Category Archives: Mt. Hood Area

Hunchback Mountain – 7/11/2020

We extended our streak of 3000+ feet elevation gains and checked off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes with a visit to the Hunchback Trail in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We started our hike at the trailhead just off Highway 26 at the Zigzag Ranger Station.
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This trailhead is almost directly across Highway 26 from our previous hike, West Zigzag Mountain (post). Based on the forecast there was a really good chance that we’d get to see similar views of Mt. Hood that we’d missed the week before. Similar to that hike the Hunchback Trail began with a steep climb via a series of switchbacks which brought us into a wilderness area.
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Pink pyrolaPink pyrola

Unlike the Zigzag Mountain Trail, which was well graded and rarely felt steep, the Hunchback Trail felt quite steep at times.
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IMG_9022Switchback below a rock outcrop.

IMG_9028Looking down the hillside from the trail.

IMG_9055Trail dropping to a saddle.

After nearly 1.75 miles of switchbacks the trail gained the ridge and turned SE following it for the remainder of the hike. After an up and down we gained our first limited view of the day to the south.
Little Cheney Creek drainage across the Salmon River valleyLooking south across the Salmon River valley. The Bonanza Trail (post) climbs the ridge to the right up to Huckleberry Mountain (hidden behind the first tree on the right).

The ridge was a little more open than the forest below allowing for a wider variety of flowers.
IMG_9066Beardstongue (penstemon)

IMG_9075Washington lily

IMG_9078Tiger lily

IMG_9090Penstemon

IMG_9092Sub-alpine mariposa lily (cat’s ear lily)

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The first really good view came after just over two miles when the trail climbed steeply up to a catwalk along rimrock cliffs.
IMG_9103Starting the steep climb.

IMG_9105Coming up to the cliffs.

IMG_9115Cliffs along the trail.

Huckleberry MountainHuckleberry Mountain

Salmon Butte (tallest peak on the left and Tumala Mountain (pointy peak furthest back and right)Salmon Butte (post) (tallest peak on the left and Tumala Mountain (post) (pointy peak furthest back and right)

While Mt. Hood was visible through tree branches to the north there wasn’t enough of a view for photos. There were however plenty of flowers to take pictures of.
IMG_9122Blue-head gilia

IMG_9133Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_9137Oregon sunshine, blue-head gilia, penstemon and yarrow.

There was also quite a bit of clarkia present but it was too early in the day for the blossoms to be open so they would have to wait until we came back by later.

At the end of the cliffs the trail dropped back into the forest then almost immediately climbed steeply again arriving at a sign (on the opposite side of a tree) for the Rockpile Viewpoint.
IMG_9119Trail dropping toward the forest.

IMG_9140Trail starting to climb again.

IMG_9141Sign for the viewpoint.

The side trail headed steeply uphill and quickly devolved into a web of possible paths.
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We followed what appeared to be the “best” route uphill for about 60 yards to the base of the “Rockpile”.
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I scrambled up through the rocks enough to see that while it was a great viewpoint for Mt. Hood it was still a little too early for it as the Sun was right above the mountain.
IMG_9148The top of the rocks.

IMG_9146Washed out view of Mt. Hood

I let Heather know it probably wasn’t worth the effort to scramble up right now and we decided to stop on our way back instead.

After scrambling back down to Heather we returned to the Hunchback Trail and continued SE along the ridge. The next mile was the gentlest section of the trail as it continued to do some ups and downs but they were only little rises and drops with some level trail mixed in.
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The forest here was home to a number of flowers that rely on their relationship to fungi to survive.
IMG_9158Pinesap

IMG_9171Pinedrop

IMG_9175Pacific coralroot

We also got a brief glimpse of Mt. Adams at one point through some trees.
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Approximately 1.1 miles from the side trail to the Rockpile Viewpoint another side trail split off to the right. This one was much fainter and there was no sign where it left the Hunchback Trail but it headed uphill to the right toward some rocks.
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We suspected that this trail led to the Helispot Viewpoint, but we weren’t positive and Sullivan described the view as overgrown so we decided not to follow this path just in case it wasn’t to the viewpoint. A hundred or so feet down the trail we wound up passing a sign (again on the opposite side of a tree) for the Helispot Viewpoint. There didn’t appear to be an actual route from the sign though as it was simply pointing at a hillside covered with rhododendron bushes.
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We decided that on the way back we would take the route we’d seen above and continued on. Over the next mile the trail spent quite a bit of time on the east side of the ridge where the tread was wearing and rhododendron were beginning to encroach on it a bit. There was an short interesting walk on a narrow rocky spine and then there were two steep climbs which brought the trail to a bit over 4000′ in elevation.
IMG_9204Passing a rock outcrop on narrower tread.

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IMG_9218Rocky spine

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IMG_9228Climbing up the Hunchback Trail.

IMG_9229Heather coming up the trail.

IMG_9234Beargrass near the 4000′ elevation.

After reaching the high point the trail began a steep 400′ drop to another saddle, but luckily our turnaround point was only about 50′ down. That turnaround point was the third signed viewpiont along this stretch of the Hunchback Trail, the Great Pyramid.
IMG_9238Heading down to the viewpoint sign.

IMG_9241Side trail to the Great Pyramid.

The short side path led passed an obscured view SE and some wildflowers along a rock outcrop.
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Unfortunately the whole area was overrun with thatching ants. After a few steps out along the rocks there were numerous ants climbing our legs and although their bites aren’t as painful as the all red harvester ants they aren’t fun either so we left the viewpoint to the insects and retreated back up the trail.

We followed the Hunchback Trail back to where we had planned to take the side trip to the Helispot Viewpoint and headed uphill on the faint path.
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A short distance up we noticed a fairly distinct trail coming up from the left which we assumed was the trail that the sign had originally been pointing too. The viewpoint was just as Sullivan had described it, overgrown. Probably not worth the tenth of a mile side trip but there were a few flowers present.
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We returned to the Hunchback Trail happy to be on the gentler mile section. We detoured back up to the Rockpile Viewpoint just as some other hikers were leaving it which allowed us to take a nice break there all by ourselves with the improved view of Mt. Hood.
IMG_9280The cliffs of West Zigzag Mountain to the left of Mt. Hood where we’d been the week before (post)

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20200711_113107We weren’t entirely alone as Heather was visited by a butterfly.

After a nice break we made our way back to the rimrock cliffs which were now fully in sunlight opening the clarkia and making for even nicer views.
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IMG_9314Looking down into the Salmon River valley

IMG_9317Looking west toward Highway 26

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20200711_121116Penstemon

20200711_120700Nevada deervetch

20200711_120246Tiger lilies

20200711_120332Oregon sunshine

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As we descended the 1500′ from the rimrock viewpoint to the trailhead our knees and feet were letting us know that they were done with three and four thousand elevation gain hikes for awhile. We’ll have to see about that :).

Both Sullivan and the Oregonhikers.org field guide put this hike at 9 miles roundtrip. They vary on elevation with Sullivan showing a 2900′ gain while the field guide showing 3270′. Our Garmin’s came in at 10.1 and 11.2 miles and we never pay attention to the elevation numbers. We were actually running an experiment on this hike regarding the distances shown on the GPS units. We both carry a Garmin GPSmap 62s unit. We’ve looked at the settings and they seem to be the same, but for the majority of hikes Heather’s Garmin reports a noticeable amount more mileage than mine (mine is typically closer to what the information for the hike states). For this hike we swapped units so I was carrying the one she normally does and vice versa. Sure enough the one she carried registered the higher 11.2 mile total. We are at a bit of a loss to explain what causes the discrepancy. On rare occasions the totals have been the same or within a tenth of a mile or two but more often than not the difference is at least a mile and sometimes a couple. Any thoughts out there as to what might cause this? I tend to hike faster, especially uphill but then I spend more time stopped waiting for Heather.

If you couldn’t tell the GPS thing is driving me a bit crazy, so much so that that night as we were going to bed I wondered aloud what would happen if one of us carried both GPS units on a hike? These are the things that keep me up at night :). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hunchback Mountain

West Zigzag Mountain – 7/04/2020

We continued our 4th of July tradition of hiking by checking off another of William L. Sullivan’s featured hikes, West Zigzag Mountain (Hike #68 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 4th edition). He actually describes two hikes, a 1.8 mile round trip to Castle Canyon and an 11+ mile round trip to the former West Zigzag lookout site. We chose the longer hike for this visit which starts from Zigzag Mountain Trailhead.
IMG_8644Parking area is just a wide spot in the road.

Two trails start at the trailhead, the Zigzag Mountain Trail heads uphill to the left while the Road 19 Trail follows the closed road to the right. The Road 19 trail connects with the Castle Canyon Trail in 1.1 miles.
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After a short steep climb the Zigzag Mountain Trail arrived at a wilderness permit box and Mt. Hood Wilderness map.
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After filling out one of the self-issue permits we began to climb. Our last two hikes had cumulative elevation gains right around 4000′ so today’s 3100′ was a little better. It also helped that unlike the trails on our previous two climbs the Zigzag Mountain trail utilized a number of switchbacks to keep the grade much more manageable.
IMG_8651Zigzag Mountain Trail entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

The climb was forested with a few flowers present at the lower elevations.
IMG_8656Washington lilies

IMG_8662Tiger lilies

IMG_8663Self-heal

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IMG_8696Salal

IMG_8709Candy sticks

IMG_8717Queen’s cup and bunchberry

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As we climbed we began to see a fair amount of rhododendron in bloom.
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The trail made 15 switchbacks over the first two miles before straightening out for a bit along a ridge.
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We passed a small rock garden with some penstemon along the ridge.
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The ridge was a bit more open and here we found some beargrass and lupine blooming. There were also opportunities for views but it had clouded up overnight and those clouds weren’t burning off very quickly.
IMG_8783Beargrass

IMG_8785Lupine

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The trail spent little time on the ridge top and instead rose up and down switching sides of the ridge as it passed under rock outcrops.
IMG_8796Trillium along the north facing side of the ridge.

IMG_8798Mushroom

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IMG_8806Passing a rock outcrop.

IMG_8814West Zigzag Mountain from the trail.

IMG_8817Back to the north facing side.

IMG_8819Now on the south facing side.

Near the 2.5 mile mark we came to a rocky viewpoint where we had a nice view of West Zigzag Mountain ahead but not of much else due to the clouds.
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IMG_8828Sub-alpine mariposa lily at the viewpoint.

Another series of switchbacks followed before the trail straightened out following the ridge of Zigzag Mountain near the 3 mile mark. After another three quarters of a mile of climbing the trail began a series of ups and downs along the ridge. This lasted for the final 2.5 miles to the former lookout site although none of them were very long or too steep. While there weren’t any wildflowers meadows on this hike there were quite a few flowers to be seen along the way.
IMG_8850Lupine and paintbrush

IMG_8864Beargrass and rhododendron

IMG_8867Huckleberry

IMG_8871Cliff beardtongue

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IMG_8879Larkspur

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IMG_8905Phlox

IMG_8909More cliff beardtongue

IMG_8917Penstemon

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IMG_8919On the ridge just before reaching the lookout site.

Around the 5.25 mile mark we came to what would have been a great view of Mt. Hood if not for the clouds.
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After crossing the ridge the trail emerged from the forest near some rock outcrops that framed the forest below.
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We followed a short path led to the top of the southern outcrop where we had a view over to the former lookout site.
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IMG_8928Former lookout site in the tress to the left.

We sat on the outcrop and watched the clouds pass by.
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With the limited views outward we focused our attention down picking out a few flowers that we hadn’t seen on other parts of the hike.
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IMG_8932Tufted saxifrage

IMG_8941Arnica

IMG_8947Lousewort

IMG_8946Some of the rocks in Castle Canyon

When we started to get a little chilly we decided to head back, but first we had to visit the former lookout site to ensure that we connected this hike with our 2012 hike.
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IMG_8952View of the outcrop from the lookout site.

IMG_8955Raceme pussytoes

We returned the way we’d come spotting a few flowers that we’d missed going the other direction.
IMG_8962Valerian

IMG_8964Salmonberry

IMG_8967Bleeding heart

IMG_8972Violet

IMG_8977Monotropa uniflora aka ghost plant

Despite the clouds never burning off (we did eventually see a couple of slivers of blue sky) it was a good day for the hike. The flowers were good and the clouds kept the temperature down and the gradual grade of the trail kept the 11.4 miles from feeling difficult. We wound up passing 8 other hikers on our return trip which is a pretty low number for a Saturday hike on a trail as close to Portland as this one is so that was also a plus as we are still doing our best to practice proper social distancing. We capped off our 4th by watching the fireworks in our neighborhood with our son and my parents. Happy Trails!

Flickr: West Zigzag Mountain

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.
IMG_6954Mt. Hood

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.
IMG_6980Mt. Adams

IMG_6981Mt. Rainier peaking over the clouds to the left of Mt. Adams.

IMG_6985Mt. Hood

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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

IMG_7012Western Pasque flower

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

Vista Ridge and Owl Point – 6/22/2019

In 2017 we hiked the Vista Ridge Trail to Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove in the Mt. Hood Wilderness (post). It had been a cloudy August day which deprived us of any views of the mountain save for a brief glimpse from Elk Cove. The lack of views was enough to put the trail back on our to do list, but there were a couple of other reasons we had wanted to get back to this trail. First was the side trip to Owl Point along a segment of the Old Vista Ridge Trail which was reclaimed by volunteers in 2007. The second was a desire to see the avalanche lilies that bloom profusely on Vista Ridge in the fire scar left by the 2011 Dollar Fire.

We had been following reports on the avalanche lilies from fellow hikers and after seeing that they were blooming we checked the weather forecast for a clear day and headed up to the Vista Ridge Trailhead.
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The view of Mt. Hood had been clear on our drive so we decided to head out to Owl Point first and then up Vista Ridge for the lilies. We followed the Vista Ridge Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Old Vista Ridge Trail at the edge of the 2011 fire scar.
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We turned left onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and headed toward Owl Point. The trail, which relies on volunteers to keep it maintained, was in good shape.
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As we made our way north along though we began to run into some fog.
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We had gone a little over half a mile from the junction and decided to turn back and save the viewpoint for later not wanting to risk missing out on a view. We backtracked to the junction, filled out a wilderness entry permit and headed up a fog free Vista Ridge.
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Unlike our last visit this time we could see Mt. Hood through the snags as we climbed.
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Looking back over our shoulders we could see the cloud that had caused us to turn back was not actually over Owl Point.
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IMG_9690 Mt. Adams beyond Owl Point

Most of the avalanche lilies were already past until shortly after entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness a mile up the Vista Ridge Trail.
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At first the lilies were sparse but then small patches appeared followed by increasingly large fields of white.
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As we gained elevation we left the heavy bloom behind and began seeing flowers that had yet to open.
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We hit snow about two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
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It was patchy and navigable without needing our microspikes and we continued uphill for another quarter mile passing a nice view of Mt. Adams and the Eden Park Trail along the way.
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IMG_9749Eden Park Trail

We ended our climb at a snowfield where the Vista Ridge Trail headed left of the ridge toward its junction with the Timberline Trail.
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The trail looked passable with the microspikes but we had a nice view from where we were and didn’t see a point in continuing on given we still wanted to get out to Owl Point and we were planning on hiking for the next three days straight.
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Near our turn around we spotted some other early bloomers – western pasque flowers aka hippies on a stick.
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IMG_9774western pasque flowers already going to seed

Paintbrush and cinquefoil was also present.
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After an extended break enjoying the view of Mt. Hood we headed back down to the Old Vista Ridge Trail junction stopping along the way to once again admire the avalanche lilies and also to share a moment with a friendly yellow-rumped warbler.
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We turned back onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and repeated the first section which seemed to climb more this second time. (At least our legs felt like it did.) This time there was no fog though and we soon found ourselves at a viewpoint looking at Owl Point.
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There was also a decent view of Mt. Hood.
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After the initial climb the trail leveled out some along the ridge top where a few patches of snow remained.
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That meant more avalanche lilies, although nowhere near the numbers that Vista Ridge was home to.
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After climbing to a saddle we came to a sign for The Rockpile viewpoint.
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The short spur trail led out to a nice view of Mt. Hood but we had startled a dog that was with some backpackers and it wouldn’t stop barking so we quickly took our leave heading for quieter surroundings.
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The spur trail to Owl Point was just a tenth of a mile from the trail to the Rockpile.
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We followed this spur to it’s end at a register at Owl Point.
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Laurance Lake lay below to the east with Surveryors Ridge beyond.
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Mt. Hood was the main attraction though.
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We sat for awhile admiring the mountain and studying Vista Ridge where we could see the trail cutting across the snow beyond where we had turned around.
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We also spent some time looking for pikas but never saw (or heard) any. We did however have a butterfly join us briefly.
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When we had returned to the Old Vista Ridge Trail we continued north for another tenth of a mile to visit Alki Point.
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This viewpoint looked north and on a cleared day would have offered views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. We settled for a glimpse of Rainier’s summit above some clouds (that’s Mt. Defiance in the foreground) and a semi-obstructed view of Mt. Adams.
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IMG_9939Mt. Rainier (sort of)

IMG_9941Mt. Adams

We headed back to the trailhead completing a 10.8 mile hike that would have been under 10 had we not had the false start on the Old Vista Ridge Trail in the morning. The avalanche lilies had not disappointed, it was a great way to start a four day stretch of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Owl Point and Vista Ridge

Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

After striking out on a view of Mt. Hood during our previous hike on the Boulder Ridge Trail (post) we planned on trying again during our next outing by visiting Lost Lake. The hikes around Lost Lake and up Lost Lake Butte had been on our schedule in both of the previous years but changes in those plans had bumped it back to this year.

A featured hike in Sullivan’s NW Oregon book (hike #74 in the 4th edition) it presented an issue with our rule to not have our driving time be longer than our hiking time. At a little under 8 miles for both trails we figured the hike would wind up taking us around 4 hours based on our typical pace leaving us an hour short of the 5 hour round trip driving time. Our solution was to add a pair of stops along the way where we could do a couple of short hikes which would bring the times closer in line with each other.

Our route to Lost Lake would be via Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River so for our first stop of the day we chose the less than a mile and a half round trip to Gorton Creek Falls. This hike began at the same trailhead (at Wyeth Campground) that we had used in 2016 for the Wyeth Trail (post) which REMAINS CLOSED after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Wyeth Trailhead

In fact with closures still in place over numerous parts of the gorge we stopped to consult the closure map both at the trailhead and then at the fence erected blocking access to the Wyeth Trail at its junction with the Gorge Trail.
Eagle Creek Fire closure map

With Gorton Creek outside of the closure area and no visible signs of closure we followed the unofficial trail along Gorton Creek from the junction.
Trail along Gorton Creek

A nice path follows the creek for about a half mile where it ends near Emerald Falls, a small 10′ cascade.
Emerald Falls

Emerald Falls

The much taller Gorton Creek Falls is another 100 yards up the creek and requires a bit of scrambling along the left side of the creek over boulders and through trees.
Gorton Creek

Gorton CreekLooking down the scramble route.

Obstacles along Gorton CreekSome of the obstacles

Gorton Creek below Gorton FallsFirst sight of Gorton Creek Falls through the trees.

Gorton Falls

It is a nice two tiered waterfall but the upper tier is only visible from certain angles.
Gorton Falls

Gorton Falls

After admiring the falls we headed back down to the trailhead completing the very nice 1.3 mile hike. We then continued driving east on I-84 to Hood River where we took exit 62 and followed our GPS to the Punchbowl Falls Park Trailhead. Not to be confused with the more famous Punch Bowl Falls which is located on Eagle Creek (also CLOSED due to the Eagle Creek Fire) this Punchbowl Falls is located on the West Fork Hood River in a county park established in 2016 after the land was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy. Trailkeepers of Oregon have since constructed trails (with a new one set to open this year) allowing for a short loop hike through oak woodlands and past a pair of waterfalls.

The trail starts at a gated service road.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Just beyond the gate are a signs for the park and trails.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

We took the West Fork Trail which led to an open hillside with a few lingering ookow in bloom overlooking the West Fork Hood River.
West Fork Hood River

Ookow

The path followed the river gorge through the oak woodland where there had been a nice lupine display by the looks of it.
West Fork Trail

Lupine

As we neared Punchbowl Falls we could see the crumbling remains of a staircase that had led down to a fish ladder along the river.
Old staircase to a fish ladder

Old staircase to a fish ladder

A very short side trail led to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and the wide bowl at the base.
Punchbowl Falls

Pool below Punchbowl Falls

We could also see the top of Mt. Hood rising up above the trees up river. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen near the mountain which was a great sign for our hike up Lost Lake Butte later.
Mt. Hood above the trees

Mt. Hood

From the viewpoint we continued on the West Fork Trail toward Dead Point Falls.
Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

Another viewpoint along the way looked back up river to Punchbowl Falls and Mt. Hood as well as across the gorge to Dead Point Falls.
Punchbowl Falls

Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Just a little further along was a signed spur trail to another viewpoint of Dead Point Falls and the confluence of Dead Point Creek and the West Fork Hood River.
Sign for Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Beyond the Dead Point Falls viewpoint we came to a junction with the Dogwood Trail which could be used to make a short loop back to the trailhead. We stuck to the West Fork Trail which descended slightly to another viewpoint, this time of the confluence of the West and East Forks of Hood River.
Trail junction in Punchbowl Falls Park

Punchbowl Falls Park

The East Fork Hood River was noticeably siltier having the clouded color indicitive of glacier runoff.
Confluence of the West and East Fork Hood Rivers

At a junction just beyond the viewpoint we turned right at a point for the East Fork Trail opting not to continue down to the river which was only a tenth of a mile or two away but we didn’t really feel like climbing back up.
East Fork Trail sign

By the end of this year the East Fork Trail will extend out along the East Fork Hood River but for now this path brought us to the gated serviced road which we turned right onto and followed back toward the trailhead.
Punchbowl Falls Park

After about 150 yards we came to the Dogwood Trail as it crossed the road where we turned uphill to the left.
Dogwood Trail

A lone pink pyrola was blooming along this trail which we followed through the wood for two tenths of a mile to signboards and completing a .9 mile loop.
Pink pyrola

Dogwood Trail

From Punchbowl Falls Park we drove back the way we’d come a mile to Lost Lake Road were we took a right and followed a car with Florida license plates nearly the entire 13.5 paved miles to the entrance to the Lost Lake Campground. I bring this up to ask that if people aren’t comfortable driving on the narrow curvy forest roads that’s fine but when you have cars following you and are going 20 mph below the speed limit and have multiple chances to pull over, please do it (end mini-rant).
Lost Lake Campground entrance

There is currently a $9 day-use fee charged to enter the Lost Lake area but the OregonHkers Field Guide mentioned a possible starting point along gated Jones Creek Road just before the campground entrance. We parked at a small pullout here (room for a couple of cars).
Pullout near Lost Lake Campground

The precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Skyline Trail (now the Old Skyline Trail) could be accessed here and followed up to the Lost Lake Butte Trail. The only problem was we didn’t read the field guide closely enough. It states that there is a sign for the Old Skyline Trail at the road junction, but the GPS map showed the trail leaving the road a little beyond the gate. Having missed that detail we headed up the road watching for the trail which didn’t materialize. Just under a quarter mile from the gate the road forked and we followed the left hand fork which led toward the location of the trail on the map. Approximately 100 yards later we found the unsigned Old Skyline Trail crossing the road.
Old Skyline Trail

We turned right onto the trail and followed it through the forest looking for a four way junction where we would turn onto the Lost Lake Butte Trail. That trail was also not where the map on the Garmin indicated it would be. The junction was about a tenth of a mile further south than shown on the map but it was obvious and well signed.
Lost Lake Butte and Old Skyline Trail junction

Old Skyline Trail junction with the Lost Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we took the Lost Lake Butte Trail and began the 1000 plus foot climb to the summit. A Forest Service Crew had just come through the weekend before to do maintenance, so it was in great shape.
Lost Lake Butte Trail

Lost Lake Butte Trail

The forested route offered no views to speak of and there was as an unusual lack of flowers along the route but it wasn’t a bad climb and in 45 minutes we were passing the remains of the Lost Lake Butte lookout tower.
Foundation from the old lookout on Lost Lake Butte

Although much of the former 360 degree view is now blocked by trees the view south to Mt. Hood remains and is spectacular.
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

To the right of Mt. Hood we also had a pretty good view of the upper portion of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

It was also possible to look north across the Columbia River and see Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

After spending some time enjoying the view and talking with a couple form Astoria who were staying at the Lost Lake Lodge we headed down. When we arrived back at the four way junction we crossed over the Old Skyline Trail and followed the trail down to a paved road crossing.
Trail crossing of the Lost Lake Camground road

Google has this marked as the Old Growth Trailhead but the sign here called this the Rhododendron Trail which led to the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail to the Old Growth Trail

Rhododendron Trail

We followed this trail through the forest to a junction where we turned left onto the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail

Trail sign at Lost Lake

The Old Growth Trail is an interpretive trail with a number of informational signboards along the way. It joined the Shrader Old Growth Trail (post) as one of our favorite interpretive trails. Much of the trail was boardwalk and there were a few pullouts with benches where one could sit and enjoy the forest.
Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Bench along the Old Gowth Trailone of the pullouts

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

The Old Growth Trail ended at another paved road crossing (it was a mile one-way in between the two roads).
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

We crossed the road and followed a pointer for the Lakeshore Trail.
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

The Lakeshore Trail, as it’s name suggests, loops around the shore of Lost Lake. We turned left when we reached the trail and started our way clockwise around the lake.
Lost Lake

We passed the Huckleberry Mountain Trail which connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail on the ridge above Lost Lake. We had passed the upper end of the trail on our visit to Buck Peak in 2016. (post)

Lakeshore Trail junction with the Huckleberry Mountain Trail

The trail looped around to the west side of Lost Lake where the hillside was much steeper than that of the opposite side where Lost Lake Butte rose up from the forest.
Forest along Lost Lake

Lost Lake Butte from Lost Lake

There was one short section where the trail was under water and a brief but steep detour led up the hillside and back down. Other than that the trail was in good shape. Flowers including rhododendron, anemones, bleeding heart and wild bugbane were in bloom.
Lakeshore Trail

Rhododendron blossoms

Anemone

Bleeding heart

Wild bugbane

The trail briefly becomes a boardwalk as it passes over the lake’s inlet creeks where small fish and rough skinned newts could be seen swimming.
Lakeshore Trail

There were some little fish swimming here

Rough skinned newt

As we made our way around the lake Mt. Hood finally began to come into view.
Mt. Hood across Lost Lake

Numerous side trails led down to the shore between the boardwalk and the Lost Lake Resort providing excellent views of Mt. Hood and lots of newts to watch in the clear water.
Mt. Hood from the Lakeshore Trail

Rough skinned newts

Rough skinned newt

Bench along the Lakeshore Trail

Mt. Hood from the bench

Things were pretty hectic as we neared the day-use area and only got busier as we neared the lodge.
Sign for the Lost Lake General Store

We left the Lakeshore Trail near the lodge and cut up through the resort toward the entrance road in hopes of following it back to our car. We had just popped out of some trees onto that road when a pickup passed us and we heard someone call out my name. We turned to look as the truck stopped and realized it was my cousin Lance and his family. They were visiting the lake for the first time too and were planning on doing some kayaking. It was quite the random encounter. After saying hi we went our separate ways and returned to our car and headed home. We wound up taking Highway 35 to Highway 26 around Mt. Hood instead of returning via I-84 after pulling up Google traffic and seeing that there were at least two accidents holding up traffic on the Interstates.

Our route on the trails at Lost Lake added up to 7.7 miles giving us 9.9 miles combined. It turned out to be a nice combination of hikes with varying scenery and different types of trails and best of all we got to see Mt. Hood this time around. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

Boulder Ridge Trail and Wildwood Recreaction Area

Our most recent hike brought us to the BLM managed Wildwood Recreation Site. We were going to be taking the Boulder Ridge Trail from the site to a viewpoint along Huckleberry Mountain in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. The view had escaped us during a 2015 hike the same viewpoint using the Bonanza Trail (post). Cloudy conditions that day had been our downfall so we were a little apprehensive when we saw the forecast calling for a slight chance of showers in the morning but then it called for the skies becoming mostly sunny.

With the Wildwood Recreation Site not opening until 8am (the road is gated) it meant we would be getting a little later start than we normally would which would hopefully give the clouds more time to burn off. After paying the $5 day use fee we parked at the trailhead parking area which acts as the trailhead for the Boulder Ridge Trail as well as for two short interpretive trails – The Cascade Streamwatch and the Wetlands. We decided to do both of these before heading up the Boulder Ridge Trail to give the weather even more time to clear up.
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We began with the paved Cascade Streamwatch Trail.
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The trail led down through the forest to the bank of the Salmon River with several interpretive signs along the way.
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Of particular interest was a 3D model of the Salmon River drainage including Mt. Hood. It mapped out the southern and western flowing creeks and rivers drain into the Sandy River and eventually the Columbia.
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Further along the loop is an underwater viewing area. There were only a few small fish visible on this day but we imagined that at times it would be quite a sight.
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We continued on the loop which passed a sandy beach near a deep hole in the Salmon River where at times spawning steelhead trout and chinook salmon can be seen.
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After completing this short (under a mile) informative loop we returned to the trailhead parking and walked over to a signboard for the Boulder Ridge Trail.
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A paved path here lead to a bridge spanning the Salmon River and the start of the Wetlands Boardwalk.
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We took each of the side trails along the boardwalk starting with the detour to Cattail Marsh.
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The next side trip was to see the results of beaver dams and how they help create the wetlands. We didn’t see any beavers (yet again) but there were some newts swimming in the waters.
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Next up was a “Ghost Forest” caused by rising waters caused by the beavers work.
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The boardwalk then passed a large amount of skunk cabbage before reaching a final detour to a view of the transition from a wetland to a stream.
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The boardwalk ended at a junction where a left turn led to the Boulder Ridge Trail while a right turn would complete a short loop back to the parking area (also under a mile total).
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Left we went passing a sign for the Boulder Ridge Trail and signing in at a signboard.
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The trail wasted little time in launching uphill needing to gain 3100′ to reach the top of Huckleberry Mountain. Not only did it head uphill immediately but it crossed a rocky area that had been exposed by a series of seeps. It looked narrow and possibly slick.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining 1400′ in then next two and a quarter miles where a rocky viewpoint looked into clouds instead of Mt. Hood. Just a bit before reaching the viewpoint we had entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. One thing that has never disappointed us about the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and surrounding area is the beauty of the forest. The clouds might have been blocking our views of Mt. Hood but the fog added a nice element to the forest.
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IMG_9169Rhododendron

IMG_9171Honeysuckle

IMG_9172Beargrass and rhododendron along the trail.

IMG_9180Coralroot and sourgrass

IMG_9188Candy stick

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IMG_9197Damp iris

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We passed by the viewpoint hoping that maybe there would be a view by the time we were headed back down. The trail continued to climb gaining another 800′ over the next mile and a quarter where another rock viewpoint looked east.
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IMG_9222Green lichen

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IMG_9255A few trees peaking through the clouds along McIntyre Ridge (post)

With no view to speak of we turned our attention to the flowers in the area.
IMG_9248Penstemon

IMG_9245Paintbrush

IMG_9250Biscuitroot

IMG_9252Beargrass

IMG_9358Lupine

For the next half mile the trail climbed more gradually spending some time on the ridge top amid a carpet of green before dropping off and arriving at a small seasonal stream where some Scouler’s corydalis was blooming.
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Another half mile of climbing brought us to the end of the Boulder Ridge Trail at a signed junction with the Plaza Trail.
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The only choice to continue here was to turn right onto the Plaza Trail as there is no longer any discernible continuation of it to the left of the junction.
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It was almost 11:45 now and we had been hoping that the skies would be starting to clear but looking up revealed no sign of it happening anytime soon. We still had approximately a mile and a half to our goal though so we sallied forth. After a brief respite from climbing the trail headed uphill into more fog.
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As the trail passed the 4000′ elevation it passed through a small grassy meadow where a few phlox were blooming.
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As the trail gained the final 280′ of elevation there were more open areas where indian plum was blooming while the beargrass was just starting.
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We passed by a large ant pile.
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When we reached the viewpoint the clouds had not only not lifted but they were actually worse than they had been in 2015.
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Huckleberry Mountains summit2015

Slightly disappointed we made our way to a rock outcrop and again looked to the nearby flowers instead of Mt. Hood.
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IMG_9319Phlox

IMG_9329Paintbrush

IMG_9333Penstemon

IMG_9342Avalanch lily

IMG_9322Wild onion

We stayed for a bit looking for any hint of the clouds breaking but they sky remained a canvas of white so we started back down shortly before 1pm. The view had changed quite a bit at the eastern facing viewpoint when we arrived 45 minutes later. It was still overcast but the clouds had lifted noticeably.
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By the time we reached the lower viewpoint that we had not stopped at earlier there was a significant amount of blue sky overhead.
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The only problem was a mass of clouds directly over (or in front of) Mt. Hood.
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You win some you lose some. We made our way back down to the Salmon River stopping to admire some yellow coral root along the way.
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Despite missing out on the view again the 12.9 mile hike was a good one albeit challenging with over 3000′ of elevation gain. The interpretive trails were a lot of fun and the Mt. Hood National Forest in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness was as scenic as ever. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Boulder Ridge

Dog River Trail

A bit of potentially wet weather had us looking for a hike that had the potential to be dry and not too dependent on having a view.  We, of course, also preferred it to be a new hike.  We turned to Matt Reeder’s 2nd edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” for inspiration.  A recent addition to our collection of guidebooks, “Off the Beaten Trail” features 50 hikes plus 5 bonus hikes within a two and half hour drive of downtown Portland.  While a number of the hikes are also mentioned in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks (our usual go-to source) they are typically additional hikes from the back of the books so they lack in-depth detail.  There are also several hikes that don’t appear in Sullivan’s books.

We chose the Dog River Trail (Reeder’s Hike #30) due to its location and a favorable looking forecast. According to NOAA there was a 30% chance of showers after 11am and being located on the east side of Mt. Hood often meant less cloud cover. After driving through a few showers in the Columbia Gorge we did indeed find some blue sky near Hood River and the views of Mt. Hood were perfect as we drove south on Highway 35.

The Dog River Trail
begins at the Dog River Trailhead along the eastern shoulder of Highway 35 18.2 miles south of Hood River (20 miles north of the junction with Highway 26).
Dog River Trailhead

The most common users of this trail are mountain bikers, a group of which have adopted the trail.
Plaque at the Dog River Trailhead

The trail starts off at an elevation just over 2100′ and climbs steadily nearly 5.5 miles to its end at a three way junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails.

Just beyond the gate at the trailhead the trail passes very close to the Dog River.
Dog River

We quickly lost sight of the river as we climbed along a hillside to a footbridge over Puppy Creek.
Dog River Trail

Puppy Creek

The next 1.8 miles was a gradual climb past a variety of wildflowers before dropping slightly to the Dog River.
Chocolate LilyChocolate lily

Vanilla leaf along the Dog River TrailVanilla leaf

AnemoneColumbia windflower (anemone)

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

Ball-head waterleafBall-head waterleaf

Dogwood and a crab spiderDogwood (and a crab spider)

ArnicaArnica

LupineLupine

Lupine starting to budLupine yet to bloom

Woodland starsWoodland stars

Larkspur and biscuitrootLarkspur with biscuitroot in the background

Fairy slippersFairy slippers

PaintbrushIndian paintbrush

Popcorn flowerPopcorn flower

SandwortSandwort

sticky blue-eyed marySticky blue-eyed mary

Fairy bellsHooker’s fairy bells

Solomon's sealSolomon’s seal

One of the reasons for the variety of flowers was the variety of forest types along this stretch.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Another footbridge led us across the Dog River.
Dog River Trail

Dog River

Beyond the Dog River the trail climbed to a saddle and crossed over a ridge.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

We were now on the west facing side of the ridge and had our first looks at Mt. Hood. Initially the mountain is only visible through the trees but 1.3 miles from the Dog River crossing we came to a rocky viewpoint. From the time we had last seen the mountain driving to the trailhead a line of clouds had begun to make there way in between.
Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Considering we had started the day thinking we would be lucky to see even part of the mountain this was a pretty nice treat, but after having an unobstructed view during the drive the clouds were a minor disappointment. While the view was impressive it would have been spectacular minus the clouds in front.

In addition to the view there were a couple of other types of flowers to be seen at the viewpoint.
PenstemonPenstemon

PhloxPhlox

Reeder has this viewpoint be the turn around point in the guidebook making for a 6.6 mile out and back. He also describe a couple of options to extend the hike which of course interested us (okay mostly me). We continued on from the viewpoint promptly crossing over the ridge again. From this side we could now see Mt. Adams through the trees to the north. A bonus volcano sighting.
Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

A series of switchbacks brought us back over the west facing side of the ridge and up a short, steep, rocky section of trail.
Dog River Trail

We began watching for any signs of an old road bed on top the ridge above the trail. The plan we had settled on to extend the hike was to hopefully use a forest road shown on the map to make the hike a lollipop by taking the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail to the forest service road. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the switchbacks we spotted a promising looking unmarked spur trail heading uphill to our left.
Dog River Trail on the right with a spur to FR 620 on the left

We marked that spot on our GPS and continued on the Dog River Trail which had leveled out a bit passing another viewpoint that Reeder has marked on his map as “Ponderosa Point”. The view here would have also been impressive but we arrived in conjunction with enough clouds to cover the upper 3/4ths of the mountain. A talus slope nearby was more impressive at that point and we wondered if any pika lived there.
Talus field along the Dog River Trail

We didn’t see or hear any and continued on. The trail began to descend slightly passing through some nice forest. We kept our eyes out for flowers and any other interesting sights.
Dog River Trail

ManzanitaManzanita

CurrantA currant

Jacob's ladderJacob’s ladder

Something has been busyPopular tree

There were a few openings toward Mt. Hood but the clouds were keeping most of it covered. We did get a nice look at Polallie Creek Falls though.
Polallie Creek Falls

We had been watching for wildlife too but aside from a few birds and a couple of millipedes all we saw was a slug on one of several small bridges over wet spots.
Slug on a footbridge

Slug

When we arrived at the junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails we noticed a fourth trail signed “Viewpoint”.
Viewpoint at the Dog River Trail and Zig Zag Trail jct

This short trail led briefly downhill to a view north of Highway 35 and the East Fork Hood River (Mt. Hood was still hiding).
Highay 35 and the East Fork Hood River

After checking out the viewpoint we returned to the junction and turned onto the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

The Surveryor’s Ridge Trail climbed gently through the forest for nearly a mile before arriving at Forest Road 620 and Dufur Mill Road (Forest Road 44).
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Trillium

Jacob's ladderThere was quite a bit of Jacob’s ladder along this stretch of trail.

Oregon anemoneOregon anemone

Forest Road 620Forest Road 620.

There was a single truck parked here and an outhouse. Along the shoulder of Dufur Mill Road there was also a small patch of snow. We had wondered if there was any remaining at this elevation (4240′). We turned left and headed north along FR 620 where we soon found a few more patches of lingering snow.
Snow along Forest Road 620

Forest Road 620

It was a pleasant but uneventful road walk. We followed the road downhill ignoring two forks to the left followed by an overgrown fork to the right.
Forest Road 620

After entering an area that had been clearcut sometime in the past Heather spotted a sign post off to our right (approximately 1.75mi along FR 620). I went to investigate.
Wy'East Middle School sign amid trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class

Just in case anyone from the Wy’East Middle School 1994 8th grade class is wondering here are the trees that were near the sign.
Trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class of Wy'East Middle School

Shortly after finding the sign the road finished bending to the west and we began heading toward the Dog River Trail. The road then turned northward again along the ridge above the Dog River Trail. There were a couple of viewpoints along this stretch including one at the top of the talus slope we had scanned for pikas earlier that day.
Mt. Hood behind some cloudsA still cloudy Mt. Hood

Dog River Trail below the talus slopeLooking down the talus slope with the Dog River Trail visible between the trees to the right.

The road bed had been steadily narrowing the further we went.
Forest Road 620

After a little over 2.5 miles on the road we passed a promising view of Mt. Adams if not for the clouds that had now overtaken it as well. We settled for a nice view of Bald Mountain which we had hiked in 2017 (post) and is accessible via the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Bald Butte in the distance

Bald Butte

Not far from that viewpoint the old roadbed ended and we found ourselves on a short section of trail connecting us back to the Dog River Trail.
Trail connecting Forest Road 620 to the Dog River Trail

We had indeed come out via the spur trail we had marked that morning. The stretch between the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and Dog River Trail was 2.75 miles and we were now just over 3.5 miles from the Dog River Trailhead. We had seen the first other people of the day from the viewpoint atop the talus slope when a pair of trail runners went by down on the Dog River Trail. Now that it was later we encountered a few mountain bikers on our way back but it was far from busy. We stopped at the first viewpoint again to say goodbye to the mountain. The clouds had changed again and now they were just covering the very top portion.
Mt. Hood behind some clouds

This gave us a nice look at Barrett Spur.
Barrett Spur

We also had a good view of the Eliot Glacier.
Elliot Glacier on Mt. Hood

Our lollipop came in at 13.3 miles with approximately 2500′ of cumulative elevation gain. The showers never developed and we got to see a lot more of the mountains than we had honestly expected. The variety of wildflowers was good and there looked to be plenty more getting ready to bloom in the next week or two. It certainly felt off the beaten trail but it was definitely worth the visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dog River Trail

Devil’s Peak

The end of September/beginning of October brings us a pair of birthday celebrations, my Grandma on 9/30 and our Son on 10/1. We planned a joint celebration dinner in Portland but before the festivities we headed out on a hike to work up an appetite.

Due to the plans we needed a hike near Portland in the 8 to 10 mile range and hiking up the Cool Creek Trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout fit the bill perfectly. We headed out early to the Cool Creek Trailhead. Oddly our guidebook had us turn on Road 20 at the east end of Rhododendron, OR instead of west of Rohododendron on Still Creek Road which is how the Forest Service directions have you go. We followed the guidebook directions only to be turned back by a closed bridge and had to go back to Still Creek Road. After finding the open route to the trailhead we parked along the shoulder of the road and set off on the Cool Creek Trail.
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The trail started with a steep incline, a reminder that it needed to gain over 3000′ over the next 4 miles. Not far from the trailhead we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail is mostly forested with a few glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees.
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The best early view came just over a mile along the trail. For about two tenths of a mile the trail passed along an open hillside with a view across the valley to Mt. Hood.
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The trail then passed around to the other side of a ridge where it pretty much remained for the next two miles. The forest here still housed a good number of red and blue huckleberries.
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There were sections of more level trail in the forest which gave a nice break from the climbing, but also meant that the elevation would need to be made up on the sections of uphill.
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Approximately 3.25 miles from the trailhead a spur to the left led to a rocky ridge top which provided what turned out to be the best viewpoint of the day.
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IMG_3232The rocky ridge

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From this point four Cascades were visible, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
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IMG_3207Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3209Mt. Rainier

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Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (post) was also clearly visible to the NE.
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Beyond the ridge viewpoint the trail traversed the hillside on the west side of the ridge climbing for another quarter mile past one more viewpoint of Mt. Hood to its end at the Hunchback Trail.
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A spur trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout is just 500 feet after turning right onto the Hunchback Trail.
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The lookout is a little over 200 feet up this spur.
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The tower is available for use on a first come, first serve basis so there was a possibility that it was occupied but it turned out to be empty.
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Mt. Hood was visible from the lookout.
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I had gone ahead of Heather and Dominique who had joined us for the hike so I explored Devil’s Peak while I waited for them to arrive.
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IMG_3263Mt. Jefferson in some haze to the south.

IMG_3268Mt. Hood

IMG_3272Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

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IMG_3300Clouds coming up the Salmon River Valley

IMG_3339Butterflies on the lookout.

IMG_3346One of several birds foraging in the bushes near the lookout.

It turned out that I had gotten quite a bit ahead and wound up spending about an hour and a half at the tower watching the clouds break up above while they also moved in below.
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After they joined me at the lookout they took a break as well then we headed back down. At the ridge viewpoint the view of Mt. Hood was better than it had been earlier, but not for the other Cascades.
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We continued back down stopping to gather some huckleberries to take to my Grandmas house. We wound up passing beneath the clouds losing Mt. Hood for the last mile and a half.
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It was a tough 8 mile hike given the elevation gain but the views were well worth the effort. That effort was also rewarded with a nice birthday dinner and a tasty piece of cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Peak

Salmon River Overnight

For our first overnight outing of 2018 we chose the Salmon River Trail which we had previously visited on August 30, 2015. (post) That hike included approximately 3.5 miles of the 14 mile trail from the west trailhead. This time we would start from the east trailhead with our plan being to set up camp somewhere along the trail then continue to same viewpoint where we had turned around on our previous visit to complete the trail.

Before we could start our hike though we needed to get some water since the city of Salem’s water had been testing positive for a toxin. We stopped at the Trillium Lake picnicking area on our way to the trailhead and filled our packs there. We didn’t take the time to visit the lake since we were on a mission to start hiking but we did stop again on they way home to see the lake and its view of Mt. Hood.
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After filling up on water we continued to the trailhead where we were the only vehicle. The trailhead also serves as the north trailhead for the Jackpot Meadows Trail.
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We took the signed Salmon River Trail and headed downhill.
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The trail descended in the first quarter mile to a footbridge over Mud Creek which flows from Trillium Lake.
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This was the only creek crossing with an official bridge. Over the next mile and a half the trail would cross Fir Tree Creek three separate times.
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Between the first and second crossings the trail passed a now abandoned section of trail that led up to the Dry Fir Trail.
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It also passed through some nice forest with rhododendron beginning to bloom along with a little beargrass.
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Beyond the third crossing of Fir Tree Creek we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and passed through a variety of scenery.
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The trail also crossed more creeks.
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We had passed a few possible campsites but felt they were too close to the trailhead, but after 5.5 miles we came to a junction with the Linney Creek Trail.
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We had spotted some potential campsites along the Salmon River from above just before the junction so we turned down the Linney Creek Trail to check them out.
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The remnants of an old bridge could be seen on the far side of the Salmon River where the Linney Creek Trail used to cross.
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There was a nice large established campsite here which we claimed and set up camp.
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After getting set up we switched to our day packs and climbed the short distance back up to the Salmon River Trail and continued west. For the next three miles the trial continued above the Salmon River to a junction with the Kinzel Lake Trail. We began seeing more flowers along this stretch and also saw the first of two garter snakes for the day.
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Shortly before reaching the Kinzel Lake Trail we crossed Kinzel Creek which had a small waterfall visible through trees.
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IMG_4853Kinzel Lake Trail

The flower display continued to improve beyond the Kinzel Lake junction with the rhodies now in full bloom.
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IMG_4870Spotted coralroot

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We also passed our first other person of the day when we spotted another backpacker camped near Goat Creek. A bit over a half mile beyond Goat Creek the trail entered a grassy area with the first real viewpoint of the day.
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We turned out toward the viewpoint where we found more flowers and a limited view of the Salmon River below.
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IMG_4896Larkspur

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We knew from our 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon guidebook that there was a series of three viewpoints along this section of trail. The third of which (coming form the east) being the only one we had visited on our previous hike. After the first viewpoint we passed by what appeared to be a use trail and kept going for a moment before deciding to go back and make sure this wasn’t the route to the middle viewpoint. It was not, but what it turned out to be was the very steep, rugged scramble to an overlook of Frustration Falls.
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We were aware that there was a use trail to a view of these falls and originally had no intention of seeking it out. We lucked out in that the conditions were perfect on this day so the trail was not wet or muddy which could make it extra slick. It was slick enough just due to the steepness and loose rocks so we relied heavily on our poles. In all the trail lost around 350 feet in less than a quarter mile. This was definitely not a trail for everyone and anyone wishing to attempt it does so at their own risk. With that said we were happy to have accidentally stumbled on the trail and sat next to a small creek with it’s own fall for a bit admiring the thundering cataract below.
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IMG_4941Cliffs along the hillside above the Salmon River

After the break we struggled back up the scramble path.
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Shortly after being back on the Salmon River Trail we came to the actual middle viewpoint which didn’t have a view of the river at all just up and down the forested canyon.
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Another quarter mile brought us to the start of a familiar small loop around the final viewpoint area.
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This was as far as we’d come from the west end of the trail and meant that we had now covered the entire Salmon River Trail. The grassy viewpoint here was full of June flowers which would be long gone at the end of August.
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The view was quite a bit different too.
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Salmon River Canyon

We finished the .4 mile loop and started back for camp. We had run into a few more hikers since Goat Creek but by the time we got back to the campsites along that creek we had passed them all. We saw one additional hiker between Goat Creek and the Kinzel Lake Trail then not another soul on the rest of the backpacking trip.

We got back to camp a quarter to five and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I had figured that it could be a 16 mile day if we decided to camp near Linney Creek, but I hadn’t figured in the side trips to viewpoints, the scramble trail down to the Frustration Falls view, or the hike up and down the Linney Creek Trail to the campsite. At the end of the day we’d covered closer to 18 miles so we were pretty well pooped. We were however excited to try out some new pieces of gear including an Enlightened Equipment quilt that Heather had recently purchased and for me it was a Thermarest Air Head pillow.

We were both pleased with our new gear and after a good nights sleep at what turned out to be a great campsite we were up at 5am ready to hike back to the trailhead. Even though we had hiked those same 5.5 miles the previous day we managed to spot some candy sticks starting to sprout that we’d missed on our way by the first time.
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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post we stopped by Trillium Lake on the way home where we got some more water and took a look at the lake. This time we paid a $5 day use fee that attendants were collecting, apparently we were there early enough the day before that the attendants weren’t yet out. We figured we’ve paid $5 for two bottles of water before so why not.

Were looking forward to more overnight trips in the next several months and this was a great trial run for the new gear. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon River Overnight

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_1073Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

IMG_1071Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

IMG_1096The rest of Tom Dick and Harry Mt.

IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails