Category Archives: Old Cascades

Bagby Trail to Silver King Lake

There are a number of trailheads that have earned bad reputations due to the frequency of car break-ins and for years the Bagby Hot Springs Trailhead has been near the top of the list. In 2012 the Mt. Hood National Forest contracted with a private company to manage the hot springs which came with a $5 per person fee to soak in the hot springs (parking at the TH is free if you’re just hiking along the Bagby Trail), but it also allowed for someone to keep an eye on the trailhead parking lot from May through October. Even with someone patrolling the parking area we made sure to leave nothing of value in our car as we set off toward Bagby Hot Springs.
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The trail almost immediately crossed Nohom Creek on a nice footbridge.
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The wide trail then passes though a nice old growth forest.
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Unfortunately the beauty of the scenery was somewhat lessened by the presence of glitter (why), graffiti, tree carvings, and toilet paper along this section. It was quite obvious that a portion of the people drawn to the hot springs had no regard or respect for the forest itself. Luckily the hot springs were only 1.5 miles up the trail and beyond them we didn’t see these types of issues.

Shortly before the hot springs the trail crossed the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River on another long footbridge.
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Less than a quarter mile from the bridge the trail arrived at the Bagby Hot Springs Forest Camp. Several buildings remain from the forest camp with the bathhouse, picnic area, and hot tub on the eastern side of the trail.
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Beyond the forest camp the trail entered the Bull of the Woods Wilderness.
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The trail remained fairly wide as it made it’s way to Shower Creek Falls near the two mile mark.
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The trail traversed the hillside above the Hot Springs Fork passing several campsites closer to the river below. Views were limited by the presence of the old growth forest which is a fine trade-off.
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IMG_8506Whetstone Mountain (post)

We did pass through a couple of areas where there had been fire activity at some point. In these areas the huckleberries were abundant.
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The trail crossed many side creeks, some dry, others not, before arriving at a crossing of the Hot Springs Fork near the six mile mark.
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The water level was low enough that we were able to rock hop across keeping our feet dry.
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Not long after the crossing we spotted a waterfall through the trees. We decided to attempt to bushawack over to it to get a closer look and were rewarded with what wound up being the highlight of the hike.
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The trail had been gradually climbing with a few ups and downs prior to crossing the Hot Springs Fork. The gradual climb continued for approximately another half mile and then the Bagby Trail decided it needed to gain some elevation. Over the next mile the trail gained nearly 550′. At the 7.5 mile mark we arrived a junction with the Silver King Lake Trail.
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We followed this .2 mile trail uphill to Silver King Lake.
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The campsite at the lake was unoccupied but the lake itself was full of rough skinned newts.
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There wasn’t much of a view from the lake but from the NE side there was a good view of Sliver King Mountain across the water.
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We rested on some logs at the campsite since there wasn’t really anywhere to sit along the brushy lake and there were a few more mosquitoes closer to the water. After a snack and some stretching we headed back the way we’d come. It was a fairly uneventful return trip. We had expected to see quite a few more people on the way out after only seeing a couple of people at the bathhouse and two backpackers at campsites further along that morning. We did pass a couple of hikers prior to reaching Shower Creek Falls where we encountered a small group cooling off in the falls. There were several more people at Bagby Hot Springs but it didn’t seem crowded which we attributed to the heat thinking that hot springs didn’t seem as appealing on such a hot day. We passed a handful of people between the hot springs and the trailhead where there were still plenty of parking spaces left and our car had been untouched.

Our hike was a little over 16 miles round trip due to some of the off trail activity making for a long hike but it was a nice one. The Bagby Trail beyond the hot springs was at times overgrown and had some blowdown along it, but it offered a feeling of solitude which is always a plus to us. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bagby Trail to Silver King Lake

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Horsepasture Mountain

After our last two hikes coming from Matt Reeder’s 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region we went back to work on our goal of completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks. We are just over 75% through his 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades 4th edition and had our eyes set on checking off one more with a visit to the former lookout site atop Horsepasture Mountain.

The hike up Horsepasture Mountain provided a bit of a logistical challenge for a couple of reasons. First is our self imposed guideline of trying not to spend more time in the car than we do on the trail and the 1.4 mile length of the Horsepasture Mountain Trail meant we’d need to come up with some additional trail time. The second issue was the continued closure of a section of Forest Road 1993 which adds nearly 45 minutes to the drive to the Horsepasture Trailhead. Prior to the closure the drive to that trailhead would still have been over two and a half hours but with the detour Google put the time at three hours and fifteen minutes. We also have a rule against driving over three hours to any trailheads for day hikes so I began looking for alternatives. A little online research led me to a solution, the Saddle Trail which is part of the O’Leary Trail Complex.

The trail begins at the East Fork Upper Trailhead which brought the drive time from Salem under two and half hours. We parked at a small pullout on the right side of FR 1993 across from the signed Saddle Trail.
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There was a caution sign on the post regarding a burn area but that was referencing portions of the O’Leary Trail Complex burned in 2017 which did not include either the Saddle Trail or the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We were facing a nearly 1700′ climb over the next two miles to a junction at Horsepasture Saddle. Luckily the trail was well graded and in good shape as it switchbacked up through a green forest.
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Wildflowers in the forest included a few washington lilies, penstemon, northern phlox and tiger lilies along with the typical group of white flowers.
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As far as markers went on this trail it did cross closed Forest Road 590 after .4 miles and passed a single rocky viewpoint near the 1.75 mile mark.
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Near its end the Saddle Trail passed through a small meadow with a few remaining wildflowers.
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The trail ended at a signed three way junction with the Olallie Trail.
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Here we turned right passing through thimbleberry bushes for a little over 100 yards to a four-way junction.
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We turned onto the Horsepasture Mountain Trail which climbed gradually at first.
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Flowers here included lupine, lousewort, wallflower, valerian, and fleabane.
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After nearly three quarters of a mile of gradual climbing the trail steepened as it climbed through meadows with beargrass. It wasn’t quite the beargrass display we had been hoping for but there were some nice blooms along the way.
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Other flowers in these meadows included coneflower, owls clover, and cat’s ear lilies.
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After 1.2 miles the Horsepasture Mountain Trail began to climb the mountain’s south side through a drier wildflower meadow.
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The Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor were visible to the east as was snowy Diamond Peak to the south.
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IMG_8323Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor

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There was a nice variety of wildflowers on display.
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A large cairn and remains of the old lookout marked the summit.
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The view from the summit included Cascade peaks from Mt. Hood to the barely visible tip of Mt. Thielsen.
IMG_8337Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington.

IMG_8381The Three Sisters (with the top of Broken Top over South Sister’s southern shoulder) and Mt. Bachelor.

IMG_8345Diamond Peak(Mt. Thielsen is out there too)

IMG_8385Cowhorn Mountain on the left and the tip of Mt. Thielsen to the right.

We took a nice long break at the summit enjoying the views and the flowers. Birds and insects were our only company.
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The only negative was seeing the fire scars left in the Three Sisters Wilderness from the awful 2017 fire season. We returned the way we’d come passing two other sets of hikers making their way up the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We also ran into a family of grouse. A single chick flew across the trail then mama landed in the trail.
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Her display of feathers and her posturing let us know that she had other chicks in the area so we stopped and waited until two more flew across the trail.
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She then flew up into a tree to let us pass. The remainder of the hike was uneventful as we descended the Saddle Trail back to the trailhead. The seven mile hike and extended stay on the summit kept us within our driving to hiking time ratio but more importantly the hike had been really nice. Good views and wildflowers combined with solitude made for another great day in the Willamette National Forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Horsepasture Mountain

Browder Ridge Trail to Heart Lake

It has become a tradition to spend the first half of our 4th of July hiking. This year we revisited the rocky viewpoint on Browder Ridge which we had previously hiked to via the Gate Creek Trail on 9/18/2012 (post). This time around we decided to start at the Browder Ridge Trailhead based on Matt Reeder’s hike description in his 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region guidebook.

The Browder Ridge Trail set off from paved Forest Road 15 near a small parking area.
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The trail climbed gently through a forest for the first half mile before steepening as it entered a series of large meadows.
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These lower meadows were filled with ferns and a smattering of wildflowers.
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After two sets of switchbacks the trail began to traverse SE along the hillside below the ridge top. The wildflower display really picked up along this traverse. Purple larkspur, red paintbrush, blue gilia, and white cat’s ear lilies joined several varieties of yellow wildflowers to paint the hillside with color.
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The Three Sisters could be seen at times as the trail alternated between forest and meadows.
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The flower combinations always seemed to be a little different in each of the meadows. At the 3 mile mark the trail entered a short stretch of burned forest along the ridge top.
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Just beyond the four mile mark there was a short side trail to a rocky viewpoint.
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Beyond the viewpoint the trail climbed gradually for three tenths of a mile to its end at an unsigned junction with the Gate Creek and Heart Lake Trails.
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Here we turned left regaining the ridge crest in the forest where we encountered the first downed trees of the hike and a huge cascade toad.
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The Heart Lake Trail then dropped over the ridge to the NE passing beneath some basalt cliffs through another wildflower meadow.
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The trail climbed through the meadow to a forested saddle a mile from the trail junction.
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The saddle is the official end of the Heart Lake Trail. Here we faced a choice, we could turn left on the unofficial continuation of the Heart Lake Trail and climb up the rocky ridge crest to a summit viewpoint or we could attempt to visit Heart Lake. Heart Lake was a little under three quarter miles to the north and 750′ below the saddle. In the guidebook Reeder used the terms “not for the faint of heart” and “hell on the knees” to describe the trip down to the lake on the abandoned portion of trail. Heather had been dealing with a calf strain and it had been acting up on the hike so she decided against the side trip but I was feeling adventurous. She would head up to the summit and wait for me there so we set a time that she should expect me to meet up with her. I gave myself an hour and a half figuring that we typically hike at a 2 – 2.5 mile per hour pace and the round trip to Heart Lake should have only been about 1.5 miles.

I set off downhill from the saddle on a well defined trail.
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In the first quarter of a mile the trail dropped into a basin losing 150′ at a not too steep grade. Being on the north facing side of the ridge at an elevation of 5400′ meant that there was still a decent amount of snow in this area though.
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I quickly lost the tread so I turned to the Forest Service Map loaded on the GPS unit in an attempt to re-find the trail. Unfortunately this was one of those instances where the location of the trail on the map is inaccurate. Reeder had included a GPS track on the topographic map in the guidebook but I’d left that with Heather so I didn’t immediately realize that the Forest Service map was wrong. The Forest Service map showed the trail passing through a meadow (where I found some marsh marigolds and shooting stars).
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At the far end of the meadow I spotted a couple of old fire rings amid the trees which made me think that maybe I was on the right track but less than 20 yards from the meadow I came to a line of impassable cliffs. Using the GPS I wandered to the right then back to the left several times looking for where the trail might possibly be. According to the GPS I had crossed and recrossed the trail multiple times but there was no way anyone was getting down that cliff. I was just about to give up when I suddenly remembered to use my brain. I thought I remembered that the track in the guidebook spent most of the time to the left of a creek and when I zoomed out a bit on the GPS I could see a creek to my left. I decided to bushwack over toward the head of the creek to see if I might be able to find something there. I could also see that the trail on the Forest Service map crossed the creek further downstream so if nothing else I might be able to follow the creek down to that point. As I neared the creek the forest opened up and I was able to spot what appeared to be a blaze on a tree on the opposite side.
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I crossed the creek on a log and sidehilled my way down past the blaze where I once again spotted trail.
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Once I had re-found the trail it was easy enough to follow. The tread was faint but visible with little blowdown and there were some remains of pink flagging to assist me.
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I disturbed a family of grouse as I descended.
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It was quite a descent too! This was one steep trail which mostly just headed straight down a ridge-line for about a quarter mile before beginning to level out as it neared a large meadow to the south of Heart Lake.
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Elephant head flowers bloomed in the marshy meadow along with some other wildflowers.
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The area was damp but I was able to find enough dry spots to make my way down to Heart Lake.
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The old trail shown on the map had passed around the lake on its west side to a campsite on the northern end. I found a brushy path that I was able to follow through more marshy meadows and a tangle of trees to that campsite.
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Due to all the wandering around I had done in the basin looking for the trail it had taken me nearly 40 minutes to reach the campsite which was 1.2 miles from the saddle. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me to climb back up so I didn’t stay at the campsite long before heading back. The climb back up was brutal but it only took me a half an our to reach the saddle but I still had a .3 mile climb up the ridge before I reached Heather.
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I managed to make it with a little under 15 minutes to spare. The meadow at the summit didn’t have quite the impressive flower display as the lower meadows had had but the view was nice even though it was a bit hazy.
IMG_8033Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

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IMG_8030Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor

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After catching my breath we headed back returning the way we’d come. On the way back several flowers were now open making the view a little different.
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The pollinators were also now busy doing their things.
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We only encountered 8 other people, all on our way back to the car, which was surprising to us given how great the wildflowers were. We both preferred this approach to the shorter Gate Creek Trail, but to be fair it was a different time of year. Either way the views at the top are great and for those wanting some extra adventure there’s the option to visit Heart Lake. All in all another great hike in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Browder Ridge Trail and Heart Lake

Elk Lake Creek – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

While we continue to work on completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks we occasionally take a break from that pursuit and take a hike recommended from another source. Our recent hike along the Elk Lake Creek Trail was one such outing.

Using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” we drove to the northern end of the Elk Lake Creek Trail.
Elk Lake Creek Trailhead

After a short forested section the trail traversed a burnt hillside above Elk Lake Creek.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington Lilies above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington lilies

Elk Lake Creek

As the gap between the creek and trail narrowed we passed a pair of small waterfalls leading into green pools. A small amount of bushwhacking was required to get the best views.
Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek

The burned section ended just before entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness near Pine Cone Creek at the 1.1 mile mark.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek Trail entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Pine Cone Creek

Beyond Pine Cone Creek the trail entered a fir forest with rhododendron and ripening huckleberries.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Just before the two mile mark we arrived at a crossing of Knob Rock Creek.
Sign for Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Just around a ridge end from Knob Rock Creek was Welcome Creek which had a couple of nice little waterfalls.
Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

A short climb from Welcome Creek brought us to a junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail.
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Welcome Lakes Trail sign

That trail climbs 2000′ in three miles through mostly burned forest to Welcome Lakes, a trip for another time. We stayed straight on the Elk Lake Creek Trail (Trail 559).
Elk Lake Creek Trail

From the junction the trail descended for two tenths of a mile to a ford of Elk Lake Creek. We had originally planned to do this hike last June but the high snow pack had left creek running high well into June making the fords of Elk Lake Creek dangerous. With a much lower snow pack this year the ford was only knee deep and not swift.
Elk Lake Creek ford

Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek ford

On the far side of the creek I nearly stepped on a rough skinned newt. He high tailed it off the trail and tried to disguise himself as a piece of bark.
Rough skinned newt

Rough skinned newt

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through old-growth forest just a bit away from the creek but it was always within earshot and often eye sight.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek

Just over 3.25 miles from the trailhead the trail arrived at a viewpoint above an emerald pool.
Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

We spent a good deal of time marveling at the colors here on the creek before continuing on. Beyond the emerald pool a small section of trail had been claimed by a stream.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We reached the second knee deep ford of Elk Lake Creek 0.4 miles from the pool.
Elk Lake Creek

On the far side, the trail became a bit brushy as it continued near the creek skirting a hillside of rocks.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Hillside above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

As soon as we were past the rock fields the trail reentered the forest.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We faced another ford near the 5 mile mark, this time of Battle Creek.
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Battle Creek

Just two tenths of a mile later we had reached our original goal – the junction with the Mother Lode Trail (Trail 558).
Elk Lake Creek Trail junction with the Mother Lode Trail

Mother Lode Trail

The Elk Lake Creek Trail continued from the junction and would have eventually brought us to Elk Lake after nearly another 4 miles but continuing from the junction meant climbing up a ridge. Instead of turning back here though we decided to hike a short distance up the Mother Lode Trail to visit Mother Lode Creek. This looked to involve much less climbing so off we went to yet another ford of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

We soon entered forest burned in the 2010 View Lake Fire Complex and after a half mile on this trail came to a junction with the now abandoned Geronimo Trail.
Mother Lode Trail junction with the abandoned Geronimo Trail

What appeared to be a homemade sign marked that trail and its tread was still visible heading uphill into the burn.
Old Geronimo Trail

Mother Lode Creek was just a short distance away and we hiked down to it before turning back.
Sign for Mother Lode Creek

Mother Lode Creek

We returned the way we’d come stopping again at the emerald pool which was now in the sunlight. We watched fish swimming in the clear water for a bit before continuing on.
Emerald pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Fish

The hike was a little over 11.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of total elevation gain and 5 fords (I forded Mother Lode Creek to get a picture of its sign). One of the things we really enjoyed about the hike was that there were several “attractions” along the way with the small waterfalls, the emerald pool, and the old-growth forest in general. There were a few mosquitoes around but one spraying of DEET seemed to keep most of them at bay. This makes for a great early summer hike as long as the water levels make the fords possible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk Lake Creek

Throwback Thursday – Odds and Ends

With this Throwback Thursday post we will have covered all the trails that we hiked prior to starting this blog and have not been part of a subsequent hike that was featured here. We are combining several hikes in one for a couple of reasons. The remaining hikes were all relatively short, some we have few if any pictures, and one was done on the same day that we did another hike that we did again after we started the blog.

Many of our earliest hikes were centered around Bend, OR and were part of vacations prior to 2010 when we first started to be serious about hiking. These were hikes of opportunity more than conscious efforts to go on a hike.

One such was the 3 mile loop around Suttle Lake. We were staying at one of the cabins at the Suttle Lake Resort and decided to take the trail around the lake. The level hike offered views of the lake and of bald eagles and osprey as they soared over the lake watching for fish. On that hike we didn’t even carry a camera.

Another camera-less but worthwhile hike was the Lava River Cave. This mile long lava tube south of Bend is a great stop for kids and adults and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lava Lands or the High Desert Museum.

In 2007, while in Bend on vacation in July, we hiked up Pilot Butte. A mile long trail in the middle of town leads up to the top of the 4148′ summit which offers view on a clear day north to Mt. Adams in Washington.
Mountain locator on Pilot Butte

It was a bit hazy during this visit but the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Mt. Bachelor to the Three Sisters were still visible.
Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mt., Ball Butte, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters

On that same trip we took a stroll along the Deschutes River Trail from the Mt. Bachelor Village upriver to a footbridge and returned on a loop via Reed Market Road.
Deschutes River

Geese on the Deschutes River

Scarlet gilia

Deer along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, OR

Deschutes River

Grand Collomia

The hikes weren’t all in Central Oregon. On 7/27/2009 we completed the 1.8 mile round trip to Henline Falls from the Henline Falls Trailhead. The trail is approximately 45 minutes east of Salem and features an old mine shaft near the waterfall.
Henline Falls

Abandoned mine shaft

Abandonded mine shaft

We also started up the nearby Henline Mountain Trail (trailhead) that day but were not in decent enough shape to make it very far.

The final short hike along Lava Canyon near Mt. St. Helens was done after our first hike to Ape Canyon on 9/17/2012. We went back to Ape Canyon in 2015 (post) but that time we did Ape Cave for the other hike.

After finishing our Ape Canyon hike in 2012 we walked from the Ape Canyon Trailhead .25 miles to the Lava Canyon Trailhead.
Trail map near Lava Canyon

A .4 mile trail leads down to the start of a short half mile loop.
Lava Canyon Trail sign

We stayed left at the start of the loop staying on the west side of the Muddy River. A footbridge led across the river above Lava Canyon Falls which was below the trail but mostly obscured.
Lava Canyon Trail sign at the start of the loop

Lava Canyon Falls

Just .2 miles from the first bridge the loop crosses the river on a suspension bridge.
Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Upstream from the suspension bridge the Muddy River careens down Triple Falls.
Triple Falls

A .3 mile trail returns to the footbridge along the river along the eastern bank.
Muddy River

Muddy River

Upper Lava Canyon Falls

Henline Falls, Henline Mountain, and Lava Canyon are all in our future plans and reliving these and all our other Throwback Thursday hikes has been a lot of fun. Even though the information is dated hopefully they have provided some additional ideas for places to visit here in the Pacific Northwest. As always check with the managing agencies for current trail conditions before heading out. Happy Trails!

Throwback Thursday – Little North Santiam River

Our Throwback Thursday hike this week was the first time that we experienced snowfall while on a trail. In early April of 2012 we headed to the Little North Santiam, West Trailhead for what we hoped would be a 9 mile out-and-back hike along the Little North Santiam River.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

The area has become so popular on summer weekends that in June 2017 the Forest Service put several restrictions in place (information). Most of the issues have been north bank of the river which is easily accessed by car. Even in 2012 we knew to avoid the warm days of summer so we were there on a cold, wet Spring morning ready to go.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

Little North Santaim Trail

The Little North Santiam Trail led through a green forest along the Little North Santiam River.
Winter Creek

Little North Santaim River

Several side paths led down to the clear water.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Low clouds provided a light drizzle but we could see high enough up the hillside to see that snow level wasn’t all that much more above us.
Snowy trees not too much higher up

After crossing Winter Creek the trail climbed away from the river as it passed through a narrow canyon.
Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

After passing the canyon the trail descended back down to the river through a mossy green forest.
Little North Santaim Trail

Forest along the Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

At the 3.3 mile mark we passed above the Three Pools which are emerald pools in the river separated by small falls.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

A little beyond the Three Pools the trail crosses Little Cedar Creek on a footbridge only the footbridge had been washed out over the winter and the creek was flowing high enough and fast enough to make the thought of fording unattractive. We were only about half a mile from the eastern trailhead but had to turn back.

As we headed back it began to snow.
Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

It was coming down steadily and beginning to stick.
Snow along the Little North Santiam Trail

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Things looked quite a bit different at the high point of the trail when we passed over on the way back.
Little North Santaim Trail

Fresh snow on the Little North Santiam Trail

As we descended the amount of snow lessened but it still made for some beautiful scenery.
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

There was even a bit of snow at the trailhead when we got back.
Fresh snow at the Little North Santiam Trailhead

The snow had surprised us and we were a little nervous at first about being able to see the trail, which was unfounded but we hadn’t hiked in snow like that before. It wound up being an exceptionally beautiful hike though and so much nicer than it would have been with hundreds of people swimming in the river. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little North Santiam River

Muir Creek Loop – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

We had planned our most adventurous hike of Memorial Day weekend for Sunday. The goal was a long loop into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, one of the wilderness areas we had yet to visit in our outings. Our intended route was to begin at the Muir Creek Trailhead and complete a 15.5 mile loop described by William Sullivan in his Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (Hike #37 in the 2017 4th edition). We were pushing the envelope a bit by attempting the loop this early in the year given that the route would take us to an elevation just over 6000′. A May 8, 2015 variation of the loop by fellow hiker Van Marmot appeared to have been snow free (trip report). That was an extremely low snow year and although this years snow pack was well below normal it isn’t nearly as bad as it was in 2015. We hoped the extra two weeks in timing would at least make what snow might be left passable. We figured the worst case scenario would be that we would hike up the creek as far as possible and make it an out-and-back if necessary.

With plans A & B at the ready we left Bend a bit before 5am and were ready to set off on the Muir Creek Trail by 6:45.
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It was a crisp 35 degrees as we set off through the forest. We were soon climbing over and around a good deal of blowdown.
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It wasn’t long before we began getting our first views of the meadows along Muir Creek.
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We were on the lookout for wildlife in the meadows as well as any sign of where the abandoned portion of the Meadow Creek Trail might drop us back onto the Muir Creek Trail if we were indeed able to complete the loop. We expected that junction to be somewhere near the one mile mark but never noticed anything that looked like it might be the old trail. Beyond the one mile mark we encountered what appeared to be a somewhat recently eroded section of trail.
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Just under a mile and a half from the trailhead we came to a beautiful view of Muir Creek as it flowed through a meadow.
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Just beyond the viewpoint we passed a nice patch of white lupine along the trail.
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Then we came to Alkali Creek which proved to be a little challenging to get across dry footed but we managed to find a fairly dry route.
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The trail spent most if its time in the forest but occasional openings in the trees provided meadow views and at one point we spotted a pair of deer nibbling on some bushes.
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Roughly two and three quarter miles from the trailhead we spotted East Fork Muir Creek Falls. Here we also saw the only other people we would see along the trail all day, a couple of backpackers who had set up camp near the falls.
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Beyond the falls the trail continued up along West Fork Muir Creek briefly joining OHV Trail 27.
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We left the OHV Trail at a bridge over the creek after a couple tenths of a mile.
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We were now on the Buck Canyon Trail which began at road 6560/190 on the other side of the bridge at the Buck Canyon Trailhead.
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Approximately a quarter mile from the bridge we came to the first of two bridgeless crossings of the creek. We searched to no avail for a place where we could cross without getting wet and eventually decided to ford the creek which was only calf deep but it was cold.
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A quarter mile later we were faced with a similar situation and plunged through the icy water again.
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In a small meadow we found some tall mountain bluebells beginning to bloom and a butterfly who appeared to be waiting for the flowers.
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The meadows increased as we officially entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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We soon entered Hummingbird Meadows which had a nice display of yellow glacier lilies.
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We also spotted a coyote here and watched it run off into the forest and disappear. A total of 5.3 miles from the Muir Creek Trailhead we passed the signed Hummingbird Meadows Trail.
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The trail continued to the large and scenic Hummingbird Meadows as it climbed gradually up Buck Canyon.
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The meadows continued for a mile and a half from the Hummingbird Meadows Trail to a junction with the Wiley Camp Trail which the Forest Service Website currently lists as “area is unavailable”.
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Near the upper end of the meadows we began seeing some decent amounts of snow.
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We also spotted a dreaded mylar balloon which we packed out.
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At the junction there was no sign for the Wiley Camp Trail but there was one for the Buck Canyon Trail pointing toward the Meadow Creek Trail (which was still quite a ways away).
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Shortly after passing the Wiley Camp Trail we came to Devils Slide, a half mile long rock-slide.
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We stopped to visit a small waterfall next to the rocks.
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After passing Devils Slide the trail entered an upper meadow.
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Here we found some large patches of marsh marigolds.
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A brief stint in the trees led us to more blowdown and another small waterfall.
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Then we were back in a meadow but this time there was quite a bit more snow.
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A few phlox and avalanche lilies bloomed here.
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We lost the trail in the snow as we left the meadow and entered the trees.
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For the next couple of miles we played find the trail due to the lingering snow. There was enough left that it made things challenging but not impassable. We did a bit of postholing, especially Heather, as we zig zaged through the forest looking for signs of the trail. Sometimes old tree blazes led the way and other times it was downed logs that had been cut for the trail. Occasionally the trail itself would appear for a bit only to be swallowed again by a snow drift. Having the GPS also helped as we were able to tell where the trail was in relation to our position.
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IMG_4483blaze in the tree

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After passing over a saddle at 6000′ we descended to Alkali Meadows. From the meadows we spotted Union Peak and some of the rim of Crater Lake.
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After a brief stint in the upper portion of the meadows the trail turned back into the trees for a couple of creek crossings.
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Soon we were back in Alkali Meadows and staring straight at Mt. Thielsen. (post)
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A little further down the meadow Mt. Bailey (post) joined the view.
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We left the snow behind after Alkali Meadows where the trail turned south traversing through a drier area for a mile to Bear Camp where we found the Meadow Creek Trail.
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IMG_4532The rim of Crater Lake

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We turned left onto the Meadow Creek Trail and quickly began a steep mile long descent.
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We passed through more meadows with more views.
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Just before reaching road 6540-700 we left the wilderness behind.
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We turned left onto this road and followed it just over a quarter of a mile to where we turned right and followed signs for OHV Trail 27.
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OHV Trail 27 left the wide road in favor of a rougher, narrow track.
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There had obviously been some recent maintenance done to this trail, unlike our earlier trails.
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We passed a nice view of Mt. Bailey and then saw the source of some of the maintenance.
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The little dozer was Forest Service but it alone couldn’t have created all the debris we’d been seeing along the trail. Broken trees and brush had lined the entire track. After passing another viewpoint, this time of Crater Lake’s rim and Union Peak we discovered what had been chewing up the vegetation.
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After roughly 1.5 miles descending on the OHV Trail we arrived Road 6540-900.
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As nice as it was to have an actual trail to follow from Road 6540-700 down to the next road crossing it would have been much nicer if it had been the Meadow Creek Trail which had originally continued all the way down to the Muir Creek Trail. All of that trail save the mile between Bear Camp and Road 6540-700 has been abandoned by the Forest Service and from the map OHV Trail 27 appears to have obliterated some of the original trail. Road 6540-900 is where Van Marmot had started his hike and his trip report noted that the lower portion of the Meadow Creek Trial between this road and the Muir Creek Trail was still usable.

We turned right on Road 6450-700 looking for signs of the trail. Luckily someone had placed some pink flagging at the old trail otherwise we would have probably walked right past it even though the GPS showed we were right near it.
IMG_4572Faded pink flagging in the tree marking the abandoned Meadow Creek Trail

The trail was approximately 100 yards from where OHV Trial 27 popped out on the road and just a short distance before a cattle guard.
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The old trail was faint but easy to follow, in fact it was easier to follow this trail than the Buck Canyon Trail had been in the snow.
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There was pink flagging along most of the half mile route but we did finally lose track of the tread just above the Muir Creek Trail. There was enough blowdown along the hillside that we had to make the final descent up on our own. This explained why we had been unable to spot any sign of the trail on our way by in the morning. We wound up just about a mile away from the trailhead so we headed back along the Muir Creek Trail maneuvering around the downed trees along the way. The 15.5 mile loop wound up being 16.2 according to our GPS, much of difference can be attributed to the back and forth hiking we did searching for the Buck Canyon Trail in the snow.

It was a beautiful hike even with the OHV Trail thrown in and we were amazed that on a holiday weekend we had only seen the one other couple all day. It was everything we’d hoped for in our first visit to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Muir Creek Loop