Category Archives: Old Cascades

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Days 2 & 3 – 5/24 & 5/25/2020

After the 14.5 mile hike to find our campsite the day before (post) we woke up a little before 6am and ate breakfast by the river. We were excited to spend a day without our full packs. Based on my calculations we were anticipating the mileage for the day to be close to 14 miles (it was more but we’ll get to that later) so a lighter weight pack was welcome.

We set off just after 7am and the trail began to climb away from the river not far from where we’d camped.Middle Fork Trail

There was still a bit of that pesky poison oak present when the conditions were just right but we could tell we were gaining elevation by the change in the forest and some of the flowers we were starting to see.Vanilla leaf along the Middle Fork Trail

Vanilla leaf

Arnica

Arnica

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River from the Middle Fork Trail

Viewpoint above the river.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Closer look at some stonecrop.

Just under 2.5 miles from camp we arrived at the lovely Rigdon Meadows near Sacandaga Campground (which I had begun referring to as Scandinavia because I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to be pronounced).Rigdon Meadows

Western buttercup and camasCamas and buttercups at Rigdon Meadows.

The campground remained closed due to COVID-19 and the road was gated but there were several campers parked near the meadows.Middle Fork Trail

Gate at the closed entrance to Sacandaga Campground.

We picked up the trail on the other side of the gate where it joined the route of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road.Middle Fork Trail at the start of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The wagon road was planned to stretch from Eugene, OR to Fort Boise in Idaho but much of it was nothing more than a rudimentary trail (Wikipedia) that allowed private companies to acquire public lands along the stretches of road that they “completed”.

This 1.2 mile section of the wagon road passed a small unnamed lake near its crest.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Unnamed lake along the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The other end of this portion of the wagon road was located near a meadow where some idiot had driven onto the grass from a nearby forest road.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Middle Fork Trail

About a half mile after crossing the road the trail crossed Noisy Creek.Unnamed Creek

A short distance later we crossed another muddy forest road and then came to a decent sized creek that wasn’t on either our paper or GPS maps.Middle Fork Trail

Noisy Creek

After the mystery creek we came to the signed Swift Creek which was the widest creek we’d crossed on the trip.Footbridge over Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Former bridge over Swift Creek.

The scenery really began changing beyond Swift Creek. We hadn’t seen any poison oak since the wagon road and now we were in a drier forest with huge ponderosa pines and cedars. We were also high enough now to see some blooming rhododendrons. I did manage to pick up my second tick of the trip somewhere in this area.Dogwood along the Middle Fork Trail

Ponderosa behind a dogwood tree.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron near the dogwood tree.

Tall cedars along the Middle Fork Trail

Cedar

The trail dropped down towards the river to a wetter area between Skunk and Found Creeks.Skunk Creek

Skunk Creek

Tall bluebells

Tall bluebells

Middle Fork Trail

Slug

The Middle Fork Willamette River was a narrower here and doing it’s best to erode the riverbank.Erosion along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

The narrower Middle Fork Willamette River

The trail soon began to climb above the river along some basalt cliffs where several springs flowed out from the rocks earning the moniker of Cliff Springs.Cliff Springs

Cliff Springs

Middle Fork Trail near Cliff Springs

On the far side of the springs the trail dropped again to a crossing of Indigo Creek.Middle Fork Trail

Before reaching the creek we stopped to listen to a wren signing.Wren

Bridge over Indigo Creek

Bridge over Indigo Creek.

Indigo Creek flowing into the Middle Fork Willamette River

Indigo Creek empyting into the Middle Fork Willamette River.

About a tenth of a mile from Indigo Creek we arrived at a junction where a trail to the left had a pointer for Indigo Springs.Trail to Indigo Springs

We turned up this short trail and climbed to FR 21 where we again turned left and followed the paved road a short distance to the entrance of Indigo Springs Campground.Heading toward Indigo Springs

Coming to FR 21.

The status of this particular area was a bit hazy. The 3 site campground was closed as well as the restrooms, but the Willamette National Forest had opened all day-use trailheads (not the restrooms at those with toilets). We walked up the access road to the 1 parking spot trailhead (which was occupied with a second car nearby). We were proceeding under the understanding that trails and trailheads were open and it was only using the campsites, restrooms, and picnic tables that was still prohibited so we followed the 0.2 mile loop clockwise around Indigo Springs.Indigo Sprngs Trail

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Creek

There were several springs feeding the creek amid mossy green rocks.Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Springs

Apparently the route of the wagon road passed here too.Another portion of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

After admiring the springs we returned to the Middle Fork Trail and continued up river toward Chuckle Springs.Middle Fork Trail

The trail dropped down to the river and spent a good deal of time right along it with a few easy access points, something that there hadn’t been many of thus far during our trip.Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Fariy slippers

Fairy slippers

There was a bit of an up and down though and we encountered the one significant tree down of the entire trip along one of the ups.Blowdown over the Middle Fork Trail

Large tree down

Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get around and we were soon headed back down to the riverbank.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Red rocks in the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Trail

After just over a mile we began to enter the scar of a 2010 fire.Middle Fork Trail entering the scar of a 2010 fire

Just after entering the fire scar a butterfly landed on the Garmin followed by a second landing on my right shoe.Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

These were much nicer insects to have on me than the ticks.

The trail had split here at one time but the right hand fork along the river was now blocked by a small log and appeared possibly abandoned although a footbridge remained in place.Closed alternate route of the Middle Fork Trail

The way to Chuckle Springs was to the left though so we headed left and soon began climbing up a narrow ridge above Chuckle Creek.Chuckle Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and continued up the ridge alongside the creek.Chuckle Creek

Cascade along Chuckle Creek

Middle Fork Trail

A quarter mile from the fork we arrived at another fork where the Chuckle Springs Trail joined from the left.Middle Fork Trail junction with the Chuckle Springs Trail

A very short trail led down to a picnic table where there were two groups of people talking. We had encountered two of them before reaching Cliff Springs and the other 3 were new to us. Given social distancing guidance we took a seat on some logs near the junction and waited for them to depart before heading down to the springs.Picnic table near Chuckle Springs

Sign for Chuckle Creek

Chuckle Springs

Not quite as impressive as Indigo Springs these were still a nice green oasis amid the burn area. We didn’t stay long just in case others were on their way and sure enough we ran into another couple on their way to the springs at the junction. We left the spring to them and headed back to camp.

The return trip was livened up by a couple of snakes. Heather is not the biggest snake person but she does pretty well with them all things considered. The first snake was a garter snake stretched across the trail in one of the ponderosa pine areas.Snake in the trail

Garter snake

This snake had no intention of moving to the point that we thought it might have been dead (it wasn’t).

Then as we were passing Rigdon Meadows I walked right by a good sized gopher snake laying in the middle of the road bed. Heather spied it though and stopped in her tracks.Gopher snake

Gopher snake

Gopher snake

This snake also seemed intent to stay put until Heather started to go around it. Every time she took a step it would move just a bit closer to her. After about 3 rounds of this game I moved forward and the snake took its cue to head off into the grass and let Heather pass.

We stopped about one and a quarter miles from camp along the river to cook dinner and refill our water supply which had gotten fairly low. I had managed to miscalculate the distance for the day which we had clued into on the way back. For some reason, I apparently was unable to double the first portion of our hike from camp to Sacandaga Campground. I had estimated that we were roughly 2 miles from the campground and by not doubling those 2 miles I was coming up with 13.8 miles instead of 15.8. We were actually closer to 2.5 miles from the campground which would have boosted the mileage to 16.8. Add in a little extra wandering and we wound up just over 17 miles for the day.

The spot we’d found by the river had a nice view and we were joined by a caterpillar and had a brief visit from an ouzel.Middle Fork Willamette River

Caterpillar

Ouzel

We were pooped by the time we made it back to camp and we both had developed some impressive blisters. My best was on my right pinky toe and Heather’s was on one of her big toes. It was clear that we’d be spending some time applying moleskin and bandages in the morning before heading back to the car.

We turned in for the night thinking about the long hike out. I was thinking about the way we were feeling, the extra distance due to the reroute, and the ford of Indian Creek and worrying that by the time we got to that ford the combination of the sore feet and tired legs would make it even more difficult than it had been on Saturday. Additionally coming from the opposite direction might also be trickier. On Saturday getting into the creek was fairly easy and the trickiest part was just after passing the center (and strongest current) there were several large rocks which we had to step up onto. Coming from the other direction we would need to drop off of those rocks into the strongest current. I wasn’t loving that idea so Heather and I started talking about options. Both the reroute and the fords were along the same section of trail between FR 2134 and FR 2127. We got the idea to see if it looked like road walking FR 21 between the two bridges would be any shorter and from the look of it on the maps it would be so we decided that was our plan for the hike out.

We woke up at first light and packed up our little campsite and then ate breakfast along the river before throwing our packs on and heading back.Leaving our breakfast site on the last day of our trip

Our little meal site along the river.

We stuck to the plan and when we arrived at FR 2134 we hopped up onto the shoulder of FR 21 and started pounding the pavement.FR 21 at FR 2134

The road walk was pretty brutal on our already sore feet, but there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we got to see some different things this way. It was also close to 2 miles shorter than if we had stuck to the trail.Youngs Rock Trail at FR 21

Youngs Rock Trail – A hike for another time.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Oregon geranium

Oregon geraniums

Oregon sunshine

Oregon sunshine

Plectritis and larkspur

Plectritis and the only larkspur we spotted all trip.

Boulder Creek Falls

Boulder Creek Falls

When we finally arrived at FR 2127 we took a break on the bridge.Road signs along FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

The highlight of the final leg of our hike was spotting a pair of harlequin ducks floating on the river. It’s only the second time we’ve seen these colorful ducks.Harlequin ducks

Harlequin ducks

Our distance for this final day was 12.1 miles giving us a total of 43.7 miles over the three days. I said to Heather “Leave it to me to turn a 4.4 mile easy hike into a nearly 44 mile hike.” I’m not sure if she found that as funny as I did. 😄

If I were to do it over (and the bridge over Indian Creek was replaced) I would have started at FR 2127 instead of 2120. That first 5+ miles didn’t have quite the scenery of the other sections, and it had the most poison oak. It also would have allowed us to camp closer to the springs making that day more reasonable. The view at Little Pine Openings sure was nice though.Middle Fork Willamette River

Overall though it was a good trip and it was just nice to be out again. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Day 2 & Day 3

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Day 1 – 5/23/2020

We continued to adjust our hiking plans to allow us our best chances of social distancing and visiting areas that are actually open. In January our plans for the three day weekend had been to stay in Roseburg and take day hikes along Highway 138. With staying in motels not the greatest way to socially distance, those plans were a no-go so we looked next to our 2021 plans. Those plans were a three day backpacking trip along the 30+ mile Middle Fork Trail SE of Oakridge to complete one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in his Central Cascades book, Indigo and Chuckle Springs (hike #83 in the 5th edition). This would be our first backpacking trip together since early September 2018 having skipped 2019 so that we could take care of our ill cat Buddy. (Heather did an overnight trip with some friends to Elk Lake Creek so she had been out once in 2019.)

The hike he describes is an easy 4.4 miles starting at the trailhead by Indigo Springs Campground. Doing the hike that he describes would have violated a couple of our self imposed rules. First the driving time to that trailhead for us would have been over 3 hours and secondly the amount of time spent hiking would have been less than the driving time (by a lot). My solution was to turn it into a backpacking trip by starting just south of the Sand Prairie Campground near milepost 12 of Rigdon Road (Forest Road 21). The plan was to hike around 13 miles on Saturday and then set up a base camp. Sunday we would hike the remaining distance to Indigo and Chuckle Springs and the return to camp and hike back out Monday morning. Our itinerary remained the same for the trip, but for reasons I’ll get to later the distances were not quite what we had planned on.

The Middle Fork National Recreation Trail stretches from Sand Prairie Campground to Timpanogas Lake (post).
There are a number of trailheads and access points for the Middle Fork Trail and we chose to start at the FR 2120 Trailhead.
Middle Fork Trail south of Sand Prairie Campground

A short distance from the trailhead we crossed Buck Creek on a nice bridge.
Buck Creek

For the first 5 miles the trail was relatively flat with a few ups and downs. This section was to the east of the Middle Fork Willamette River and to the west of Rigdon Road (FR 21). There were occasional glimpses of the river as well as some time spent along and on FR 21.
Middle Fork TrailMiddle Fork Trail along FR 21.

Middle Fork Willamette RiverOne of only a couple of spots where we were able to get to the river.

Where the trail crossed roads either signs or flagging were present to identify the continuation of the trail.
Middle Fork TrailOrange flagging on the left after crossing a gravel road.

The scenery was mostly green forest with a few meadows and a couple of creek crossings along the way. There were a few woodland flowers present as well as some patches of poison oak.
Middle Fork Trail

ThimbleberryThimbleberry

Cone CreekCone Creek

AnemonesAnemones

Bills CreekFootbridge over Bills Creek

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Columbine along the Middle Fork TrailColumbine

Middle Fork TrailYellowleaf iris along the Middle Fork Trail.

Pine CreekPine Creek – At first it looked like they put the bridge in the wrong spot, but there was another branch to the creek.

View from the Middle Fork TrailSmall meadow along the trail.

At the 4.4 mile mark the trail popped us onto FR 21 for a little over a quarter mile before resuming along the river.
Middle Fork Trail popping onto FR 21 for a bit

Middle Fork Trail leaving FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River

This was short lived though as we quickly found ourselves back on FR 21 near its junction with FR 2127.
Middle Fork Trail at FR 2127

Here the trail crossed the river on the bridge.
FR 2127 crossing the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

Common merganserCommon merganser on the river below the bridge.

The bridge crossing marked the start of what Sullivan’s map showed to be a 5.2 mile section along the western side of the Middle Fork Willamette River before recrossing on bridge at FR 2134 (our Adventure Maps, Inc. Oakridge Oregon Trial Map showed the section as 5.4 miles).
Middle Fork Trail Sign at the Road 2127 Trailhead.

With FR 21 now on the opposite side of the river this section was a little quieter and more scenic. There was still occasional poison oak to keep an eye out for and somewhere along this stretch a tick hitched a momentary ride on my pant leg before being flicked off.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork TrailMossy stump along the trail.

Middle Fork TrailLots of grass along portions of the trail, one of these areas was probably where the tick hopped on.

A highlight of the section was a series of rocky seeps long the river where patches of wildflowers were blooming.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Ookow along the Middle Fork TrailThe ookow wasn’t quite blooming yet.

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

MonkeyflowerMonkeyflower and tomcat clover

StonecropStonecrop

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed MaryPlectritis and giant blue-eyed Mary

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Western buttercupsButtercups

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

The trail reentered the forest where we spotted a couple of different coralroots.
Middle Fork Trail

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot (with a caterpillar)

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Two miles into this section we came to our first real obstacle of our trip. I had watched a series of Youtube videos from Hike Oregon of the trail including this section (video and in her video from a few years ago there was a footbridge over Indian Creek. No such bridge existed now. The water was flowing pretty quickly and although it looked doable it didn’t look like the easiest ford we’d done. We went ahead and gave it a go.
Fording Indian Creek

We managed to get across and continued on to find a second ford a short distance later. This one was just through some very slow moving water though.
Water covering the Middle Fork Trail

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next two miles but then we came to a sign announcing a trail closure and reroute.
Middle Fork Trail

Clear water along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Chocolate liliesChocolate lilies

Sign for a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail

The reroute sent us away from the river to FR 201 where we crossed Coal Creek on a bridge to FR 2133. The Forest Service map for the reroute showed that the trail will eventually continue on the other side of FR 2133 extending to FR 2134 but for now the reroute followed FR 2133 for one and a quarter miles to FR 2134.
Middle Fork TrailCompleted section of the reroute.

Signage for the Middle Fork TrailMore signs at FR 201

Sign for the Middle Fork TrailFR 201 crossing Coal Creek.

Coal CreekCoal Creek

FR 2133Road walking on FR 2133

Once we made it to FR 2134 we were back on the original route of the Middle Fork Trail as it once again crossed the river, this time using FR 2134’s bridge.
Bridge over the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River

The reroute had added a mile to our hike for the day and we weren’t done yet. The next section of trail between FR 2134 and Sacandaga Campground was listed as just under 5 miles and we were hoping to find a camp site close to the middle of the section.

The trail picked up at the north end of the bridge (the river had turned and was now flowing east to west as opposed to the first section when it was flowing to the north).
Middle Fork Trail

Simpson CreekSimpson Creek

Northern phloxNorthern phlox

Folded fungusDon’t know what type of fungus this is but it looked neat.

We were once again between the river and FR 21 and crossed several primitive forest roads.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Trail

After 2 miles it began to veer away from the road a bit to what appeared on the topographical map as a wide relatively flat area where we were hoping to find our camp site. We hadn’t passed many established (or even semi-established sites). We had seen one near Indian Creek and we had also seen one tent set up on an rocky island separated from the trail by a small channel of the river.

We passed up a couple of possible sites along decommissioned road beds hoping to be a bit closer to the river than they had been so when we did get back along the river we started looking.
Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Willamette River

There wasn’t much, the trees and underbrush was thick enough that there weren’t many areas with enough room for a tent. Heather spotted a more open area in the trees about 2.8 miles from FR 2134 that looked promising but I stubbornly continued for another quarter of a mile before turning back because her spot appeared to be the best choice. We set up camp amid the trees on the opposite side of the trail from the river.
Campsite along the Middle Fork Trail

There was a nice little opening along the river nearby where we were able to cook our meals and watch the river flow by.
Middle Fork Willamette River from our dinner/breakfast spot

Our plan for a 13 mile first day turned into 14.5 miles due to the extra mile added by the reroute and my continuing past our eventual campsite a quarter mile and having to come back to it. The lower portions of the trail had been a bit of a mixed bag. We hadn’t expected as much poison oak as we’d seen along the way and the reroute had been a bit of a bummer since road walking, even if it’s dirt/gravel is a lot harder on us than a nice trail. The scenery was nice and there had been quite a few wildflowers but being so close to paved FR 21 for much of the hike and having a large number of other road crossings where car campers were present didn’t allow for much of a remote feeling. The middle section (prior to the reroute) was probably the nicest, but having to ford Indian Creek probably isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side we only encountered one other hiker on the trail and our campsite turned out to be pretty comfortable with a nice thick layer of cushy duff to sleep on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Middle Fork Trail Day 1

North Fork and Buffalo Rock – 05/09/2020

As we continue to deal with the ever changing situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic we are looking for ways to hike responsibly. That means doing our best to follow social distancing guidelines and honoring any closures in place. The situation with closures has been especially confusing requiring a fair amount of digging to get a clear picture of just what is allowed and what isn’t. With these things in mind we have been looking for hikes that are open and lightly used to limit our interaction with other people.

After looking through our to-do hike list we decided that the best option for an acceptable outing at this point was a pair of hikes along the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River. In regards to closures, the Willamatte National Forest (as of this writing) has closed all developed recreation sites. Reviewing the March 27, 2020 announcement on their website goes on to say that those sites include “campgrounds, day-use sites, trailheads with bathrooms, Sno-parks, snow shelters, fire lookouts, hot springs, boat launch facilities, and OHV trailhead facilities.” Trails themselves are not on the list and remain open assuming proper social distancing and group size/make up is within acceptable limits.

Our first stop was to hike Segment 1 of the North Fork Trail. Since trailheads with bathrooms are part of the temporary closure the traditional trailhead for this hike was out. Our plan was to park at a small pullout along Forest Road 1910 three miles NE of Westfir along Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Scenic Byway). A decommissioned road just after crossing the river provided the perfect spot to park and happened to be right where the North Fork Trail crossed FR 1910.
North Fork Trail at FR 1910

We headed SW into the forest where a number of different wildflowers were currently blooming.
North Fork Trail

Star-flowered solomonsealStar-flowered solomonseal

AnemoneAnemone

TrilliumTrillium

Oregon grapeOregon grape

StarflowerStarflower

Yellowleaf irisYellowleaf iris

After .2 miles we followed a path down to the riverbank.
North Fork Willamette RiverLooking back at FR 1910’s bridge over the River.

North Fork Willamette River

A few steps after returning to the trail we left the trail again and crossed the decommissioned FR 685 near Short Creek to check out a small slide.
Short Creek

We followed the relatively level trail for another 3 miles turning around at an old road about a tenth of a mile from the parking area of the closed trailhead. Like most river trails the North Fork trail spent some time along the river, above the river, and others back in the forest. There were a few changes to the scenery along the way and plenty of flowers (along with a fair amount of poison oak). Three miles from FR 1910 we passed the concrete remains of a 1930s mill pond.
North Fork Trail

ValerianValerian

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot

Inside-out flowerInside-out flower

North Fork Trail

Hookedspur violetHookedspur violet

Fairy slipperFairy slipper

Dogwood blossomDogwood blossom

Buck Brush - redstem ceanothusBuck brush

Yellow leaf iris along the North Fork Trail

North Fork Willamette River

Shed skin from a Cicada on a yellow leaf irisShed cicada skin

Wood roseWood rose

FairybellsFairy bells

Showy phloxNorthern phlox

Snail on the North Fork TrailTrail snail

North Fork Trail

HoneysuckleHoneysuckle

ColumbineColumbine

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Lupine along the North Fork TrailLupine

Youth-on-ageYouth-on-age

North Fork Willamette RiverRock ledge along the river.

North Fork Willamette RiverView from the rock ledge.

Monkey flowerMonkey flower

CamasCamas

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Dam site along the North Fork TrailConcrete tower

North Fork Trail

Pale flaxPale flax

North Fork TrailheadRoadbed near the trailhead.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes open for anything we missed on our first pass, and of course there were a couple of flowers that we missed.
Vanilla leafVanilla leaf

Wild gingerWild ginger

A garter snake provided a bit of excitment when Heather noticed it coming towards her onto the trail. It eventually slithered to a fern on the other side but not before getting her to jump.
Garter snake

Garter snake

We wound up only encountering 4 people along the trail, a lone hiker and a group of three mountain bikers so this first stop had worked out well from a socially distancing standpoint.

After making it back to our car we returned to FR 19 and turned left (NE) for 18.1 miles to Forest Road 1939 (1.1 miles beyond Kiahania Campground). We turned left onto FR 1939 for 1.2 miles to a hiker symbol on the left marking the start of another segment of the North Fork Trail.
North Fork Trailhead at FR 1939

As best as I can tell from research this 4.5 mile segment of the North Fork Trail appears to have been completed in 2011 or possibly 2010. There is very little information online about it even though it has appeared as a featured hike (along with Segment 1) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” books since his 4th edition was published in 2012. I was unable to find any reference to it all on the Willamette National Forest’s website despite the Forest Service hoping to one day connect all the segements of the North Fork Trail from Westfir to Waldo Lake. In any event there is no parking area for this trailhead and there is just enough room for a couple of cars to park off the road on the shoulder nearby.

From the outset it was obvious that this was a much lighter traveled segment than the Segment 1 as the tread was narrower and there was some large trees across the trail.
North Fork Trail

North Fork Trail

There were some similarities though as we saw many wildflowers (some the same as during our earlier stop and some new for the day) and this trail also provided a few access points to the river.
Trillium

Candy flowerCandy flower growing out of a mossy tree trunk.

Western meadowrueWestern meadowrue

Largeleaf sandwortLargeleaf sandwort

North Fork Willamette River

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

There were several creeks to cross, the first was too wide at the trail to hop across requiring a slight detour downstream. The rest all had rocks allowing us to cross dry footed.
North Fork TrailThe second creek crossing.

The trail turned away from the river to drop to the third substantial creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

Creek along the North Fork Trail

It was at this third creek that we realized we’d missed a 10 foot waterfall marked on Sullivan’s map at the 1.1 mile mark. A quick re-reading of the hike description told us it was 150 feet offtrail which explained why we hadn’t seen it. We made a mental note to look for it on the way back.

At the 2.3 mile mark the trail passed close to the river and a cobblestone beach from which the basalt outcrop of Buffalo Rock was visible.
North Fork Willamette River

Buaffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette River

As the trail began to pass under Buffalo Rock it became even wilder than it had been beginning with a large tree blocking the trail just on the other side of a creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

After ducking under the tree the trail passed through a small hillside meadow.
North Fork Willamette River

Coastal manrootCoastal manroot

Sticky cinquefoilSticky cinquefoil

Popcorn flowerPopcorn

Western yellow oxalisWestern yellow oxalis

The dry, rocky hillside below Buffalo Rock provided for some different types of flowers and plants and was the only spot along this trail that we noticed any poison oak.
North Fork Trail

Buffalo Rock

Collomia heterophylla - Variable CollomiaVariable collomia

Western fence lizardWestern fence lizard

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

LarkspurLarkspur

This segment of the trail had originally extended another 2 miles from beneath Buffalo Rock with the next marker on Sullivan’s map being a “mossy pool” a mile from the end of the trail. As we continued on from Buffalo Rock though we found that the trail was quickly deteriorating. It was evident that what little maintenance this segment saw, had all been focused on the section between FR 1939 and Buffalo Rock.
North Fork TrailHad to climb over this on the left side by the standing tree.

North Fork Trail under some blowdownThe only choice here was to use this tree as the trail.

North Fork TrailMinor debris on the trail.

North Fork TrailCuts most likely from the original establishment of the trail.

North Fork TrailThis one required a detour to the right around the end of the tree.

North Fork TrailForest reclaiming the trail tread.

Given the conditions we were experiencing and the distance we were facing for the day we decided to shoot for the mossy pool and turn around there instead of trying to reach the end of the trail. Sullivan himself had suggested turning around at Buffalo Rock and other than noting the pool on his map made no mention of it so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The trail turned away from the river to descend to the creek crossing where we expected to find the mossy pool.
North Fork Trail

The creek had done a good job of erroding the trail which provided one final tricky obstacle to reach the little pool.
Creek along the North Fork Trail

We were pleasantly surprised by how nice this little creek and the pool were. There was a small cascade creating the pool.
Mossy pool

Small cascade

Mossy pool

It was the perfect spot for a nice break. It was the warmest day of the year thus far with temperatures expected in the mid to upper 80s and it felt every bit that hot, but here by the creek the air was cool and refreshing. Between that and the calming sound of the water we both could have easily taken a nap but alas we needed to head back.
North Fork Trail from the mossy pool

We headed back before we had time to stiffen up with a mission to find the off-trail waterfall. From Sullivan’s map it appeared that there was no creek at the trail to follow up to the waterfall and his description said to listen for the sound of water and follow it. When we thought we were in the right general area we started listening. We took one wrong turn up a small stream that we thought was too soon but didn’t want to accidently miss it again. After following this little stream a short distance we determined that there was no sound of a waterfall of any kind so we returned to the trail and continued on. After descending a series of switchbacks we were in another promising area and this time we could hear water on the opposite side of the trail from the river. We bushwacked uphill to find the little waterfall.
Small off-trail waterfall

Small off-trail waterfall

After seeing the waterfall we returned to the car and headed home. We did see one other couple on our way back to the car making it a half-dozen between the two stops for the day. The two hikes totaled 13.9 miles, 6.4 on Segment 1 and 7.5 at Buffalo Rock.

We will continue to look for responsible options to allow us to keep hiking during these unprecedented times. Please be smart and safe and as always Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork and Buffalo Rock

Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail – 11/09/19

We managed to stay off the trail for two weeks but a favorable forecast called us back out for our November outing.  We chose a pair of hikes along the Clackamas River east of Estacada, OR.  The Riverside Trail was another of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we’d been saving for a rainy day, but we just didn’t have many of those this year so we decided to go ahead and check it off our to do list.

Before getting to the Riverside Trail though we stopped at the nearby Alder Flat Trailhead which is located along Highway 224 just west of the Ripplebrook Guard Station.
Alder Flat Trailhead

We arrived a little before the light so we waited at the trailhead for enough light before setting off on the .9 mile trail that led to the primitive Alder Flat Campground along the Clackamas River.
Sunrise over RipplebrookThere was a nice sunrise while we waited for enough light.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail at the trailhead.

The trail passes by an old beaver pond and through a green forest before arriving at the campground near a swimming hole at a bend in the river. Maps also show a trail around the beaver pond but we followed it briefly on the way back and it petered out after crossing the outlet creek on a log.
Sunrise from the Alder Flat TrailPassing the old beaver pond.

Old beaver pond along the Alder Flat TrailBeaver pond from the former trail around it.

Former trail around the beaver pond.The trail around the pond petered out on the far side of this log.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail in the forest.

Arriving at the campground.

Clackamas River at Alder FlatSwimming hole (It was a little too cold today.)

Clackamas River at Alder FlatClackamas River at the Alder Flat Campground.

From the Alder Flat Trailhead it was less than a mile to our starting point for the Riverside Trail at the Rainbow Campground.
Gate at Rainbow Campground

When the campground is open you need to pay to park there. With the campground closed there is no fee, but it does add a .3 mile road walk into and through the campground to reach the trail.
Rainbow CampgroundThe Rainbow Campground

The Riverside Trail sets off at the far end of the campground following the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River.
Riverside Trail

Riverside Trail

Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River

The trail climbs up to an overlook of the Clackamas River in the first half mile near the confluence of the two rivers. We both were a bit confused at first when we got to the overlook because the river was suddenly flowing in the opposite direction, then we remembered that is was a different river.
Clackamas River

Clackamas River

Beyond this first viewpoint of the Clackamas River the Riverside Trail continues a little over three and a half miles to its end at the Riverside Campground. Along the way the trail makes several ups and downs as well as dipping deeper into the forest occasionally to navigate side canyons. There were a number of viewpoints above the river as well as numerous chances to explore the river bank. The final mile and half (after passing a spur trail coming from the no fee Riverside Trailhead) did spend more time closer to paved Forest Road 46 but there wasn’t a lot of traffic and the scenery was still nice.
Riverside TrailIn the forest for a bit.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint from above.

Riverside TrailBack in the forest.

Clackamas RiverAt the river.

Sun through the trees along the Riverside TrailSun peaking through the trees.

Rock formation along the Riverside Trailone of several rock formations along the trail.

Clackamas RiverAnother view of the Clackamas.

Riverside TrailSide creek crossing.

Clackamas RiverBack along the river.

Clackamas RiverRock pinnacle in the Clackamas River.

Riverside TrailSpur trail to the Riverside Trailhead.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Riverside Trail

Clackamas RiverAnother rocky beach along the Clackamas.

Clackamas RiverLooking down river.

Clackamas RiverNow from above the rock beach.

Just before reaching the end of the trail at the Riverside Campground the trail passed above a deep green hole.
Clackamas River

We’d been keeping our eyes open for fish all morning given how clear the river was but hadn’t seen any until we gazed into the water here. We spotted several large fish.
Fish in the Clackamas River

Fish in the Clackamas River

The trail descended from the viewpoint above the hole to the Riverside Campground where we watched an ouzel dip in and out of the river looking for snacks.
Riverside Trail sign at Riverside Campground

Riverside Campground

Ouzel

Ouzel

Clackamas RiverClackamas River at the Riverside Campground.

We headed back the way we’d come stopping to admire some of the mushrooms and fungi along the trail.
Mushrooms

Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Tree mushroom

Mushrooms on a log

In addition to the fish we’d been on the lookout for rough skinned newts. As we stopped at a viewpoint looking across the river valley toward Fish Creek Mountain (post) we finally spotted one.
Fish Creek Mountain

Rough skinned newt

This is a very popular trail in the Summer based on the number of cars we’ve seen when driving past on the way home from other hikes. We didn’t see a lot of other hikers on this day although we did pass one group twice (near each end of the trail) and several others as we got close to the Rainbow Campground on the way back. The GPS said we did 9.5 miles which included several side trips along the river and to viewpoints as well as the .6 miles of road walking. For those looking for a shorter hike the Riverside Trailhead would be a good starting point or try the Alder Flat Trail which is only about 2 miles round trip.

With the Holiday Season quickly approaching it was nice to be able to get our November hike in early with such nice weather. We plan to head out once more next month to wrap up our 2019 hikes so until then Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail

Mollala River Recreation Area – 10/19/2016

Our recent hike at the Mollala River Recreation Area almost didn’t happen. Three days prior an ingrown toenail suddenly was making every step I took painful. By the next night I had managed to remove a bit of the nail but it was still pretty tender. Luckily the next morning one of Heather’s running buddies mentioned using floss to get under the nail and help alleviate the pressure. I gave that a try and it worked wonderfully.

I was ready to give it a try, then I checked the weather for the following day. One hundred percent chance of rain, breezy with gusts up to 30mph, and a chance of a thunderstorm after 8am. The rest of the weekend didn’t look much better so we momentarily considered skipping this weeks hike but instead we decided to at least make an attempt

The Mollala River Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area contains over 20 miles of trails open to hikers (all year), equestrians (May 16th – Oct. 14th), and mountain bikes (single track May 16th – Oct. 14th and all year for non-singletrack). We had waited for the seasonal closures to minimize the chances of running into other users and a wet, windy day would likely further reduce the number of people out.

There are multiple potential trailheads and we chose to start our day at Amanda’s Trailhead
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It had been raining in Salem when we left but at the trailhead we were spared, at least for the time being.

One thing that the trails in this area don’t do is visit the Mollala River so before we set off I crossed Upper Mollala Road to get a peak of the river through the trees.
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After checking out the river we started up Amanda’s Trail.
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We stopped at a trail map (we had also downloaded the maps to our phones) to discuss our planned route. There were a number of options with many of the trails looping and intersecting each other so having a map is a good idea (it’s always a good idea). Our plan was to take Amanda’s Trail to Looney’s Trail then turn up the Rim Trail and follow it to Bobcat Road. From Bobcat Road we’d follow the Huckleberry Trail back to Looney’s Trail. Finally instead of just retracing our steps back we would turn off Lonney’s Trail at Clifford’s Crossing Trail and take that trail to Mark’s Trail which would then lead us back to Amanda’s Trail for the final leg back to the trailhead. This was an 11.5 mile route with over 1500′ of elevation gain.
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We followed Amanda’s Trail for 1.5 miles to Looney’s Trail ignoring the marked side trails along the way. This stretch of trail followed an old roadbed through second growth forest. Yellow and golden leaves were mixed with the green conifers.
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IMG_1141Leapfrog Loop

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IMG_1145Mark’s Trail (our return route)

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In addition to the Fall colors there were plenty of mushrooms along the trail.
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This section also had the only view of the day across the Mollala River Valley.
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Amanda’s Trail simply turned into Looney’s Trail at a sign at the end of the 1.5 miles.
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The mile long Looney’s Trail descended via a series of switchbacks to a bridge over scenic Hardy Creek, then climbed a bit before arriving at a junction with the Huckleberry and Rim Trails.
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IMG_1186Rim Trail

We followed the Rim Trail for approximately 3 miles. The trail gained over 600′ following old roadbeds at times. The trail skirted a farm and a clearcut along the way.
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IMG_1236Huge anthills could be seen throughout the hike.

IMG_1245Skirting the clear cut.

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There were a number of trail junctions but the signage was good and we just kept following pointers for the Rim Trail.
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IMG_1273Unnamed creek.

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The Rim Trail ended at a fork with the Red Vole Trail to the right and Bobcat Road to the left. In the second edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” Matt Reeder mentions preferring Bobcat Road over the Red Vole Trail so we went left.
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We followed Bobcat Road downhill for a little over three quarters of a mile where we met the Huckleberry Trail (another roadbed).
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IMG_1295Varied thrush

We turned left onto the Huckleberry Trail which forked left uphill after 100 yards.
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IMG_1300One of the few unsigned junctions we came to.

The trail was fairly level as it contoured along the hillside arriving at Annie’s Cabin, a still functioning shelter, after .6 miles.
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Up until this point the weather had held up very well. Aside from a couple of very brief periods of sprinkles it hadn’t rained and the wind was mostly non-existent. That ended shortly after leaving the cabin when the clouds opened up and a heavy rain shower passed overhead.
IMG_1323Huckleberry Trail just before the shower.

IMG_1334Near the tail end of the shower.

Luckily the rain didn’t last long and we were back to mostly cloudy skies with a few sun breaks.
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IMG_1335The Hardy Creek Trail coming up from the Hardy Creek Trailhead on the right.

Two miles from Annie’s Cabin we arrived back at the Rim-Looney’s-Huckleberry Trails junction where we went straight onto Looney’s Trail.
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We recrossed Hardy Creek and followed Looney’s Trail until we arrived at a junction with Clifford’s Crossing Trail a total of .8 miles from the Huckleberry Trail.
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We turned right onto Clifford’s Crossing Trail. Our reasoning was simply to see some different trail rather than simply retracing our steps. This half mile trail descended fairly steeply only to immediately regain some of that elevation before making a more gradual descent to it’s end at Mark’s Trail.
IMG_1344Going down.

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IMG_1348Going back up.

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Mark’s Trail was another half mile that wound its way up through the forest to Amanda’s Trail. These two trails would probably have been more fun on mountain bikes as they were clearly designed for that and not to get from point A to point B. With nothing of note to see there really wasn’t a need to hike this unless you’re looking for some extra climbing or are like us and like to take different routes when possible.
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IMG_1357Back at Amanda’s Trail.

We turned right onto Amanda’s Trail and followed it back down to the trailhead which was just under a mile away. We had been watching for rough skinned newts all day but hadn’t seen any until this section where a loan newt was sitting in the middle of the trail.
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The only other people we saw all day was a family coming up from Amanda’s Trailhead to take what appeared to be some senior pictures. The rest of the hike was full of solitude.
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We were glad that we hadn’t let the forecast deter us. It hadn’t rained enough to really affect the hike and both the wind and thunderstorm had never materialized. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mollala River Recreation Area

Crabtree Lake – 9/07/2019

A less than ideal forecast had us looking for a hike that wasn’t view dependent and wouldn’t be too negatively impacted by rain. Crabtree Lake in Crabtree Valley seemed to fit the criteria and it was a featured hike in Sullivan’s 4th edition of his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook.

It was a cloudy, drizzly, morning as we headed for the trailhead NE of Sweet Home, OR. Although we knew there was a nice view of Mt. Jefferson from the trail that wasn’t the main goal of the hike so missing out on it wouldn’t be too disappointing. As we climbed along the BLM road to the trailhead we emerged from one set of clouds to find that we were in between cloud layers and so were the mountains. We parked at the junction of BLM road 11-3E-35.3(aka S. Fork Packers road) and the final .9 mile gravel road to the actual trailhead.
IMG_8503The gravel road from the junction.

The gravel road was in pretty good shape, but we had opted to walk it primarily due to the fact that from the trailhead the hike would be under 5 miles (excluding any exploration). The extra 1.8 miles would give us enough more time hiking that we wouldn’t break our hike to drive timie ratio rule. As we walked up the road we got a nice view of Three Fingered Jack in a beautiful sunrise.
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A bit later Mt. Jefferson became visible.
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The actual trail begins at a berm where the road has been closed.
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It then follows the road bed around a ridge end in .3 miles where the viewpoint of the mountains is.
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IMG_8524Coming up on the viewpoint.

Instead of not having a view we were treated to a beautiful scene.
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IMG_8529Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8532Three Fingered Jack

After oohing and awwing over the view we rounded the ridge end and began a 1.1 mile descent to a junction. There were a few left over flowers and dozens of rough skinned newts. We had to really watch were we stepped due to their presence on the trail.
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IMG_8547Maybe a ragwort?

IMG_8549Yarrow

IMG_8553St. John’s wort

IMG_8554Daisy and pearly everlasting

IMG_8648Beardstongue

IMG_8652Fireweed

IMG_8560Not a flower but colorful maple leaves.

IMG_8569A common sight on the trail.

IMG_8567Rough skinned newt

Although there were no mountain views on this side of the ridge there were a couple of openings to the west across Crabtree Valley.

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At a barricade we turned left and dropped down to another roadbed.
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We turned left and started a gradual climb along this road. It wasn’t clear what the status of this road is, at times it looked like there were some tire marks but we didn’t run into any vehicles along the .4 mile stretch to some concrete barricades.
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The roadbed became more of a trail beyond the barricade continuing uphill another .3 miles to Crabtree Lake.
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We found a few tents set up along the shore (there were 2 cars at the trailhead and one where we had parked along the lower road). We checked out the lake near the outlet where we found yet more rough skinned newts in the water.
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We followed a trail around the lake to the left and headed down to the lake shore for another view.
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We would later find out from some of the campers that there was an otter swimming in the lake while we were taking these pictures that we hadn’t seen. (I couldn’t find it in the photos either 😦

Now that we had seen the lake it was time to do a little big tree hunting. Crabtree Valley’s cliffs have protected the trees here allowing for some of Oregon’s oldest surviving trees. We followed the trail around the lake until it petered out near some empty campsites.
IMG_8591Old growth cedar

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The basin here is home to a 270′ Douglas fir that has been dubbed “Nefertiti”. We had the GPS coordinates for the tree and decided this would be a good time to practice using our Garmins. We plugged in the coordinates and immediately ran into an issue, our devices didn’t agree even though they are the same make and model. We decided to try the location showing on my device first and made our way cross country to those coordinates. While there were many large old growth trees we weren’t convinced that any were the 8′ diameter tree we were looking for.
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We turned to Heather’s location next which resulted in our best guess as to the identity of the tree.
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Whether on not we actually found Nefertiti we saw a lot of massive old growth, some of which may be close to 1000 years old. We headed back and almost went out to a viewpoint that overlooks Waterdog Meadow (a small lake and meadow that Crabtree Creek passes through after leaving Crabtree Lake) but a combination of fog and campers being set up near the viewpoint kept us from checking it out.
IMG_8615A less impressive viewpoint near the creek but the fog below made passing through the camps to reach the viewpoint pointless.

After hearing about the otter we left the lake and headed back. Before returning to the trailhead though there was another tree in the valley we were hoping to visit. King Tut, a 9′ diameter Douglas fir, is located off trail. Sullivan described the route as rugged and not recommended so we were prepared to turn back at any point. We again used GPS coordinates, which again disagreed, to find the tree. There was at times a rough trail to follow but any sign of it ended before reaching the tree.
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We remained undeterred and picked our way through and around thorny berry bushes and devil’s club to the location showing on my GPS. There was a very large cedar in the area, but no King Tut.
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IMG_8631The cedar trunk through some branches.

We turned to Heather’s device and made our way to that location where we found what we believe to be the estimated 800 year old behemoth.
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Having found this tree at the location shown by Heather’s GPS we were more confident that the tree we identified as Nefertiti using her device was probably correct as well.

Even though we were able to locate (we think) the tree, like Sullivan we wouldn’t recommend this excursion, especially without map and navigational skills.

We then headed back and climbed out of the valley along the road where the newts had been mostly replaced by other critters and the view of Mt. Jefferson was just a memory.
IMG_8655Fritillary butterfly

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IMG_8647Back at the viewpoint.

It had been a great hike and despite having missed seeing our first otter we had seen a lot more than we were expecting. Between parking where we did and visiting the trees we turned the 4.6 mile hike into an 8.7 mile adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Crabtree Lake

Olallie and Lowder Mountains – 09/01/2019

For our final outing of Labor Day Weekend we set our sights on a pair of peaks in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Both the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and Pat’s Saddle Trailhead (for Olallie Mountain) are located just 2 miles apart along Forest Road 1993. These were two more featured hikes from Sullivan’s 4th edition Central Cascades guidebook that we had yet to do. (Olallie Mountain was removed from the featured hikes in the 5th edition due to a 2017 fire that burned much of the route.) On their own the hike to driving time ratios didn’t pan out, but doing them both on the same day would, and as it turns out FR 1993 was in excellent shape allowing for a driving time closer to 2 1/2 hours versus the nearly 3 hours that Google predicted.

We drove south to Eugene and took Highway 126 four miles east of Blue River where we turned right on FR 19 to Cougar Dam. After turning left on FR 1993 and crossing the dam we followed the road 11.2 miles to the Pat’s Saddle Trailhead.
We chose to start with Olallie Mountain for a couple of reasons, first we thought that the lack of tree cover due to the fire might make this a warmer hike later in the day and second it was the longer of the two hikes. There are a couple of trails that leave from this trailhead. The French Pete Creek Trail is the first trail on the right. The upper section of this trail is not maintained (according the Forest Service webpage) and the forest around the lower section was impacted by fires in both 2017 and 2018. We hiked the first 5 miles of the trail from the lower trailhead prior to the fires in 2015 (post)
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The trail we were taking on this trip was the second one on the right, the Olallie Trail.
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This trail promptly enters the Three Sisters Wilderness amid old growth that escaped the fire.
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The signs of the fire could be seen after about a third of a mile.
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At the half mile mark we arrived at a small stream flowing from Wolverine Lake which was about a quarter mile uphill on our right. The forest on the right hand side of the trail had burned pretty good while the left hand side had fared much better. There was already plenty of green vegetation growing amid the snags on the hillside though.
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20190901_073350Cone flower

Sullivan had mentioned visiting Wolverine Lake by heading uphill cross country after crossing over the stream but the vegetation here looked pretty thick so we waited until we had climbed a bit beyond the stream and angled back toward the lake.
IMG_8191Cross country to Wolverine Lake.

There were a fair number of trees down from the fire so it wasn’t too difficult to reach the lake, but it was tricky trying to get a good look at it due to the brushy shore.
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It looked like there might have been a better vantage point around the lake to our right, but it wasn’t worth fighting through the brush and fallen trees to try and reach it so we settled for the view we had and headed back to the Olallie Trail. From above, the route down along the creek looked much more appealing and we wound up taking a track much closer to what Sullivan had shown on his map to arrive back on trail. Once we were back on trail we turned right and passed through a patch of thimbleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
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We emerged from the thimbleberries and rounded a ridge end where the forest became a bit more open and many of the trees had survived the fire.
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A sooty grouse caught our attention as it crossed the trail ahead of us.
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The trail climbed gradually along the hillside and we marveled at the varying effects of the fire and how the forest was in different stages of recovery already.
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IMG_8215Baneberry

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There were also some views that might not have been there if some of the trees hadn’t burned.
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IMG_8201South Sister

IMG_8220Middle and North Sister

IMG_8223Mt. Washington

IMG_8226Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

The line of clouds obstructing the view of the mountains wasn’t exactly a welcome sight, but we could at least see some of them and it was early so maybe they would eventually burn off.

A little over 2 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction in a grassy saddle.
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The Olallie Trail continued straight passing an old guard station site at Olallie Meadows in .9 miles then continuing deeper (and fainter) into the Three Sisters Wilderness eventually ending at Horse Lake (post). We turned right though, onto the Olallie Mountain Trail.
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This trail began with a reasonably gradual climb past a series of meadows where a few late blooming flowers remained.
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IMG_8240Aster and pearly everlasting

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IMG_8252Columbine

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The trail briefly leveled out on top of ridge where the fire had burned intensely in some areas while sparing trees in others.
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After the brief respite from climbing the trail steepened below the summit of Olallie Mountain and began to wrap up and around its rocky western face.
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The tread along the steep hillside here was a little sketchy in part due to the fire but we made our way up to the summit. The remains of the Olallie Mountain lookout tower still stand on the summit having been covered by firefighters to protect it from the blaze.
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The three hundred and sixty degree view was impressive and would have been more so if not for the presence of clouds to the north and in front of many of the cascade peaks. On top of that our early ascent left the Sun in a less than ideal overhead position for lighting.
IMG_8306_stitchParts of the Cascades from Mt. Jefferson to the NE to Mt. Bachelor to the SE.

IMG_8302Mt. Jefferson was still tangled up in the clouds.

IMG_8300Just a peak at Mt. Washington (which was more than we could see of Three Fingered Jack)

IMG_8297Middle and North Sister behind The Husband

IMG_8296South Sister

IMG_8295Broken Top

Things were a little less cloudy to the south where Cowhorn Mountain (post) and Mt. Thielsen (post) seemed to be cloud free while Diamond Peak wasn’t so lucky.
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IMG_8282Cowhorn Mountain and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_8291Diamond Peak

We were able to identify the cliffs of flat topped Lowder Mountain, our next stop, to the NW.
IMG_8312Lowder Mountain to the left of the tree in the foreground.

IMG_8317Lowder Mountain

After watching the clouds pass by (but not leave) for awhile we headed back down. We had passed a single backpacker on the way up and on the way down we encountered a trio of hikers making their way up. When we got back to the stream below Wolverine Lake we spotted a frog (no wolverines though).
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We completed our 8 mile hike here and drove back the two miles to the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and parked at a pullout near the trailhead signboard. The signboard announced three trails: the Quaking Aspen, Lowder Mountain, and Walker Creek Trails.
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We weren’t paying close attention as we set off on a trail heading for a wilderness to the left of the signboard.
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Our first clue that we were on the wrong trail should have been the location of the trail signs on the signboard but away we went following the Quaking Aspen Trail downhill parallel to FR 1993. We had a feeling something might be off but a quick glance at the GPS showed that we were almost to some switchbacks which matched up with Sullivan’s map but we were surprised that they were headed downhill and not up (the one complaint we have about Sullivan’s maps are that they are not topographic so we can’t always tell when a trail is climbing or dropping). We were zoomed in too far to see the other trail behind us that switchbacked uphill. Just after turning on the first of the switchbacks Heather figured it out and got us turned in the right direction but not until we’d covered a third of a mile.

We hiked back uphill to the trailhead and looked at the signboard and area more closely. Sure enough there was another trail and wilderness to the right of the signboard (the side listing the Lowder Mountain and Walker Creek Trails).
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We now set off on the Lowder Trail and began switchbacking uphill through an old growth forest.
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After a quarter mile of serious climbing the trail leveled out a bit (and straightened out) as it traversed along a hillside. We soon got a quick glimpse of Olallie Mountain across the valley.
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For the next 1 3/4 miles the trail alternated between meadows and forest before arriving at a junction in one of the meadows.
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IMG_8365This reminded us of a torture device.

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IMG_8372This meadow had a lot of buckwheat.

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IMG_8377Olallie Mountain again.

IMG_8380The lookout tower on Olallie Mountain

IMG_8381Diamond Peak had shed its cloud cover momentarily.

IMG_8384Diamond Peak

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IMG_8386Pollinators got to pollinate.

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This junction marked the start of the Walker Creek Trail which climbed up through the meadow to the right. This was actually the trail to take in order to reach the viewpoint atop Lowder Mountain.
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The Lowder Mountain Trail continued on straight but beyond the junction is no longer maintained due to “lack of use”.
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A series of 12 switchbacks led steeply up through the meadow and forest to a large meadow atop Lowder Mountain.
IMG_8394The trail heading up through some thimbleberry.

IMG_8397Butterfly

IMG_8405Another skipper

IMG_8412This guy was the size of my pinky.

IMG_8399A few scarlet gilia still in bloom.

IMG_8415Pearly everlasting at the edge of the large meadow.

We followed a well worn path across the broad summit to the edge of the large meadow where it turned right passing along the tree line.
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Like the Lowder Mountain Trail the Walker Creek Trail is no longer maintained beyond the meadow. The clear path along the impressively large meadow is a user trail to the viewpoint above Karl and Ruth Lakes.
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IMG_8427Karl & Ruth Lakes

The clouds were still a bit of an issue but it was now late enough in the day for the lighting to be much better.
IMG_8433Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Horsepasture Mountain (post) in the foreground.

IMG_8431Mt. Washington

IMG_8440North and Middle Sister

IMG_8438South Sister and Broken Top

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We made our way south along the cliffs to reach a view of Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_8456Mt. Bachelor

In addition to the great views there was an interesting little rock feature that looked a lot like a head of some kind.
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We took a good break here before heading back. On the return trip we discovered that we had actually spent a decent amount of time losing elevation traversing along the hillside on the way to the Walker Creek Trail junction. It had been so gradual that we hadn’t noticed but it was evident that we were going uphill a lot more than we’d expected once we were back on the Lowder Mountain Trail. There were quite a few butterflies out searching for the remaining flowers which gave us something to focus on (in addition to eating quite a few ripe thimbleberries).
IMG_8496Butterfly with a small crab spider on the next flower head to the right.

Between taking the wrong trail from the trailhead and wandering around at the viewpoint we managed to turn a 5.6 mile hike into 6.8 miles making our total for the day 14.8 miles. The elevation gains were roughly 1400′ for Olallie Mountain and 900′ for Lowder Mountain. The views were great from both peaks and we were already talking about a return trip earlier in the Summer to see what all the meadows might look like earlier in the year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Olallie and Lowder Mountains