onto a short dirt road to the parking area. The trail starts on the far side a small footbridge.
Oak Ridge Trail

The Oakridge Trail is 2.4 miles long and gains almost 2000′ as it climbs from the trailhead to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail which runs north/south for 16.4 miles. The trail was fairly level at first passing through an old clearcut with a view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Flowers blooming along this stretch included lupine, arnica and some nice hound’s tongue.
Lupine

Arnica

Hound's tongue

We began to climb after the clearcut as the trail entered the trees.
Oak Ridge Trail

Additional flowers were blooming here including a few chocolate lilies, woodland stars, silvercrown, and various white flowers.
Chocolate lily

Prairie stars

Silvercrown

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Anemone

Heather spotted a nice striped coralroot.
Coralroot

Switchbacks made the climb less strenuous than it could have been and soon we entered oak grasslands with even more flowers.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Balsamroot

Naked broomrape

Larkspur

One of the benefits of gaining elevation on a hike is that doing so typically creates more variety in the flowers seen which was certainly the case here.

The trail continued to switchback up through increasingly open grasslands allowing for some nice views.
Oak Ridge Trail

Balc Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail
Bald Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Rainier in the distance
Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Just before reentering the forest we ran into a small patch of paintbrush.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Paintbrush

Paintbrush

At this elevation the flowers in the forest included fairy slippers, toothwort, and trillium.
Oak Ridge Trail

Fairy slippers

Toothwort

Trillium

The trail leveled out somewhat once it was back in the forest and we soon arrived at the junction with the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Oak Ridge Trail and Surveryor's Ridge Trail junction

We turned left following a pointer for Bald Butte which was 2 miles away.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

After passing a “Leaving National Forest” sign the ridge became rocky and more open which once again provided views of Mt. Hood and now Mt. St. Helens joined the skyline.
Surveryor's Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Red flowering currant was profuse along this stretch and we also spotted a gooseberry bush.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Red flowering currant

Gooseberry

Mt. Adams also made a brief appearance.
Mt. Adams

The trail dropped slightly to a saddle where power lines and another possible trailhead sat beneath a hill.
Powerlines along the Surveryor's Ridge Trail

The trail so far had been off-limits to motorized vehicles but the final section is popular with dirt bike and ATV riders. We followed a steep dirt track under the power lines and up the hill.
Heading toward Bald Butte

There were quite a few flowers in bloom with more to come in the following weeks.
Biscuitroot

Daggerpod

Various small wildflowers

Near the crest of the hill we found one glacier lily still blooming.
Heading toward Bald Butte

Glacier Lily

After dipping into another saddle we faced the final somewhat steep climb to the summit of Bald Butte.
Bald Butte

Bald Butte

There was a nice display of wildflowers blooming along the way.
Wildflowers on Bald Butte

Balsamroot

Paintbrush

There had been a pesky line of clouds in front of Mt. Hood all morning and although it was still present it did seem to be slowly improving.
Mt. Hood and balsamroot

As we neared the summit Mt. St. Helens came into view followed by Mt. Rainier and most of Mt. Adams.
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

We had run into one dirt bike rider as we were coming up Bald Butte, he was headed slowly back down with a flat front tire. A second rider arrived as we were exploring the far end of the butte hoping for a clearer view of Mt. Adams (there wasn’t one). We were a little put off when the rider took his bike out into the wildflowers instead of leaving it in the dirt next to the road and more so when he started it back up while he was still out in the meadow. It was totally unnecessary and that’s all I have to say about that.

Mt. Hood was indeed becoming increasingly visible as we began our hike back to the trailhead.
Mt. Hood

As we were nearing the power line saddle we spotted a snake along the trail.
Snake

The snake wasn’t the only one out now that the day had gotten later. We had seen two other hikers that morning but passed a good deal more on our descent.

Back in the grassland a number of lizards scurried about.
Oak Ridge Trail

Lizard

It was nice to once again have a camera able to zoom in on the wildlife which came in handy one last time near the trailhead.
Douglas Squirrel

It was a little over 80 degrees back at the car and for the first time in a long while there was hope that summer was indeed coming. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bald Butte

Fifteenmile Creek

An unusually wet forecast had us looking for an alternative hike this past week.  I was looking for a hike that didn’t have a mountain view as it’s main focus and if there was less of a possibility of getting rained on that would be a bonus.  In looking at our list of “to-do” hikes Fifteenmile Creek stood out as a good option.  The hike is in the Mt. Hood National Forest east of Mt. Hood and Lookout Mountain.  A loop descends from Fifteenmile Campground through the ecological transition zone between the Cascade Mountains and Central Oregon.

The forecast looked promising with Mt. Hood acting as the rain shadow for this area so we headed out the door at 4:30am and made the two and a half hour drive past Mt. Hood to Highway 35. To reach Fifteenmile Campground from Hwy 35 we took Forest Road 44 for 8.5 miles to Forest Road 4420 where we turned right for 2.3 miles to Forest Road 2730. The campground was 1.9 miles down FR 2730.  A bonus for this hike is the roads were paved the entire way with minimal potholes.
Fifteen Mile Forest Camp entrance

We parked in a small two car parking area near the trailhead and set off on the Fifteenmile Trail toward the Cedar Creek Trail junction.
Fifteenmile Trail

We were not alone in the forest.
Doe

The trail descended along Fifteenmile Creek for a quarter mile to the start of the loop. The trail had been logged out a month earlier and was in great shape despite evidence that there had been a lot of trees down.
Fifteenmile Trail

Footbridge over Fifteenmile Creek

Fifteenmile Trail sign

The sign at the start of the loop was a little confusing in that it showed the Cedar Creek Trail jct as being another quarter mile to the right, but the trail sign at the trailhead had also listed the jct as a quarter mile away. We did not see another trail junction along the Cedar Creek Trail until it rejoined the Fifteenmile Trail so it would seem the sign is an error. In any event we followed the pointer for the Cedar Creek Trail and crossed Fifteenmile Creek.
Fifteenmile Creek

The Cedar Creek Trail climbed up through a forest to a ridge top where it began to pass through meadows and by rocky viewpoints across the Fifteenmile Creek Valley.
Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

View from the Cedar Creek Trail

Andesite

It was too late in the year for the best of the wildflowers in the area but there were still quite a few along the way.

Lupine
Lupine

Slender bog orchid
Slender bog orchid

Prince’s pine
Prince's pine

Scouler’s bluebell
Scouler's bluebell

Worm-leaf stonecrop
Worm-leaf stonecrop

Wild onion
Wild onion

The trail was now descending along the ridge and as it did so we were dropping down toward Central Oregon. We were now in the pine-oak grassland zone which sits between the forests of Mt. Hood and the high desert of Central Oregon. Manzanita, ponderosa pine, and juniper trees began to appear and we were passing more interesting andesite formations.
Cedar Creek Trail

A couple of Juniper trees along the Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

Andesite rock piles

The ridge began narrowing as we approached the lower junction of the Cedar Creek and Fifteenmile Trails. The flat plain of Central Oregon lay straight ahead reveling the stark contrast in the topography between the Cascades and High Desert.
Cedar Creek Trail looking east

Looking east toward the Central Oregon plain

There were a bunch of sagebrush mariposa lilies, one of my favorite wildflowers, along this stretch.
Sagebrush mariposa lily

Sagebrush mariposa lily

The trail steepened a little at the end of the ridge and dropped down to a trail junction at Fifteenmile Creek.
Fifteenmile Creek

Lower junction

After a little exploration we started up the Fifteenmile Trail to complete the loop and return to Fifteenmile Camp. The lower portion of the Fifteenmile Trail climbed very slowly through a much lusher forest than we had seen along the lower portion of the Cedar Creek Trail.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

It eventually began to climb more quickly and entered the terrain more akin to that along the Cedar Creek Trail with meadows and andesite formations.
View from the Fifteenmile Trail

Andesite along the Fifteenmile Trail

Again it was too late for the best of the flowers but not completely devoid of them.
Grand collomia
Grand collomia

Penstemon
Penstemon

Yarrow
Yarrow

Scarlet gilia
Scarlet gilia

After 2.5 miles the trail arrived at a signed junction with an old roadbed.
Trail junction along the Fifteenmile Trail

We followed the old roadbed for a short distance before it gave way to trail once again. The trail then climbed through a series of increasingly impressive andesite formations.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Andesite outcroping

Looking down into the Fifteenmile Creek Valley

The trail then reenters the forest for good as it drops down to a footbridge over Foster Creek, climbs to a second footbridge across an unnamed creek, and finally arrives back at the Cedar Creek Trail jct just a quarter mile from the trailhead.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

It had turned out to be a good choice for the day. We had our fair share of blue skies and only a few minutes of a light sprinkle for rain. Although these trails are popular with mountain bikers we only saw two during our hike and no other hikers. Based on the amount of balsamroot and lupine that was no longer in bloom, a visit during the first part of June would probably be great for the wildflowers here. The views, the andesite formations, and the varied ecological zones along the way would make it a worthwhile trip anytime though. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668046892554

Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack

One of our biggest goals this year was to finally take some overnight backpacking trips. We spent much of the past Winter researching and acquiring the various gear we needed and then penciled in a few 2 day/1 night test outings. The first of those test runs occurred this past weekend in the Badger Creek Wilderness. Our first visit to this wilderness area happened back in late May when we hiked the Badger Creek Trail as a scouting trip for camp sites in anticipation of this trip. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/badger-creek/

Our planned route was to start at High Prairie which is located 8.5 miles from Highway 35 on the east side of Mt. Hood. From the parking area we planned on heading up to the summit of Lookout Mountain on the High Prairie Trail, taking the Divide Trail east toward Flag Point, then dropping down to the Badger Creek Trail on the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail. On our previous visit we had pegged Post Camp as our intended camp site which we would get to by heading just over a mile east from the junction with the Badger Creek Trail. For our return trip we would follow the Badger Creek Trail to Badger Lake where we could once again pickup the Divide Trail and follow it back up out of the valley to Gumjuwac Saddle and then on to the High Prairie Loop at Lookout Mountain.

We had been watching the weather forecast intently as a series of rain showers had been threatening to carry into the weekend, but by Friday night it looked promising enough to give us the green light. The drive to High Prairie was wet but as we made our way around Mt. Hood we managed to find a pocket of blue sky. We had lost the pocket by the time we arrived at the trail head though and found High Prairie to be in the cloud bank.
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The 1.3 mile climb to Lookout Mountain was cold and cloudy but we didn’t have to deal with any rain. What we did have to contend with though was a decent amount of snow still covering parts of the trail.
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As we neared the junction with the Divide Trail we ran into a large patch of snow. At first we thought the trail was underneath the snow and we’d have to climb up the ridge on top of it, but as we climbed up onto the snow we could see the snow free trail on the other side.
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After turning east on the Divide Trail we made a brief visit to the former lookout site atop Lookout Mountain. There were no views to be had so we didn’t stay long and quickly returned to the Divide Trail to continue east toward Flag Point. The trail on this side of Lookout Mountain was buried under the snow.
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We didn’t have to go far before the trail reappeared along with some trail side flowers.
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A mile and a half from Lookout Mountain the Fret Creek Trail joined up on the left. We took a quick detour here to check out Oval Lake.
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Just over a quarter mile from the Fret Creek Trail junction we reached Palisade Point and finally found some blue skies and views.
Palisade Point:
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Flag Point lookout in the distance on the ridge:
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Lookout Mountain still in the clouds:
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Looking SE toward Central Oregon:
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After enjoying the blue skies at Palisade Point we continued another 1.2 miles to dirt road 200 where we found the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail (sans signage).
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This was an interesting trail as it passed through various types of vegetation on it’s way down to Badger Creek over 3 miles and 2000′ below. We spotted a number of flower types and quite a bit of wildlife on this section.
Bluebells
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Balsamroot
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Paintbrush
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Vetch
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Scarlet gila
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Lupine
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Penstemon
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Queen Anne’s Cup
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Arnica
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Columbine
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Cascade Lily
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Tent worms
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Black-headed Grossbeak
Black Headed Grossbeak
Western Tanager
Western Tanager
Douglas Squirrel
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Unidentified bird
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Unidentified bug
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When we reached the Badger Creek Trail we turned left and made our way to Post Camp. We arrived to find it empty so we had our pick of spots. 🙂
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After we had gotten all set up we did a little exploring on the Post Camp Trail and then spent some time sitting by Badger Creek. We only saw a couple of groups of hikers the rest of the afternoon and no one else stopped so we wound up having the whole area to ourselves. We set about testing out all our gear which, with the exception of the matches that wouldn’t light, worked out well. By 7pm the sound of the creek and the early morning had just about put us to sleep so we ended up turning in early.

I wound up waking up to that annoying feeling that I might need to use the bathroom but wasn’t really wanting to have to deal with finding my headlamp and getting out of my cozy sleeping bag. I lay there for awhile debating whether or not I could tough it out and go back to sleep. I finally grabbed my phone to see if I could make it until morning. When I checked the time it said 10:42pm – I wasn’t going to be able to hold out that long. lol I got my light and shoes and headed out to do my business and then returned to the tent to try and go back to sleep. Just a few minutes after getting back into my bag I heard a loud snapping of wood coming from the direction of the food bag that we’d hung. My heart was pounding as I listened for any other sounds but all I could hear was the creek. I started trying to figure out what might have made that noise. A tree or branch falling would have ended with a thump as it hit the ground so I ruled that out which left me with some sort of good sized animal. I never heard another sound and the food bag appeared untouched in the morning and there was no sign of any visitors so we’ll never know what it had been.

Due to the early bedtime we wound up awake at 5am and with no way to light our stove we at some Cliff bars and got ourselves packed back up. We were back on the trail by 6:15am and headed toward Badger Lake. We passed a few tents on the way but no one else appeared to be awake. We arrived at Badger Lake with some blue sky above but there were still clouds hanging around.
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We walked along the lake and across the dam that created it to a trail junction. Here the Badger Lake Trail led along the shore while the Badger Creek Trail paralleled it further back in the forest. All the maps we had, including the Garmin, showed that the Divide Trail intersected both of these trails so we opted to take the lake trail and stay closer to the water. That turned out to be a big mistake. The trail quickly petered out and was covered with blow down. According to the Garmin we were really close to the Divide Trail so we started picking our way over, under, and around the downed logs in an attempt to find it. The next time I checked the Garmin it showed we had passed the intersection so we turned back and uphill to try and pick it up a little higher on the hillside. We couldn’t find it or any flagging or tree blazes (they were probably all lying on the ground) so we had to make our way back to the fork with the Badger Creek Trail and try that way.

That was the correct way and we easily found the clearly marked Divide Trail.
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There was still some blow down on this trail but not anywhere near as bad.
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The Divide Trail climbed along the hillside for 2.5 miles to Gumjuwac Saddle where we had a choice. We could follow road 3550 back to High Prairie or stick to the Divide Trail and do some extra climbing.
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We chose the Divide Trail which proved to be a good choice. We passed through a number of meadows filled with wildflowers and views as we climbed.
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The views weren’t bad either.
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As we neared the junction with the High Prairie Loop Trail we began to get glimpses of Mt. Hood. The lower portion anyway as a pesky band of clouds veiled the top.
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We reached the junction but continued on the Divide Trail a few hundred feet more to a viewpoint where we took a little break and took in the surrounding view.
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From the junction with the High Prairie Loop Trail it was just under a mile back to the parking area. In that time we crossed a cinder covered hillside, passed a scenic rock outcropping, walked through a treed forest and finally a meadow just starting to bloom with flowers.
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The scene was quite different at High Prairie when we returned from that of the day before. We were the only car present when we had set off but now the parking area was nearly full and the clouds had lifted giving us a better view of the wildflower meadow filled with shooting star and marsh marigolds.
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We felt like it went really well for our first attempt at backpacking and are looking forward to some more trips in the future. Happy Trails!

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Badger Creek

We combined our latest hike with a bit of reconnaissance hoping to check out some possible camp sites for an overnight trip this Summer. The plan was to hike the Badger Creek Trail from Bonney Crossing 7.7 miles to it’s junction with the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail looking for possible tent sites near the junction. This was our first visit to the Badger Creek Wilderness which is located just to the east of Mt. Hood in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Badger Creek flows from Badger Lake through a forested valley before joining Tygh Creek and eventually emptying into the White River. From Bonney Crossing the trail heads up the valley through a diverse forest as it climbs from an elevation of 2200′ to Badger Lake at 4500′. We turned around at just under 3650′ for our hike.

For once we were not one of the first cars at the trailhead, in fact we wound up having to park a little bit up the road as the few spots at the trailhead were taken. After walking down to the trailhead we were quickly greeted by a wilderness sign signaling the edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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Not a lot of sunlight was finding it’s way down into the valley in the morning but it did manage a few highlights.
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There was an interesting mix of both trees and flowers along the trail. Various types of pine, cedar, fir, and oak trees could be seen with a number of different flowers. The most interesting of the flowers was an odd yellow flower on a tall stalk that we kept seeing. After doing some research I discovered that it was silvercrown.
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Some of the other flowers present were balsamroot and lupine:
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Prairie Star
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Fairy Slippers
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Arnica
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There was also large patches of Vanilla leaf and skunk cabbage which were both really fragrant on this day. The vanilla leaf was much more pleasant. 🙂
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While the trail stayed fairly close to Badger Creek there really weren’t a lot of opportunities to get down to the creek. Steep banks and dense vegetation limited access but there were a few places where camp sites had been established that allowed access to the creek.
Badger Creek
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Shortly after the Post Camp trail joined up with the Badger Creek Trail was the only real discernible waterfall that we saw.
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Being down in the forested valley meant that there were not many views up. The best views came at our turnaround point at the cutoff trail junction where we could see the top of Lookout Mountain and a couple of the other high points of the surrounding hills.
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As the day went on it got quite warm on the trail and the wildlife started to come out, especially the butterflies. We had seen a couple of deer on the drive in but on the trail we didn’t spot anything larger than a snake.
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One of the more interesting sightings was a butterfly that had been caught by a camouflaged spider.
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We were surprised that we didn’t see more people on the trail on the way to our turnaround point based on the number of cars that were at the trailhead when we’d set off. We were even mores surprised by the large number of hikers we encountered on our way back to the trailhead. We just kept passing groups heading in the whole afternoon. I’d seen conflicting reports as to the popularity of this trail but apparently on Memorial Day weekend it is rather popular. We found plenty of new cars at and near the trailhead when we got back and as we were packing up at 4pm cars continued to arrive.

We wound up getting a pretty good idea of where we’ll aim to set up camp when we do our next trip to the Badger Creek Wilderness and are looking forward to visiting Lookout Mountain on that trip. Happy Trails!

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