Category Archives: Oakridge Area

Salmon Creek Falls

On Columbus Day morning we left Klamath Falls and headed home to Salem. We were planning on hiking on the way home, but we weren’t sure what hike we would be doing. If the weather was decent we were hoping to hike up The Twins near Waldo Lake and if it wasn’t we’d try the Salmon Creek Trail to Salmon Creek Falls near Oakridge.

It was dark at 5am as we headed north on Highway 97 but the stars where visible in the sky above. The stars were still out as we turned onto Highway 58 and began to head NW toward the Cascade Crest. The possibility of The Twins was still on the table, but by the time we had reached Crescent Junction the stars had been replaced by rain clouds. Salmon Creek Falls it was.

Just prior to reaching Oakridge we turned right onto Fish Hatchery Road and drove it’s length to Forest Road 24 where we turned right for .8 miles to the Flat Creek Road. Here we turned right and parked in a large gravel parking lot next to a small gazebo.
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The Salmon Creek Trail began a short distance down the road from the gazebo.
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After just a tenth of a mile we came to an unsigned junction where we turned left.
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A steady light rain was falling from the low clouds overhead as we followed this trail east past the Flat Creek Work Center and along Salmon Creek.
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It was an interesting trail in that it split in several areas only to rejoin a short distance later. A sort of pick your own adventure trail if you will. It also spent some time along the shoulder of FR 24 in areas where Salmon Creek had eroded the bank substantially.
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At other times the trail followed roadbeds.
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This led to a little confusion about the correct route, but it really didn’t matter as long as we kept heading east because the creek and FR 24 acted as rails on either side.

After a little over two and a half miles we arrived at a wide junction.
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A right turn here brought us to the site of a washed out bridge that used to connect to another trail on the south side of Salmon Creek.
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Just under a mile beyond the washed out bridge we arrived at the Salmon Creek Campground.
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We headed through an empty camp site and followed a path down to the creek and 10′ Salmon Creek Falls.
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It was a good day to visit the falls, the autumn colors were nice and there were no crowds around. After spending some time by the water we headed back keeping our eyes open for the small things that are easy to miss in the forest.
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It was a fairly easy 7.8 mile round trip hike and even though it rained almost the entire time we didn’t feel soaked. It was about as nice a hike as one could hope for on that kind of day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon Creek Falls

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Lawler Trail to Patterson Mountain

For our first hike in May we headed east of Eugene, OR on Highway 58 to the Lawler Trail. The 5.5 mile trail gains over 2700′ to the Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trail. Our plan was to start at the Lawler Trailhead.

The forest service website mentioned a slide about .75 miles from the trailhead and that turning around was difficult for passenger cars so we were expecting some interesting driving conditions. We turned off of Highway 58 onto Patterson Mountain Road (Forest Service Road 5840) and then left onto FS Road 531 after a short climb uphill. Not long after turning onto this road we passed a trail and hiker sign on the right. As we passed a second signed trail just east of Duval Creek, there was also space for a couple of vehicles. These were part of the Lawler Extension Trail that extends between the Lawler Trailhead and the Eula Ridge Trailhead. None of these possible starting points were options for us since they would have required over 20 miles of hiking (nearly 25 round trip from the Eula Ridge TH).

Just beyond the trail at Duval Creek we came upon a small tree across Road 531. We carry a small saw and ax with us just in case we need to do some clearing and I thought I was finally going to get to us them, but it turned out that the tree was not stuck in the ground and it was small enough that I was able to drag it off to the side so we could continue. After a little over 2 miles on Road 531 we veered uphill to the right on Road 535. This was the road with the slide and it was narrow. We were driving slowly looking for the slide when we arrived at a small turnaround and a hiker sign.IMG_2845

We still aren’t sure if the slide had been cleared or if the note about the slide was old and this spot was actually the site of it. It clearly wasn’t the original trailhead because we had to walk up the old road bed to reach the start of the actual trail. We came upon some wood that had been laid across the road marking the location of the Lawler Extension Trail coming up from below.IMG_2848

Instead of being .75 miles from the trailhead we arrived at then end of the old road bed and the start of the trail in just over .25 miles.IMG_2852

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We turned onto the trail which quickly began to climb into the forest.IMG_2855

A first series of switchbacks passed beneath some large rock outcroppings.IMG_2864

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After getting past the rocks the trail swung back around climbing above them to another series of switchbacks. Along the way the forest was dotted with white trillium.IMG_2875

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We also spotted a green frog.IMG_2884

After approximately 1.75 miles we gained a ridge. Soon we came to a grassy viewpoint amid manzanita bushes and fawn lilies.IMG_2895

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The trail followed the ridge through shifting forests and past more early wildflowers.IMG_2904

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A quarter mile from the viewpoint the trail dropped to a saddle before climbing back up to another viewpoint .7 miles from the first. The view from the previous viewpoint was to the NE while this one looked west.IMG_2932

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Patterson Mountain in the upper left hand corner and Hardesty Mountain on the right.

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Lookout Point Reservoir

There was a nice madrone tree at the western end of the grassy opening.IMG_2941

After taking in the view we continued along the ridge passing a cool rock pinnacle.IMG_2943

Beyond the pinnacle the trail dropped to another saddle and the first of three road crossings.IMG_2951

Road 213 was clearly no longer in use but there was a nice red flowering current at the junction.IMG_2952

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The Lawler Trail climbed from the saddle into a small section of forest that had experienced a burn at some point. It was either a small forest fire or possibly from a burnout operation during the Deception Fire of 2014.IMG_2956

Beyond the burn area we began to encounter some minor blowdown which was all manageable.IMG_2960

An eighth of a mile after crossing Road 213 we arrived at another decommissioned road, FS 542.IMG_2961

Another .3 miles of climbing brought us to the third road crossing, FS 543, which appeared to still be in use.IMG_2968

Between these two crossing we passed one of the oddest looking trees we’ve seen. As we approached it looked as if its trunk was shaped in a loop.IMG_2965

Looking at if from the other side showed that it wasn’t quite a loop but it had grown in some interesting directions.IMG_2964

The trail continued climbing beyond FS 543 and we began running into small patches of snow and more blowdown.

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A little over a half mile beyond the road we gained another ridge and headed up it. The ridge provided some views of several Cascade snow peaks.IMG_3000

North & Middle Sister

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South Sister

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Broken Top

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Mt. Bachelor

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Diamond Peak

We continued along the ridge which became broader, more forested, and snowy to the signed junction of the Lawler and Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trails.IMG_3010

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We turned right at the junction passing between a large snow patch and the skunk cabbage filled southern end of the Lone Wolf Meadow.IMG_3019

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This trail took us along the Lone Wolf Meadow for half a mile to another junction. The hellebore was just beginning to come up in the meadow which was apparently full of frogs. We never saw any but boy could we hear them.IMG_3027

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At the junction we turned right to visit the Lone Wolf Shelter.IMG_3032

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We took a break at the shelter listening to the chorus of frogs mix with the sounds of stream flowing from the meadow and the various birds calling from the trees.IMG_3044

After our relaxing rest at the shelter we continued on toward the summit of Patterson Mountain. The trail passed above another meadow that was full of more yellow skunk cabbage.IMG_3048

After passing the forested summit of Patterson Mountain the trail dropped slightly to a saddle with a small meadow.IMG_3057

Here a few yellow glacier lilies mixed with purple snow queen and some small white flowers.IMG_3062

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A final quarter mile of hiking brought us to the end of the trail and a bench at a rocky viewpoint.IMG_3065

From here views extended west past Hardesty Mountain and Lookout Point Reservoir to the Willamette Valley.IMG_3081

The Three Sisters and Broken Top could be seen to the NE.IMG_3070

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We sat on the bench for a bit. The only sounds were of the occasional bird and it was wonderfully peaceful. We pulled ourselves away at 11:45 and started back. We had only seen a couple of mountain bikers up to that point but as we made our way back to the shelter we began to see a few more people. We passed a couple of families who had started from the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead which allowed for a kid friendly 5 mile round trip to the bench viewpoint.

Once we were back on the Lawler Trail we passed some equestrians on their way up and were passed by a handful of mountain bikers on their way down. Some of the wildflowers had opened up as the day moved on adding some sights to the decent that we had not seen earlier.20180505_114836

Toothwort

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Sour grass

The insects were a little more active as well.IMG_3120

As we were finishing our hike along the old road bed I spotted a little garter snake curled up by the trail.IMG_3138

We were still the only car parked on Road 535 which was good because we had been slightly concerned about getting penned in if more people parked there. As we drove out it appeared that the equestrians had parked at Duval Creek and the Mountain Bikers had likely either parked at the Eula or Hardesty Trailheads.

The hike was on the longer side coming in a little over 16 miles and had a cumulative elevation gain over 3000′ putting it squarely in the difficult category, but it had been worth the effort. The various viewpoints helped provide breaks along the way and in the end we encountered less than 20 other people. While the shorter option of starting at the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead is surely the choice of most hikers this longer option would be a great training hike for those seeking one. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Patterson Mountain

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
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Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Chucksney Mountain to Grasshopper Meadow – Overnight

After cancelling our first two planned backpacking trips in June we finally got out for an overnight trip. Originally on the schedule for the last week in June, we moved our visit to Grasshopper Meadow back three weeks to let the snow finish melting off, we just hoped we hadn’t waited too long to see the wildflowers.

Our plan for this trip was to start at Box Canyon Horse Camp and hike to Grasshopper Meadow via the Chucksney Mountain and Grasshopper Trails.

Box Canyon Horse Camp is located just off paved Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Road) and can be reached by driving south from Highway 126 (4 miles east of Blue River) or north from Highway 58 (3 miles west of Oakridge).

After turning at a sign for the Horse Camp we forked right and parked in a large unmarked parking area where a post marked the start of our trail.

Trail from the car parking at Box Canyon Horse Camp

The trail led uphill and left to a signed trail junction just above the corral at the horse camp where we picked up the Grasshopper Trail.

Grasshopper Trail

Mosquitoes were a bit of a nuisance here, and they would be so off and on for the entire trip. We turned uphill passing the Box Canyon Trail which forked to the left before arriving at the signed junction with the Chucksney Mountain Tail. Here we turned right onto the Chucksney Mountain Trail which would lead us to the 5756′ summit in a little under 5 miles. The trail passed through a variety of scenery as it climbed.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Beargrass and a small burn along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

In the first 3.5 miles from the trailhead we’d climbed about 1500′ reaching an elevation of 5200′ then the trail dropped a bit and leveled out for about a half mile. The level area held a couple of snow melt ponds and some green meadows which gave rise to plenty of mosquitoes so there wasn’t much stopping for photos as we zipped through. When the trail began climbing again we were approximately 600′ below the summit of Chucksney Mountain.

The trail made up the elevation in a half mile by using a long switchback. As we climbed the number of trees lessened and we passed an increasing number of wildflowers.

Lupine along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail crested a ridge below the summit in an old burn area which left plenty of exposure for wildflowers as well as open views.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Phlox

View from Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor

The Chucksney Mountain Trail didn’t actually reach the summit but an easy .1 mile climb along the ridge brought us to the summits survey marker.

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Survey marker on Chucksney Mountain

A nice variety of wildflowers covered the ridge.

Owl's head clover

Catchfly

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Scarlet gilia

From the summit we could see eight of the Cascade volcanoes from Mt. Jefferson in the north to Diamond Peak in the south.

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack from Chucksney MountainMt. Jefferson & Three Fingered Jack

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor from Chucksney MountainThe Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor

Diamond Peak from Chucksney MountainDiamond Peak

After a short break at the summit we returned to the trail which turned south along a long ridge where the tread became faint as it passed through a meadow.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

We spotted some other types of wildflowers along the ridge as well as some nice ripe strawberries.

Fireweed

Grand collomia

Wallflower

Coneflower

Columbine

Strawberry

The trail reentered the trees as it began a hillside traverse to its end at the Grasshopper Trail.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail passed along another section of burned forest just before reaching the signed junction.

Meadow along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail junction with the Grasshopper Trail

Turning left here would have led us back to the down to the Box Canyon Trailhead in 3.9 miles but we were saving that section of trail for our return the next day. We turned right and headed east along the Grasshopper Trail which promptly began to descend through and then along a meadow with lots of cat’s ear lilies and a view of Diamond Peak.

Meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Cat's ear lilies

Cat's ear lilies

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

The trail lost a little over 500′ of elevation as it followed the forested ridge east. A little over a mile from the junction we finally hit the low point in a saddle just under 5000′ in elevation. We then began regaining nearly all of the elevation we had lost in the next mile. This climb contained the steepest section of the hike and ended in a beargrass filled meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Beargrass

Beargrass meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

A brief exploration of the meadow revealed some blocks in the ground of unknown origin.

Blocks in a meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

We also spotted a fairly good sized and very colorful moth which we later identified as a common sheep moth thanks to some help from the folks at Oregonhikers.org.

Sheep Moth

Sheep Moth

We had thought this meadow might be Grasshopper Point but after consulting the map it was clear we had a way to go yet before we’d reach that feature. We continued on the trail, which for the next quarter mile traveled along some rocky cliffs offering more views of Diamond Peak.

Diamond Peak

Beyond the cliffs the trail turned north as it began to contour around a creek drainage. Up until this point the the trail had been in good shape with signs of recent maintenance where logs had been cut. The Chucksney Mountain Trail had been a bit faint through the meadow along the ridge but it had still been relatively easy to follow. Here we came to a large meadow with signs of another fire but no sign of the trail at first.

The Grasshopper Trail was not visible through this meadow, a few Forest Service flags helped mark the way.

We finally spotted a small orange flag in the middle of the grass and made our way towards it.

Forest Service Flag marking the Grasshopper Trail

It was a Forest Service “Trail” Flag so we looked for a second one. We did spot one, but it was next to a small tree next to the trail we’d just come from. We scanned for any signs of a trail: flagging, cairns, blazes but there was nothing. Time for the maps. The Garmin, Forest Service, and topographic maps all showed the trail swinging around to the NE so we began using the GPS to stick close to where it showed the trail was supposed to be. We spread out a bit in hopes of rediscovering the trail. We both spotted different flags at about the same time.

Forest Service Trail flag

There wound up being three flags at the lower end of the meadow which led us to the continuation of the trail as it reentered the trees. After a short stint in the trees the trail began to climb out of the valley into another meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

The trail was faint at times in this meadow as well, but there were large rock cairns to help guide us this time.

Grasshopper Trail

Looking back from this meadow gave us a good look at another meadow across the valley.

Meadows along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow gave way to a wildflower rock garden as the trail regained the ridge.

Grasshopper Trail

Owl's head clover

Scarlet gilia

Wildflowers along the Grasshopper Trail

Penstemon

In the next half mile the trail passed through two small meadows, the first filled with lupine and the second more beargrass. The trail was once again very faint in the lupine meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Lupine

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

The trail then dipped off the ridge, first on the north side, then after climbing back up to a saddle, to the south side to avoid some rock outcrops.

Grasshopper Trail

Beyond the outcrops was a short forested section of the ridge where some fragrant Washington lilies were in bloom.

Washington lily

Washington lily

A total of 5.2 miles from the Chucksney Mountain Trail junction we arrived at the meadow near Grasshopper Point.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

We spotted a patch of bare ground at the edge of the meadow near the trees where we decided to set up camp.

Lupine meadow

Camp site along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow was filled with flowers and provided views of Diamond Peak, especially on the rocks of Grasshopper Point.

Wildflower meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Diamond Peak

After setting up camp and taking a nice break at Grasshopper Point we continued east on the Grasshopper Trail to the large Grasshopper Meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Meadow

Grasshopper Meadow (and Grasshopper Point for that matter) lived up to their name as dozens of grasshoppers jumped with every step. The number of grasshoppers was impressive but more impressive was the variety of butterflies we were seeing.

Checkerspot butterfly

Swallowtail on tiger liliy

Mountain parnassian

Butterfly in Grasshopper Meadow

Fritillary butterflies

Butterflies in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper

There was even another common sheep moth.

Sheep moth

We were so busy looking at the butterflies and flowers we missed the fork in the trail that would have led down to a spring which is where we had planned on heading. We had brought our dinner with us and had planned on finding a place to eat near the spring so we could refill our water afterward since it was the only source of water around. When we reached a saddle where the trail began to descend to the north of Grasshopper Mountain we realized our mistake. From the saddle the Grasshopper Trail follows Hiyu Ridge for 4 miles to the Grasshopper Trailhead.

The view from the saddle included Diamond Peak to the SE and the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor beyond Chucksney Mountain to the NE.

Diamond Peak from Grasshopper Meadow

The Three Sisters and Broken Top

We momentarily considered attempting to bushwack up to the former lookout site atop Grasshopper Mountain but the brush near the summit looked thick and in the end we decided not to exert the effort.

Grasshopper Mountain

Instead we decided to head cross country downhill and use the GPS to locate the spring.

Grasshopper Meadow

From higher up in the meadow we’d seen something near a boulder below and on our way to the spring we took a closer look.

Some sort of memorial in Grasshopper Meadow

Not sure if it was some sort of memorial or what but after satisfying our curiosity we continued steeply downhill to the SE where we managed to find the spring flowing out of a pipe amid a clump of yellow monkey flower and a swarm of blue copper butterflies.

Spring in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper butterflies

We filled all our containers from the spring and then picked up a trail just a few feet east of the spring climbing steeply uphill. This trail starts just .7 miles from the spring along Forest Road 1929 and is the described route in William Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades”.

The terrain was too steep to provide any place for us to fix dinner so we began climbing back up toward the Grasshopper Trail. The trail was faint but visible as we climbed. Along the way we spotted a huge Washington lily blooming in the meadow.

Washington lily in Grasshopper Meadow

Washington lily

Washington lily

We were curious to find out where we’d missed this trail earlier when we passed by. It turned out that the path led over a rocky area where the tread vanished leaving a lone post and small rock cairn as it’s only identifiers.

Grasshopper Trail

We decided to return to Grasshopper Point and set up our stove on the rocks there. We fixed dinner then relaxed as we enjoyed the view and listened to the birds.

Western tanager

White crowned sparrow

We turned in for the night after having put in a little over 15 miles for the day. After a good nights sleep we awoke early and began preparing to depart. The mosquitoes were out in force, (they had been mostly absent in the meadows during the heat of the previous day) and we were dealing with a fair amount of condensation due to setting up next to the meadow.

Lupine in the morning light

After packing up and applying some DEET we headed back. We had talked about the possibility of seeing some sort of animals in the meadows that morning and sure enough we did spot three deer just as we entered one of the meadows, but they quickly retreated into the trees.

While we hadn’t seen anyone else yet on this trip we did spot some fresh mountain bike tracks as we neared the junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail. We reached that junction after a little over five miles. We passed that trail and continued straight on the Grasshopper Trail.

Our shoes were soaked from the dew in the meadows and the mosquitoes were ready to pounce whenever we paused, so even though the next 3.6 miles of the Grasshopper Trail was new for us, we kept a brisk pace. The trail wound it’s way downhill through the forest where there were still many of the typical white flowers found amid the trees; bunchberry, anamone, queen’s cup, twin flower, and we even spotted a pair of trillium still in bloom.

Trillium

After a wide switchback we crossed a stream flowing down Box Canyon and in another quarter mile arrived back at the lower junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail.
Stream in Box Canyon

Grasshopper Trail junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail

A final .3 miles brought us back to our car which was being patrolled by a squadron of mosquitoes. We quickly tossed our packs in the back of the car and hopped inside to change. We never did wind up seeing anyone else on the trails which made the fourth hike in a row where we didn’t see another person on the trails.

The trails had been amazingly clear of debris, we only stepped over two logs and one young bent tree, but the faint sections through the meadows required some navigational skill. The relative lack of water along the route make it an unlikely backpacking destination but it worked out well for us. That being said the views and the wildflowers make either Chucksney Mountain or Grasshopper Meadow a worthy early summer day hike destination. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157683128711132

Parker Falls and Adams Mountain Way

Our 2016 hiking season officially started with a pair of hikes in the Umpqua National Forest. Both trailheads are located along Brice Creek, SE of Cottage Grove, OR. We had visited the area in 2014 to hike the more popular Brice Creek and Trestle Falls Trails https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/brice-creek-trestle-falls/ and were back now to tackle some of the other nearby trails.

We began the day at the Parker Falls Trailhead which is 2.3 miles beyond the Upper Brice Creek/Trestle Falls Trailhead.
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The trail runs along Parker Creek up to Lower Parker Falls and finally Upper Parker Falls. Spring wildflowers lined the trail.
Fawn lillies
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Fairy slipper
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Anemone
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At a signed junction we took a short path down to Lower Parker Falls.
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After admiring the lower falls we went back to the junction and headed for the upper falls. The upper falls were more of a slide and the trail stayed up along the canyon wall above them.
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We were not entirely certain that this was indeed the upper falls as the trail continued on so we kept going. It led to the creek bank above the upper falls. At this point I checked our GPS and it appeared that the trail should have continued a short distance up the creek. There was a faint path leading further but it quickly vanished beneath debris that had fallen into the canyon. We were only able to go a short distance before facing the choice of getting wet or turning back. I decided to hop into the creek and continue. I had gone about a hundred yards when I came to a small slide in a narrow mossy drop.
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I was on a small gravel bar inhabited by some coltsfoot.
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I could see a little way upstream and saw no signs of any additional falls and didn’t see an easy way past the small cascade ahead so I headed back to Heather and we returned to the car. We decided that Upper Parker Falls must indeed have been the slide we had passed before reaching the creek (That was confirmed by waterfallsnorthwest.com).

The signed mileage is 1/2mi to the lower falls and 3/4 to the upper falls while the Forest Service website lists it as 1.1 miles. Our GPS registered a round trip of 2.4 miles which, given my short excursion up the creek, makes the 1.1 miles more likely.

From the Parker Falls Trailhead we drove back the way we’d come to Lund Park which was about 10 minutes away.
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Our loop hike started here and we faced a choice. We could begin on any one of three trails- Adams Mountain Way, Marten Flume, or the Crawfish Trail. The Adams Mountain Way Trail started on the opposite side of Brice Creek Road just east of Lund Park while the Marten Flume Trail started just west of Lund Park and connected to Adams Mountain Way after .6 miles. The Crawfish Trail was 1.2 miles further west along Brice Creek Road meaning we would either start or end our hike with a road walk. We decided to start with the road walk thinking we were less likely to run into traffic since it was still before 9am and a road walk at the end of a hike is never very exciting.

As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad passing Marten Creek on the left and having Brice Creek off to our right.
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Brice Creek
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There were also plenty of wildflowers along the way.
Valerian
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Dogwood
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Bleeding heart
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Fairybells
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Skunk cabbage
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Red flowering currant
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Big leaf maple
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We made it to the Crawfish Trail without encountering any vehicles and began a 5.5 mile climb to the Knott Trail.
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It was obvious that the lower portion of the Crawfish Trail is popular with mountain bikers as there were more tire tracks than footprints along the way. It probably is not a trail one would want to hike when bikes were barreling down the trail at you, but we were early enough in the day and season to not encounter anyone; hiker or bicyclist.

The trail was well signed along the way as it crossed a couple of roads (or the same road multiple times).
Crawfish Trail

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There weren’t many places along the trail with opportunities for views but when the trail passed over a saddle to the SW side of a ridge there would have been some if not for the low clouds that were present.
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Things got a little confusing when we came to National Forest Road 2234 where a trail sign pointed three different directions for the Knott Trail which was to be our connector between the Crawfish Trail and Adams Mountain Way.
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After consulting our map we decided that we wanted to follow the .7mi Knott Trial pointer and cross NF 2234. The other pointers were for the road itself which would have led us back to the Knott Trail in either direction but not after some needless travel.

As we continued on the Crawfish Trail time seemed to move backwards and the flowers of Spring gave way to chilly winds and patches of snow.
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Orange jelly fungus
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When we finally reached the Knott Trail Junction we turned left and climbed some more.
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The trail led up to open meadow that might have had a decent view on a clear day and probably some nice flowers in a month or two.
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Beyond the meadow the trail began to descend along a ridge toward the Adams Mountain Way junction. On this side we encountered more snow.
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The trail was in decent enough shape with some blowdown and debris along the way, nothing too difficult to get around, but in several sections it needed to be brushed out.
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We reached the Adams Mountain way junction in a forested saddle.
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The Adams Mountain Way Trail began gently enough traveling along a ridge towards Brice Creek Road.
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Signs of Spring began to pop up again in the form of huckleberry blossoms, wild strawberry blooms, and even a pink rhododendron.
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Strawberry blossoms

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When the trail finally decided to head down, it did so with a vengeance. The descents rivaled some of the steepest trails we’d been on making us glad we hadn’t chosen to come up that way. We were feeling the elevation loss in our legs when we reached the Marten Flume Trail junction just a few hundred yards from Brice Creek Road.
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I had not been able to find much information on this trail so we were curious about it and decided to go ahead and check it out. It headed up Marten Creek and then forked. There was no sign at the fork and we weren’t sure which way to go so we took the right hand fork down toward the creek thinking that the flume might be down there. We had chosen poorly and would have needed to stay left at the fork to see the flume. At that point we were down at the creek where the loop trail crossed.
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We decided not to climb back up to the fork and waded the creek to finish up the loop.
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Trillium and Wood Sorrel bloomed along the path.
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Near the end of the loop we encountered the only other trail users we’d seen all day. A pair of rough skinned newts.

One of the newts.
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This was a good conditioning hike given the 11.7mi distance and 3000+ feet of elevation gain/descent. It is definitely not a hike for those looking for big views or extensive wildflowers, and depending on the mountain bike traffic it could be a little dangerous given the steep narrow tread in sections. For our visit though we were able to enjoy the solitude of spending five and a half hours completing the loop without running into anyone else.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667500424465

Blair Lake Trail

On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.

We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.
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The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.
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Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.
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After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.
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Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.
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We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.
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After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.
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The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Washington
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Three Fingered Jack
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Mt. Jefferson
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There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.
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Northwestern Alligator Lizard

We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.
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We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.
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When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.
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We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.
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On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.
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We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!

Tire Mountain

June wildflowers and a “possible” waterfall were are goal for our recent trip to Tire Mountain near Oakridge, OR. Our guidebook showed a 7.6 mile hike starting from the Alpine Trailhead, linking up to the Tire Mountain trail, and turning around after reaching the summit of Tire Mountain. Looking at the forest service maps of the area I noticed that the Tire Mountain trail continued west beyond the junction with the summit trail to a trailhead on road 5824. Along that portion of the trail was a creek crossing where it appeared there might be a waterfall. Thinking that a 7.6 mile hike was a little short for a 2 1/2 hour drive I thought we could investigate the possible waterfall for a little extra exercise.

The Alpine trail started off uphill on a forested ridge where the path was lined with small rocks. The usual woodland flowers were present including vanilla leaf, solomonseal, candyflower, and bunchberry. We also spotted some wild ginger.
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Just a bit over half a mile in the trail entered the first of the meadows. The flowers did not disappoint and as an added bonus several cascade peaks were visible from this meadow.
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The flower show continued as we passed through more meadows on the way to the junction with the Tire Mountain trail. Along the way The Three Sisters joined the view.
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At the 1.2 mile mark we found the Tire Mountain trail and turned right. We passed through several smaller meadows which were home to a variety of different flowers, some of which were unknown to us.
Columbine
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Plectritis & Larkspur
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Plectritis & Yellow Monkeyflower
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Camas
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Paintbrush
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Coastal Manroot & ?
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Another unknown
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Possibly Oregon Sunshine
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Giant Blue-Eyed Mary, Plectritis & unknown
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Buttercups
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Wild Iris
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We were amazed at the number of flowers and we could see that there were even more higher up on the hillsides.
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After the series of smaller meadows the trail entered the largest meadow of the day. Here balsamroot joined the flower bonanza.
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Ookow
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Wallflower
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Unknown
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Blue Gilia
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When we left the meadow I remarked that we hadn’t seen any lupine at all. As soon as we hit the next small meadow that was no longer the case.
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From this meadow we also got a good view of Tire Mountain and Diamond Peak again.
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The trail then entered the forest before splitting. To the left was the 1/2mi path to the summit while the right fork headed down toward road 5824. We headed up to the summit to check out the former lookout site. The trail was nice despite there being a few downed trees to maneuver around.
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When we reached the brushy summit we found a number of additional flower types.
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Unknown
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Fawn Lily
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Unknown
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Wild onion
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Phlox
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Buscuitroot
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Despite being a former lookout site there was no view from the summit. In fact the lookout had been placed up in a tree in order to have a view of the surrounding area. We explored a bit before heading back down to the trail split and starting our search for the waterfall.

From the split, the Tire Mountain trail descended fairly quickly through a series of switchbacks. Several bridges crossed seasonal streams amid the large trees.
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It was a lot further down to the creek I was looking for than I had anticipated and we were all dreading the climb back up. We finally rounded a ridge end and spotted the bridge that crossed the creek I was looking for. There was indeed a waterfall but after seeing it we knew why the guidebook doesn’t mention continuing on to it. It was a pretty sad display lol.
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After soaking in the torrent we started our climb. We did our best to focus on the ever present bird song as we trudged along. Grey jays, varied thrushes, and at least one woodpecker flew from tree to tree. The woodpecker was the only one that stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.
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The meadows were just as impressive on the return trip. The only real bummer for the day was seeing a layer of smoke over the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor. Alas the fire season started early this year with the Two Bulls Fire burning near Bend, OR. 😦
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Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come. Happy (and fire free) trails!

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