Category Archives: Coastal Range

Henry Haag Lake – 9/13/2019

A cloudy forecast with a chance for showers and a weekday off during the school year provided the perfect combination to visit Henry Haag Lake. The man made lake is located in the eastern foothills of the Coastal Range near Forest Grove and would be our 92nd featured hike from Sullivan’s Oregon Coast & Coast Range guidebook. The lake tends to be crowded during the summer and on weekends from Spring to Fall. Additionally the trail around the lake reportedly gets very slick and muddy during the wet seasons so a mid-September visit seemed like a good time to minimize encountering those conditions.

After paying the $7 day use fee for Scoggins Valley Park we drove across Scoggins Dam and parked at the Elks Picnic Area Trailhead.
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There are several trailheads around the lake but we chose this one due to it being close to the park entrance and giving us an opportunity to start with the walk across the dam which we preferred to get out of the way early.

It was an overcast morning but it was free of precipitation as we began our dam walk.
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It turned out to be a fairly entertaining half mile as we were treated to several bird sightings including at least one osprey diving for fish, a kingfisher noisily flying around, and a great blue heron standing on the rocks.
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IMG_9000The osprey flying over the water (All my zoomed in tries were super blurry.)

IMG_9004The kingfisher (also fairly blurry)

IMG_8996The heron

We had been following a path on the opposite side of the guardrail from the road but had to step over it to go around a fence at the end of the dam to reach a trail marked by a post.
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The trail around Haag Lake is broken up by several road walks and parking lot crossings, but when it was trail it was often surrounded by nice forest. For example beyond the dam the trail spent just over a tenth of a mile in the forest before popping out on a road to a boat ramp and the Dam Overlook.
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The trail resumed at another post (the signage was very good all the way around the lake as long you ignore all the unmarked side trails down to the lake shore.
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For the next 1.2 miles the trail stayed in the forest before arriving at the Eagle Point Recreation Area.
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IMG_9032One of the side trails heading down to the left to the lake.

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The cloud cover was breaking already breaking up as we arrived at Eagle Point.
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After passing by an alien snag we once again entered the forest.
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The trail bowed out and around an arm of the lake. It took a little over two miles to hike around this arm.
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In the middle of the stretch was a brief stint on Scoggins Valley Road where a sign for Cedar Grove marked an abandoned section of trail.
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The current trail was a few hundred feet further along the road.
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IMG_9064Scrub jay

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This pattern was repeated four more times over the next 7 miles around arms at Tanner, Wall, Scoggins, and Sain Creeks. The scenery changed consistently with signs of former farmland amid the creeks and stretches of forest.
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IMG_9092Spider in the forest.

IMG_9100Starting around the Tanner Creek arm.

IMG_9103An egret and a heron.

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IMG_9116Apples

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IMG_9131Deer across Scoggins Valley Road

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IMG_9153Canada geese

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IMG_9163Herons and geese at Wall Creek.

IMG_9167Road walk over Scoggins Creek.

IMG_9168Scoggins Creek

IMG_9173Scoggins Creek

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IMG_9187Coming up to the fishing pier and Recreation Area C.

IMG_9191Pacific University building.

IMG_9195Sain Creek Recreation Area

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IMG_9212Sain Creek

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After rounding the Sain Creek arm we entered the “dangerous” disc golf course.
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IMG_9218One of the disc golf holes.

IMG_9224Poison oak

After passing a grassy hillside the trail entered the nicest section of forest of the day.
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About a quarter mile from the Elks Picnic Area and our car we passed the Rainbow View parking area where we had one more good look at Henry Haag Lake before finishing with a road walk back to our car.
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IMG_9245Geese and seagulls on an island.

Road walks are always hard on the feet so when we were finally done with what our GPS said was a 14 mile loop ours were really sore. The hard pavement hadn’t been the only hard surface as the trail was often also very hard. The clay that can be so slick and muddy when wet also gets very hard and packed when it’s dry. Despite the sore feet (and what seemed like unending uphill climbs, although it was only about 500′ of total elevation gain) it did turn out to be a great time for the hike. We didn’t run into anyone else using the trail all day. There were a number of folks fishing, boating and hanging out at the parking areas but that was it. With the numerous parking areas it would be easy to break this up into shorter hikes over several trips.

Happy Trails!

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

Gales Creek Trail

A day off of work for New Years and a clear weather forecast = our first hike of 2019. Our trail of choice was the Gales Creek Trail in the Tillamook State Forest. We began our hike at the Gales Creek Trailhead, the same trailhead that we used in 2015 for a hike to nearby University Falls (post).

We began this hike as we had on our previous visit by following the Gales Creek Trail west from the parking area.
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The first .8 miles to the Storey Burn Trail was a repeat of 2015 as we crossed Low Divide Creek on a footbridge and arrived at the trail junction.
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Unlike last time when we turned left onto the Storey Burn Trail this time we turned right sticking to the Gales Creek Trail which paralleled Gales Creek.
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It was a chilly morning, about 28 degrees, and there was a fair amount of frost on the ground and plants. In addition to the typical frost we see on a chilly morning, we had been noticing white clumps here and there. The clumps looked like they could be garbage at first glance but it wasn’t. Other thoughts were fur but we couldn’t think of any animals in the area with white fur or something from a tree but it wasn’t the right time of year for things like cottonwood. Our next guess was a little closer with a fungus but upon closer inspection we determined it was some sort of fine ice/frost.
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It was very interesting. The scarcity of the clumps told us that there must be some set of conditions to create these frost clumps and spent much of the hike marveling at the designs. Thanks to the help of some fellow hikers over at Oregonhikers.org we later learned that this type of frost is the result of a fungus inside certain rotting wood that leaves water and carbon dioxide behind as the wood decays. The CO2 forces the water out of the wood through tiny holes and when the temperature is just a bit below freezing creates the frost “hairs” . Here is a post describing the phenomena in more detail and a article on BBC – Earth with a time lapse video of the frost forming.

The Gales Creek Trail stuck fairly close to the creek, sometimes rising a bit above it as it passed through the forest and crossed several streams that would likely have been dry in the summer months.
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A mile and a half from the Storey Burn Trail junction we did come to a dry creek bed, but a flash of water back in the trees looked like it might be a decent waterfall. The terrain looked like it might make for a reasonable off-trail jaunt and the fact that there was no water down at the trail but there was some further up made us curious so we decided to head uphill. After about a quarter mile climb over and around downed trees we found ourselves looking at a nice 20′ or so waterfall. The terrain narrowed enough that we couldn’t get right up to the falls but it was still a nice view (although not the best lighting for photos).
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IMG_5450The route we came up.

After admiring the falls we returned to the trail and continued west toward the Bell Camp Trailhead.
IMG_5453A short section of railroad grade.

More creek crossings followed, some trickier than others, but we managed to keep our feet fairly dry using rocks or logs.
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A total of 2.25 miles from the junction we arrived at stand of alders as the site of good sized slide that occurred in 2007.
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Just over a mile from the alder stand we came to the trickiest crossing of the day. There appeared to be two options across, a lone rock barely sticking out of the water and a pile of slick looking logs. Due to the direction we were heading the rock was too far to reach so we opted for the logs. Some carefully placed steps got us across dry.
IMG_5471The logs we came across.

IMG_5472The rock after having crossed.

On the way back I opted to attempt a jump from the rock. It worked but after watching Heather recross fairly easily on the logs my 46 year old body thought that would have been a better choice.
IMG_5508Heather finishing her crossing on the way back.

Beyond this crossing the trail turned inland away from Gales Creek a bit. Slides apparently forced the trail to be rerouted at some point because a footbridge could still be seen through the trees closer to Gales Creek.
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We passed a very small cascade along this section and then approximately 1.75 miles from the tricky creek crossing arrived at our turn around point, a 25′ waterfall right along the trail.
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We took a break at the falls and as we studied the falls the light moved enough to create a small rainbow.
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We returned the way we’d come. The sun was shining but it was still chilly as we made our way back.
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We didn’t see much wildlife, just a handful of birds, and being the middle of winter no wildflowers but there were a few mushrooms to enjoy.
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With the half mile side trip the hike wound up being just under 12.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It was a nice start to a new year of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gales Creek Trail

4 County Pt., Sunset Rest Area, Saddle Mt., & Soapstone Lake

For the most part the weather had been cooperating with us this year but that wasn’t the case on our most recent outing. Admittedly I had not rechecked the forecast the night before but just a couple of days earlier the predication was for mostly sunny skies and a high in the mid to upper 70s. It had been cloudy all week in Salem so when those clouds broke up in the afternoon the day before our hikes I took that as a sign that the earlier forecast was still correct. It was a little cloudier than expected as we left Salem the morning of our hikes and as we headed west on Highway 26 from Beaverton we started to notice a little moisture on the windshield.

Our first stop for the day was at a small pullout on the north side of Highway 26 between mile posts 34 and 35. The Four County Point Trail begins here at a trail sign.
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The trail quickly came to a fork and a post with no signage.
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Left is the way to Four Corner Point so we took that fork and hike through a green forest (such a contrast after a week in Central and SE Oregon. The trail was between the highway on the left and North Fork Wolf Creek on the right.
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Between the highway being that close and a nearby public shooting range (which was busy even before 7am) this wasn’t exactly a tranquil hike but it ended at an interesting location, the meeting point of four counties: Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, and Washington.
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Although the sign indicates that the trail length is a mile it’s closer to .8 miles to the plaque making it a nice warm up or leg stretcher. The noise and a visible clear cut did detract from the enjoyment.

Our next stop was just an additional six miles west of the pullout at the Sunset Rest Area.
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Here the Steam Donkey Trail offered two possible loop options.
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Both options are short so we did both the Springboard Loop and the Dooley Spur Loop which basically form a figure eight. The trail crossed South Fork Rock Creek on a footbridge before reaching the start of the Springboard Loop.
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We opted to do the loop counter clockwise so we headed right through another lush green forest.
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With the Springboard Loop only being .3 miles long we quickly arrived at a four way junction with the Dooley Spur Loop.
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We turned right again for this .5 mile loop.
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This was another nice leg stretcher and was much quieter than the Four County Point Trail and with options for .3 or .8 mile loops would be a good hike for youngsters.

Our third stop of the day was for the only trail we had previously hiked, Saddle Mountain (post). Although it had been cloudy at our first two stops it hadn’t been raining and there had been one or two glimpses of blue sky so we were hopeful as we turned off Highway 26 near milepost 10 following the Saddle Mountain sign. The further along the 7 mile paved entrance road we went the wetter things got. When we arrived at the trailhead parking area there was a steady drizzle falling.
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We set off uphill hoping that perhaps by the time we got to the summit the conditions would improve. At the .2 mile mark we turned right on the signed Humbug Mountain View Point spur trail.
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We didn’t expect a view given the conditions, but we’d been out to the viewpoint on our first visit plus we figured a little extra time spent down below gave that much more time for the weather to improve. There were indeed no views at the end of the .2 mile spur trail but we did see a few nice flowers along the way.
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IMG_7333Paintbrush

IMG_7335Tiger lily

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IMG_7343Twin flower

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We returned to the Saddle Mountain Trail and continued up into the drizzle and fog.
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Our first visit had been on June 1st, 2013 which had been a few weeks too early for many of the flowers. It had also been a cloudy day so we were hoping that this time we would not only hit the flowers closer to peak but also have better views. The views were by far worse, but the flowers were so much better. Unfortunately the foggy, wet conditions limited sight and the ability to fully capture the beauty of the wildflower show along the 2.5 mile climb to the summit but here are a few of the highlights.
IMG_7348Checkermallow

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IMG_7394Larkspur

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IMG_7403Monkeyflower

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IMG_7420Plectritis

IMG_7436Old man’s whiskers

IMG_7442Columbine

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IMG_7456Wallflower

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Having done the two other hikes we had gotten a little later start here than we normally would have so there were several people already at the summit when we arrived. A good breeze was bring moisture right up the hillside from the NW making it extra damp on top.
IMG_7460Summit view

We didn’t stay long and were soon heading back down the steep, slick trail.
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After our SE Oregon vacation, where we more often than not encountered no other hikers on the trails, the number of people trudging up Saddle Mountain on our way down was mind boggling. The place was a zoo despite the less than ideal weather. We had toyed with the idea of making this our last hike of the day instead of second to last and boy were we glad we hadn’t. We made our way back to the trailhead as quickly as possible given the slick conditions and seemingly stopping ever two minutes to let another uphill group go by.

We drove back to Highway 26 and turned west once more heading for our final stop of the day. Six tenths of a mile from the Saddle Mountain turnoff we took a left leaving Highway 26 in favor of Highway 53. We followed this highway 4.7 miles to a sign for the Soapstone Lake Trail where we turned left onto a gravel road for .4 miles to the trailhead. The weather here was markedly better here than it had been at Saddle Mountain.
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The Soapstone Lake Trail starts along the path of an old roadbed.
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Ripe salmonberries (and a few huckleberries) lined the trail.
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Near a meadow at the .6 mile mark the trail left the old road bed.
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On the far side of the meadow the trail crossed Soapstone Creek on a footbridge.
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The trail then climbed a ridge for .3 miles to the start of a loop around the lake.
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The trail to the left went downhill while the right hand fork went uphill. We decided to go left in order to end the loop on a downhill instead of a climb. The trail quickly crossed Soapstone Creek again and made its way around the east side of the lake.
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At then south end of the lake the trail crossed a swampy area on a boardwalk where we spotted several rough skinned newts in the water.
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The loop continued around the west side of the lake, but here the trail climbed above and a little away from the water.
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After passing a large camp site the trail descended to the start of the .8 mile loop and we returned the way we’d come. This had been another nice, short hike (2.8 miles total) that would be good for kids. The four hikes combined had only come to 10.4 miles with Saddle Mountain accounting for half of that total (and nearly all the elevation gain for the day). All in all it had turned out to be a pretty good day despite the disappointing weather on Saddle Mountain. C’est la vie as they say. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Four County Point, Sunset Rest Area, Saddle Mt. & Soapstone Lake

Throwback Thursday – Elk & Kings Mountains

This week’s Throwback Thursday hike features one of the most challenging hikes in the Oregon Coast Range. On 8/16/2010 we headed to the Elk Creek Trailhead located just off Highway 6 twenty-four miles west of it’s junction with Highway 26 near Banks, OR.

This was one of our earliest hikes so we were still on a steep learning curve and in hindsight August probably wasn’t the best time of year for this particular hike but not knowing any better we arrived at the trailhead for an early morning start. After reading the information posted at the start of the trail we began wondering exactly what we were getting into.
Elk Mountain Trail information

Our plan was to do the nearly 11 mile loop which came with nearly 4000′ of elevation gain. We set off at a sign for the Wilson River Trail which crossed Elk Creek then split after .2 miles. The Wilson River Trail continued to the left and would be our return route. We veered right continuing onto the Elk Mountain Trail.
Trail sign at the Elk Mountain Trailhead

Elk Creek

Trail sign for the Elk Mountian Trail

We were, as usual, following William Sullivan’s guidebook in which he describes the the Elk Mountain Trail as having “all the subtlety of a bobsled run”. The nearly 1.5 mile climb was certainly deserving of that description and was unlike any trail we’d experienced to that point. In fact this hike was the impetus for looking into and eventually getting trekking poles as we were at times forced to use our hands to make it past sections of loose scree.
Elk Mountian Trail

Elk Mountian Trail

The trail did have some positive attributes including some views that were not for folks made nervous by heights.
View from the Elk Mountian Trail

Low clouds in the valley

Looking down from the Elk Mountian Trail

View from the Elk Mountian Trail

Only a few flowers remained along the trail which is one of the reasons that our timing wasn’t great, the other being the exposed sections of trail were really warm in the August sun.
Paintbrush

View from the Elk Mountian Trail

A nice sign and summit register greeted us at the summit letting us know that we’d made it.
Elk Mountain Summit

Elk Mountain summit

From the summit we were able to get a good look at the days second summit, Kings Mountain, to the west.
Kings Mountain from Elk Mountain

We continued on the loop which dropped steeply off the far side of Elk Mountain.
Elk Mountian Trail

For the next half mile the trail traversed a ridge that was rather narrow and rocky in spots.
Elk Mountian Trail

Elk Mountian Trail

We were relieved when we reached an old roadbed which we then followed for the next mile and a half. This section was much easier on the nerves (and knees). Berries and wildflowers lined the old roadbed.
Raspberries and salal

Foxglove

Fireweed

Gentian

At a pass two miles from the Elk Mountain summit we arrived at signed junction where we followed pointers for the Kings Mountain Trail.
Junction with the Kings Mountain Trail

The old roadbed soon gave way to another narrow rocky section of trail.
Kings Mountain Trail

Kings Mountain Trail

Soon the trail came to a series of pinnacles which forced the trail from the south side of the ridge to the north side. The vertical face of the pinnacles also forced the trail to drop in order to get far enough below them to traverse the hillside. If we thought the trail couldn’t get any more nerve wracking we were wrong. A small caution sign on a stump tipped us off that the next section was going to be a doozy.
Caution sign along the Kings Mountain Trail

A rope was in place here to assist with the descent.
Kings Mountain Trail - rope section

The traverse below the pinnacles was the by far the scariest section of trail we had been on and remained so until 2014 when the section of the Pacific Crest Trail known as The Knifes Edge took that title. There was a vertical rock wall along the trail and the drop on the other side of the trail seemed nearly as vertical. Thimbleberry bushes lined the trail on the down slope side making the trail feel even narrower than it was. No pictures were taken along this stretch as I was too busy using my hands to grab whatever I could along the rock wall.

Upon reaching the far end we briefly distracted ourselves with the view to the north which included a vary hazy Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
View from the Kings Mountain Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams

After we recovered our wits we continued on the much less stressful section of the trail and shortly arrived at the Kings Mountain summit.
Kings Mountain summit register

We had only gone 1.3 miles from the junction at the pass but the traverse below the pinnacles had made it seem much longer. An interesting oddity near the summit was a picnic table placed by Troop 299 of the Eagle Scouts.
Picnic table along the Kings Mountain Trail

Picnic table along the Kings Mountain Trail

From the summit the Kings Mountain Trail simply headed straight down a steep ridge.
Kings Mountain Trail

We managed to slow our descent long enough to visit a signed viewpoint on the way down.
Viewpoint sign along the Kings Mountain Trail

Kings Mountain Trail viewpoint

Again trekking poles would have been wonderful on the 2.5 mile descent. As it was we did our best to stay upright as we bounced from tree to tree using them in an attempt to control our speed. As we neared the bottom the trail mercifully began to level out in the forest.
Kings Mountain Trail

We turned left onto the Wilson River Trail when we came to the junction near the Kings Mountain Trailhead.
Wilson River Trail sign

It was a fairly easy, but warm, 3.5 mile hike back to the Elk Creek Trailhead. The Wilson River was on the opposite side of Highway 6 but the trail passed through a nice meadow and crossed Dog Creek on a footbridge in the first mile and a half.
Meadow along the Wilson River Trail

Creek along the Wilson River Trail

The final two miles were more exposed allowing the mid-day sun to beat down us so we were glad when we finally made it back to Elk Creek. It had been a pretty amazing hike, definitely unlike anything we’d done up to that point and we are looking forward to going back in the not too distant future to see what it’s like now that we’ve been hiking for a much longer time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk and Kings Mountains

Throwback Thursday – Alsea Falls

Now that we are in the midst of our offseason it’s time to bring back our Throwback Thursday posts. This installment of Throwback Thursday features our final hike of 2012 and the last hike we took before starting this blog.   On 12/19/2012 we headed for the Alsea Falls Recreation Area which is located in the Coast Range west of Monroe, OR.  To reach the area from Highway 99w we turned west near Monroe at a sign for Alpine.  Signs for the recreation area kept us headed in the right direction.  We could have started our hike in a couple of places including the most popular trailhead at a day use picnic area practically next to Alsea Falls. We opted to instead to begin further up the South Fork Alsea River at a small trailhead along Miller Road.

Alsea Falls trailhead

The level trail followed the South Fork Alsea River for a mile to the Alsea Falls Campground. At the .7 mile mark a trail joined from the right which was to be our return route. Had it been earlier in the year there probably wouldn’t have been many views of the river along this stretch but with the leaves gone from the trees the river was often visible.

South Fork Alsea River

South Fork Alsea River

We didn’t take the footbridge across the river into the campground opting to stay on the east side of the river for another .6 miles to a second footbridge ignoring a side trail to the right (our return route) shortly before the bridge.

Bridge over the South Fork Alsea River

This bridge led to the day use picnic area. We crossed the bridge pausing to look downstream at the top of Alsea Falls.

South Fork Alsea River

A .3 mile path continued downstream on the south side of the river below the falls. The photos we’d seen of Alsea Falls had obviously been taken at other times of the year. The pictures we’d seen were of a terraced fall gently cascading over rocks, but what we found was a whitewater cascade.

Alsea Falls

Alsea Falls

Alsea Falls

After admiring just how much more water was flowing now than what we’d seen in the photos we recrossed the footbridge and turned left continuing downstream. The trail climbed a bit before dropping back down near river level and another split in the trail after .6 miles. A trail here descended to the river bank before petering out.

South Fork Alsea River

From here the trail soon joined an old road which we followed briefly toward McBee Park to another trail which led slightly uphill to the right.

Alsea Falls Trail

Trail to Green Peak Falls

This trail ran parallel to Peak Creek but stayed far enough away to keep it hidden most of the half mile to Green Peak Falls.

Trail to Green Peak Falls

Meadow on the way to Green Peak Falls

Peak Creek

Having not seen any pictures of Green Peak Falls we weren’t sure what to expect but were pleasantly surprised by this 60′ waterfall.

Green Peak Falls

Green Peak Falls

Green Peak Falls

Almost as mesmerizing as the waterfall was a tree on the far side of the creek that was covered in light green lichen.

Lichen draped tree

On the way back we had a couple of loop options. We could have taken a .6 mile section of trail from the picnic area to the campground, but we chose a slightly longer loop with a little extra elevation gain. Just beyond the footbridge to the picnic area we turned left at a trail sign and headed uphill into the forest.

Trail sign in the Alsea Falls Recreation Area

This path climbed for a half mile to a road where we turned right for another half mile before descending on another half mile trail to the junction we had passed that morning .7 miles from Miller Road. This mile and a half was view less but the trails were well maintained.

Forest in the Alsea Falls Recreation Area

The Alsea Falls Recreation Area is popular in the warmer months when the river is more inviting but we had basically had the area to ourselves and the strong flow over the falls made a Winter visit worthwhile as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alsea Falls

Niagara Falls and Neskowin

We took advantage of a favorable forecast and headed out for our February hike to visit a pair of coastal waterfalls and then the beach near Neskowin.  We’ve had a lot of snow and rain this winter making it a good time to catch the waterfalls assuming you can reach them.  The storms have left their mark on some of the trails and roads so we weren’t sure what to expect as we prepared to head out, but a quick check of the Forest Service website listed the Niagara Falls Trailhead as open so we were optimistic.

The Niagara Falls Trailhead is located east of Mt. Hebo in the Siuslaw National Forest. There was good signage along the route which took us  5 miles east of Blaine, OR on Upper Nestucca Road (Forest  Road 85) where we turned right onto Niagara Road (Forest Road 8533). A small herd of elk were grazing in the field at this turn.
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We followed this gravel road for 4.3 miles. The road was in pretty good shape and had obviously been cleared recently. At the 4.3 mile mark we forked right following signs for the trail for another .7 miles to the trailhead.
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The mile long Niagara Falls Trail led downhill through a fern filled forest crossing a small creek three times on footbridges.
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This small creek was flowing well enough to create its own decent, albeit hard to see little fall.
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As the trail leveled out along Pheasant Creek the first fall to come into view was Niagara Falls.
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As the trail neared Niagara Falls an opening to the left revealed Pheasant Falls.
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A footbridge below Pheasant Falls brought us to a picnic table at the end of the Niagara Falls Trail.
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We returned the way we’d come. The 2 mile hike had been a nice warm up and now we were headed back to Highway 101 and then south to Neskowin.

We stared our second hike of the day at the Winema Road Beach Access which is located near the Wi-Ne-Ma Christian Camp. The beach access can be reached by driving .6 miles on Winema Road which is 4 miles north of Neskowin along Highway 101.
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From the beach the view south extended to Cascade Head and to the north to Cape Lookout beyond Haystack Rock.
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Our timing wasn’t great as it was a little before 10am when we started and high tide would be just after 12:30 so it was already coming in. This meant we would not be getting to a couple of places that would have been accessible at lower tide. We headed north first for .4 miles to some rocks jutting out onto the beach. Along the way we passed a small waterfall that we had not been expecting.
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At low tide it is possible to continue .6 miles to the mouth of the Nestucca River across from Bob Straub State Park but the waves were already reaching the rocks and we knew if we continued we’d be stuck until the tide went back out so after playing around on the rocks for a minute we turned around and headed south.
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We hadn’t gone too far to the south when we reached the outlet creek of Daley Lake which wasn’t mentioned in our guidebook. The only way across was to ford the creek, but luckily it was only ankle deep and not too cold.
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On the other side of creek was a picnic table that seemed really out of place. Heather noted that it appeared to be close enough that the ocean would reach it, although it wasn’t very close at that time. The rest of the sights were pretty typical of a beach walk. Driftwood, rocks, pieces of shells, seaweed, boats, sea birds, and lots of washed up garbage.
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There was something we couldn’t recall seeing before though. Large numbers of pickle shaped jelly fish looking things of various sizes.
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A little under 2.5 miles from the Winema Beach Access the beach became impassable due to the tide reaching the rock wall protecting the houses at Neskowin. Luckily the Mt. Angel St. access was located at the north end of the rock wall so we left the beach and walked inland to Breakers Blvd.
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We turned right on the paved street and walked for .7 miles to Carlton Ave. where we turned left toward the Proposal Rock Inn which was on the far side of Neskowin Creek. At the creek we turned right and followed it to Proposal Rock.
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Our guidebook indicated it was possible to continue another .6 miles south to Cascade Head but the creek was far too swollen for us to ford it. Likewise we were unable to reach Proposal Rock due to it’s being surrounded by water.
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With the tide in we couldn’t walk back along the beach from there so we took the paved streets of Neskowin once again back to the Mt. Angle St. access. We then hiked back along the beach where we discovered that Heather had been right about the ocean reaching that odd picnic table.
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You just never know what you’re going to see along the Oregon Coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Niagara Falls & Neskowin