Throwback Thursday – Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One-Cone

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike was given the name “The hike that shall not be named” by our Son, Dominique. What was supposed to be a 15 mile loop with spectacular mountain views in the Three Sisters Wilderness wound up being an 18.6 mile, mostly view-less loop, through fog and drizzle.

On 10/14/2012 we set off from the large Obsidian Trailhead into the Obsidian Limited Entry Area. The trailhead is located on Forest Road 250 off of Highway 242. A number of wildfires burned through the Three Sisters Wilderness in 2017 most likely affecting some of the forest in this area. As always, check with the Forest Service for current conditions before heading out.

A limited number of permits are available each day for entry into the Obsidian area and we had purchased ours months in advance. Due to having to purchase the permit early we were at the mercy of weather. We arrived before day light which would be delayed a bit due to the damp fog covering the area.
Signboard at the Obsidian Trailhead

Trail sign along the Obsidian Trail

When we had enough light we set off on the Obsidian Trail which quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Obsidian Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Obsidian Trail

Just under 3.5 miles from the trailhead the trail passed through the Jerry lava flow. According to our guidebook there is a view of several Cascade peaks from the flow but all we could see were clouds.
Obsidian Trail

Cloudy day in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Jerry Lava Flow

The trail descended on the far side of the lava to a crossing of the White Branch Creek which was practically dry at the time.
Obsidian Trail approaching the White Branch

White Branch

The trail split just on the other side of the creek which is where our 15 mile hike turned into something longer. I had misunderstood the description of the loop option in the guidebook. The entry in the book was for a 12 lollipop hike for which it had you take the right hand fork 1.7 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail then turn left on that trail for 1.4 miles to another junction in the Sunshine Meadow. Here a left turn would lead .7 miles back to the junction near the White Branch. The loop option that we were trying to follow simply said that from Sunshine continue on the PCT for 2.2 miles to Collier Cone then another 1.8 miles to the Scott Trail, turn left for 4.9 miles, and turn left again on a .6 mile connector trail back to the Obsidian Trailhead. I failed to notice that the entire route was only 15 miles if we took the left fork to the PCT which was .7 vs 3.1 miles (The other additional mileage was due to side trips up the Collier and Four-in-One Cones).
Trail sign near White Branch

We went right. The scenery along the trail was nice but would have been even better without the clouds and with some flowers still in bloom. That being said the South Fork White Branch still had water flowing and there was plenty of obsidian along the trail making it pretty obvious how this trail got its name.
Obsidian Trail

Obsidian on the hillside

Obsidian

South Fork White Branch

South Fork White Branch

We reached the junction with the PCT where signs were posted about the stubborn Pole Creek Fire which was still smoldering in the eastern portion of the wilderness.
Obsidian Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Dominique spotted a small group of deer near the junction but they scampered off before I could get a clear picture due to the camera lens continually fogging up.
Deer near the Pacific Crest Trail

A short time after turning north onto the PCT we came to Obsidian Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
Obsidian Falls

Obsidian Falls

After visiting the base of the falls we continued north crossing Obsidian Creek and passing its source at Sister Spring.
Obsidian Creek

Sister SpringSister Spring

At this point we were very near to the Middle and North Sisters but there was no way we were going to see anything above us through the clouds.
Talus above Sister Spring

The PCT then passed the small Arrowhead Lakes and more obsidian.
Pacific Crest Trail

One of the Arrowhead Lakes

Obsidian

We continued on the PCT which was now approaching the 7810′ Little Brother which was beyond Sunshine. We could see the meadow and Glacier Creek below but the Little Brother was for the most part hidden from sight.
Sunshine

Snow from the Pacific Crest Trail

On the way down to Sunshine we spotted the Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque.
Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque

Sunshine

At Glacier Creek we found the junction with the Glacier Way Trail which was the left hand fork we should have taken at the White Branch.
Glacier Creek

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Glacier Way Trail

Still thinking we were on a 15 mile hike we continued north on the PCT instead of opting for the 12 mile hike and turning down Glacier Way. The trail passed through many small meadows that were probably home to plenty of summer wildflowers based on the amount of lupine leaves we saw. There was no lupine blooming anymore but we did spot a lone western pasque flower gone to seed.
Pacific Crest Trail

Drops of water on lupine leaves

Western pasque flower

A little under 2 miles from Sunshine the PCT arrived at the Jerry Lava flow.
Pacific Crest Trail

Above the lava in the fog we could see the Collier Cone.
Jerry Lava Flow

A .3 mile side trip would lead to a viewpoint along the rim of the cinder cone but first we had to pass through the lava flow to Opie Dildock Pass. Along the way there we spotted some lupine still in bloom, patches of snow, a tree with a rather unique top, and some real life blue sky.
Pacific Crest Trail

Lupine

Snow patch in the Jerry Lava Flow

Sculpted tree top

A little blue sky

We almost thought we’d lost the trail below the pass but the PCT simply scrambled up a gully in the lava.
Pacific Crest Trail heading up to Opie Dildock Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

A small cairn marked the side trail into the fog filled cone.
Heading into Collier Cone

We followed a use path up to the rim.
Inside Collier Cone

But for the fog we would have had an up close view of the Collier Glacier and the North and Middle Sister.
Collier Glacier

We took an extended break on the rim and in that time the fog lifted just a bit. We could at least see back down into the cone and every once in a while we got a glimpse of the northern flank of the North Sister.
Collier Cone

Light coming from the NE side of the North Sister

North Sister

We finally headed down resigning ourselves to the fact that the views weren’t going to get any better on this trip. We returned to the PCT and headed north once again. We did get a little more blue sky overhead and the fog continued to lift allowing us to at least see a little more of our surroundings.
Blue sky for a brief moment

Pacific Crest TrailYapoah Crater in the distance.

We were now heading away from the North Sister toward Scott Meadow and the Scott Meadow Trail. We arrived at the meadow and trail junction 1.8 miles from the side trail into Collier Cone.
Scott Meadow

Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow

The Pole Creek Fire had forced the closure of the PCT at the junction.
Pacific Crest Trail closed due to the Pole Creek Fire at the Scott Trail junction

The meadow looked like it would be an impressive wildflower meadow in summer and provide some good mountain views. On this day the meadow was mostly brown and the mountains nearly hidden although we did get our best glimpse of a mountain looking back at the North Sister from the junction.
North Sister and Collier Cone

North Sister and Collier ConeNorth Sister and the Collier Cone

We vowed to come back to that spot to try again some summer which we did in 2013.
(post)

We turned down the Scott Trail which followed a dry creek bed for a bit before entering a vast pumice plain.
Dry creek along the Scott Trail

Scott Trail

Just over 3/4 of a mile from the Scott Meadow jct we turned right onto a side trail which led up another cinder cone – Four-in-One Cone.
Four-in-One Cone

Climbing Four-in-One Cone

As the name indicates this geologic feature is not a single cinder cone but four connected cones. A path follows the length of the ridge providing plenty of opportunity for views, but not necessarily for us.
Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

I arrived at the top of the cone first and Dominique soon joined me as I gazed toward the cloud covered Three Sisters. We were about 13 miles into the hike now (we had also done a 13.5 mile hike the previous day) and we were all getting a little tired. The lack of views wasn’t helping raise spirits either. When Dominique reached me he looked around and then asked where the trail went from there. When I informed him it didn’t go anywhere and that it was just another spur trail to a viewpoint he gave me what could only be described as a death stare. His only response was “You mean we didn’t have to climb up here?”. I left him fuming at the southern end of the cone while I headed north along the rim. There I stared into the clouds where Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington should have been.
Four-in-One Cone

We were all dragging a bit as we made our way back to the Scott Trail and headed west. It wasn’t long before we were all suffering from what I’d call “trail madness”. We were moving but only because we had to in order to get back.

A little under a mile from the cone we crossed another lava flow.
Scott Trail

We spent the next 2.7 miles in the forest wondering why a 15 mile hike was seeming so hard and taking so long.
Scott Trail

When we finally arrived at the junction with the .6 mile connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead Heather gave it a kiss.
Scott Trail junction with the connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead

We managed to will ourselves through the final stretch and back to our car eager to get back to Bend and find some substantial food. The lack of views had been really disappointing given just how spectacular they should have been, but the real kick in the teeth came after we’d made it back to the east side of the mountains. Beyond the farms near Sisters we had a clear view of all Three Sisters as well as the bank of clouds that had plagued us all day on their western flanks.
The Three Sisters from Sisters, OR

Middle and North Sister

It appeared that we’d been on the wrong side of the mountains all day. Some day we’ll get back to the area which hopefully wasn’t too damaged by last years fires. Until then we have the memories of the “Hike that shall not be named”. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One Cone

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Throwback Thursday – Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

This will be a brief entry for a short hike we completed in July of 2010. Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge is located less than 15 miles from Salem between Highways 22 and 99W. From April 1 thru September all the trails are open in the refuge otherwise only some are hikeable.

For our visit we parked at the Coville Road parking area and set off on the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail.
Rich Guadagno memorial plaque in Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

We kept right at junctions and after half a mile left the loop trail staying right onto the Morgan Lake Trail. We followed this trail for much of it’s 1.6 mile length before turning left on a path that connected us up to the Moffitti Marsh Trail which was an old roadbed. We followed this trail back up to the Rich Guadagno Loop and again kept right. The loop trail climbed gently up Baskett Butte to a viewing platform. We had seen a couple of deer already and as we headed up to the platform a third deer crossed the trail.
Deer in a meadow at Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Deer

Buck crossing the trail

View from the Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

After completing the loop we returned to our car. The total distance was a little under 5 miles. It was only the third hike we’d done since we decided to try out this hiking thing and I had not yet become the crazy picture taking hiker that I am today. Never the less it was a nice place to take a leisurely hike and watch for wildlife. Happy Trails!

Throwback Thursday – Dome Rock

In July of 2010 we made our first attempt to hike to Phantom Bridge (we finally made it in 2011 on our third try). A washout had closed access to the most popular trailheads and the trailheads shown in our guidebook, the Phantom Bridge Trailhead and the French Creek Trailhead – West. This left us looking for an alternate route to the natural arch and while I was doing some research on the Willamette National Forest website I came across the French Creek Trailhead – East. I was able to find a photo at the time online of a sign at this trailhead along Forest Road 458.

It was going to make the hike quite a bit longer than necessary but we were obsessed with seeing the Phantom Bridge. From Detroit, OR we followed the directions from the Forest Service website to FR 480. The road was narrow and exposed with steep drop-offs which made it one of the more nerve wracking drives to date. The road conditions weren’t as bad as some we’ve driven but the scare factor was high. We watched the odometer but when we had gone the correct distance we saw no sign of the trailhead. After finding a place where we could turn around (the road was blocked by a small rockslide beyond) we slowly backtracked looking for any signs of a trail.

Instead of continuing to search for a trailhead that we now weren’t even sure existed anymore we decided to get down off the scary road and try something else. When we were back down to safer roads we consulted our guidebook and discovered that just 2.3 miles west of Detroit along Highway 22 was the Tumble Creek South Trailhead. A 10.3 mile hike from this trailhead would take us to the former lookout site atop Dome Rock and back.

The thought of a trailhead that didn’t require any more driving on Forest Roads was too tempting to pass up so we drove west of Detroit on Highway 22 and parked on the north shoulder at a gated road bed nest to Tumble Creek. The actual trail started .4 miles up the closed road at a small trail sign.
Tumble Ridge Trail

The trail climbed steeply uphill making several switchbacks. Occasional views could be of Detroit Lake and several Cascade peaks.
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Detroit LakeDetroit Lake

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Park Ridge and Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The trail passed through a brushy area at an old road bed near the Margie Dunham Spring approximately 3 1/4 miles from the old road bed along Tumble Creek.
Tumble Ridge Trail

From there the climb became more gradual as it passed a couple of interesting rock formation including one dubbed “Toilet Rock”.
Toilet Rock

About a mile from the Margie Dunham Spring we came to the junction with the trail up to Dome Rock. Here we turned right climbing a final .5 miles to the old lookout site. The view was great from the summit and included the top of Mt. Hood to the north and Tumble Lake below to the NW. It was also our first good look at the distinctively flat topped Coffin Mountain (post).
View from Dome Rock Coffin and Bachelor Mountains in front of Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and The Three Sisters

Tumble LakeTumble Lake

Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonClose up of Mt. Jefferson

After admiring the view we returned to the Tumble Lake Trail. We briefly considered continuing to Tumble Lake but it was another 1.7 miles just to get to the lake meaning 3.4 additional miles in all plus we would lose around 800′ of elevation going down to the lake and we had already climbed over 3250′. Maybe next time. Instead we retraced our steps down to Highway 22 and headed back to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dome Rock

Silver Falls State Park

It’s been a while since we’ve had a recent trip report to post but we finally took our March hike on Heather’s birthday. We are in the midst of training for the Corvallis Half-Marathon so we were looking for something on the shorter end and without too much elevation gain. After our first plan was scrapped due to our most recent snowfall we turned to – Silver Falls State Park.  We had done this hike a couple of times in the past before starting the blog. In fact our first visit to the park happened on a hot day in August, before we had started hiking, and resulted in us thinking we might die of heat stroke causing us to be unable to visit all the waterfalls. We returned slightly more prepared in July of 2006 and completed the hike which we consider our first true hike.  We went back once again on 7/30/2010 when Dominique chose this hike as his pick during our vacation that year.

It turns out we were there a little early. The posted hours for the day use areas were 8am to 8pm which hadn’t been clear on the park website and the entrance to the South Falls day use area was still gated so we began our hike at the North Falls Trailhead.
North Falls Trailhead

There is a $5 day use fee which we attempted to pay but the envelope box had been removed, presumably for the night, so after filling out an envelope we left the stub on our dash along with a note that the box was not in place so we would drop our payment off on the way out. With that taken care of we took a footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek and followed a pointer for Upper North Falls.
North Fork Silver Creek

Sign for Upper North Falls

The trail immediately passed under Highway 214 then in a quarter mile brought us to the 65′ Upper North Falls.
Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls

After admiring the fall we returned the way we’d come and after passing back under the highway faced a choice at a junction. To the left the Rim Trail headed uphill and would follow the highway along the canyon rim to the South Falls Day Use area while the right hand fork would lead us on a longer trek through the canyon and the other waterfalls.
Trail junction in Silver Falls State Park

The question was did we want to end with the more scenic trail through the canyon or start with the canyon figuring that there would be fewer people on the trails earlier in the morning. The prospect of fewer people won out and we took the Canyon Trail along the creek (please note dogs are banned on the Canyon Trail). Not far from the junction the trail descends past a sign for North Falls and passes under basalt overhangs.
Sign for North Falls

Trail to North Falls

North Falls came into view as we descended some stairs before turning back towards the falls and ultimately passing them.
North Falls

North Falls

North Falls

View from behind North Falls

The water was roaring as it crashed down into the splash pool. It was a stark difference from our July 2010 visit.
North Falls
July 30, 2010

North FallsMarch 29, 2018

The trail was now on the north side of the creek and remained fairly level for over a mile as it passed through the canyon. We spotted quite a few flowers starting to bloom along this stretch.
North Fork Silver Creek

ToothwortToothwort

Skunk CabbageSkunk cabbage

Salmonberry blossomsSalmonberry

Blossoms along North Fork Silver CreekIndian plum

The next waterfall up on the Trail of Ten Falls was 31′ Twin Falls.
Sign for Twin Falls

Twin Falls

A short distance from Twin Falls (and about 1.5 miles from the North Falls Trailhead) we came to a junction with the Winter Falls Trail.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The half mile Winter Falls Trail starts at the Winter Falls Trailhead along Highway 214 passing Winter Falls and ending at the Canyon Trail. We turned left onto a footbridge crossing North Fork Silver Creek and headed for Winter Falls.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The trail was fairly level as it led to the 134′ waterfall.
Winter Falls

Winter Falls

Later in the year Winter Falls all but dries up so this was the first time we’d gotten to see this waterfall.
Winter Falls

After checking this fall off our list we returned to the Canyon Trail and continued downstream toward Middle North Falls.
Sign for Middle North Falls

In just .2 miles we came to the side trail down to Middle North Falls.
Middle North Falls

Here there was another opportunity to go behind the waterfall.
Middle North Falls

Trail behind Middle North Falls

View from behind Middle North Falls

View from behind Middle North Falls

The side trail continued on the far side of the fall wrapping around the canyon to a great view of the cascade.
Middle North Falls

Middle North Falls

After oohing and ahhing at this waterfall we returned to the Canyon Trail which also had several nice views of this fall. Of all the waterfalls on this hike this one was probably the most visibly different from our previous visits.
Middle North FallsJuly 7, 2006

Middle North FallsJuly 30, 2010

Middle North FallsMarch 29, 2018

A little downstream from Middle North Falls we came to a viewing platform above little Drake Falls.
Drake Falls

Drake Falls

Less than a half mile from the Winter Falls Trail junction we arrived at another junction. This time with a very short spur trail to Double Falls.
Sign for Double Falls

Here again the difference in water volume was very apparent.
Double Falls

Double FallsJuly 7, 2006

Double FallsJuly 30, 2010

Double FallsMarch 29, 2018

Just beyond the spur trail to Double Falls the Canyon Trail passed 30′ Lower North Falls.
Lower North Falls

Lower North Falls

After the flurry of waterfalls in the three quarters of a mile between Twin Falls and Lower North Falls things settled down. The trail continued on the north side of the creek for about a quarter of a mile before crossing over on a footbridge.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The trail then stayed on the south side of the creek passing an unnamed seasonal waterfall.
North Fork Silver Creek

Unnamed waterfall in Silver Falls State Park

The trail soon veered away from North Fork Silver Creek and a mile from the spur trail to Double Falls we arrived at a junction with the Maple Ridge Trail.
Maple Ridge Trail junction

The Maple Ridge Trail allows for a shorter loop option if you start at the South Falls Day Use Area but that loop only passes three waterfalls. It was however our escape route on our first visit when the heat of August and our lack of carrying water forced us to abandon our attempt at the full loop. The Canyon Trail here rejoined a creek but not the North Fork Silver Creek. This was now the South Fork Silver Creek. A short distance upstream we came to Lower South Falls.
Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls is another that the trail passes behind but before we headed behind the water a varied thrush landed on a branch just a few feet from us. I’ve mentioned before that these birds are my nemesis as I can rarely get a decent photo of one. This guy was no exception, despite his sitting on the branch for a good 15 seconds or more I could not get the camera to focus on him.
Varied Thrush at Lower South Falls

Having failed to get a clear picture of the bird we headed behind the waterfall and out the other side.
Lower South Falls

View from behind Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls

Again the difference in the appearance from our previous visits to this waterfall was obvious.
Lower South FallsJuly 7, 2006

Lower South FallsJuly 30, 2010

Lower South FallsMarch 29, 2018

Another series of stairs climbed up above Lower South Falls which was probably the most strenuous part of the hike. The trail then leveled out again for about a mile before arriving at South Falls.
South Fork Silver Creek

South Falls

A footbridge over the creek below the falls allows for a short loop from the day use area. We passed by the footbridge opting to pass behind this waterfall as well.
South Falls

South Falls

View from behind South Falls

A comparison of our visits shows the difference that the timing of a visit makes.
South FallsJuly 30, 2010

South FallsMarch 29, 2018

Doing the loop in the direction we’d chosen made South Falls the 10th of the 10 waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls but that didn’t mean it was the last waterfall we’d visit on the hike. That honor went to Frenchie Falls. A sign part way up the trail from South Falls pointed toward this little fall.
Sign for Frenchie Falls

Even at this time of the year it wasn’t much more than a wisp of water and it lacks a good vantage point but it’s a named fall none the less.
Frenchie Falls

After checking out Frenchie Falls we completed the climb out of the canyon to a viewpoint above South Falls.
Plaque above South Falls

Looking down from the top of South Falls

We then looped around a picnic area and into the South Falls Historic District.
South Falls Historic District at Silver Falls State Park

South Falls Lodge

South Falls Lodge

Nature Store

Here we passed the cafe, store and theater before arriving at a junction with the start of the Maple Ridge and Rim Trails.
Rim and Maple Ridge Trails

We followed the Rim Trail through a picnic area and into the forest.
Rim Trail

Rim Trail

Rim Trail

The last of the winter snow was melting as the first of the spring flowers were coming to life.
Snow along the Rim Trail

Violet

The Rim Trail passed through the Winter Falls Trailhead parking but offered no views of the waterfall. The only real view of any of the falls came near the end of the 2.1 mile trail when North Falls was visible down in the canyon below.
North Falls from the Rim Trail

The pay box was in place at the trailhead (which was now full of cars) so we dropped off our $5 before driving back home.  With all of our previous visits having come during the summer months it was great to visit when the water levels were higher. A few more weeks will bring out the flowers adding to the beauty of this hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: 2018
2010
2006

Throwback Thursday – Cape Lookout

This Throwback Thursday hike took place on our 16th wedding anniversary. To celebrate we headed to Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast. We parked at the Cape Lookout Trailhead where we had three trails to choose from.

Trail sign in Cape Lookout State Park

The most scenic (and popular) of the three trails is the Cape Trail which we started out on. This nearly 2.5 mile trail follows Cape Lookout to it a viewpoint overlooking the tip of the Cape. The trail starts out on the southern side of Cape Lookout offering a view after .6 miles of Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock near Pacific City (post).

The viewpoint is also near the site where a B-17 bomber crashed in 1943.

Memorial plaque along the Cape Trail

The Cape Trail soon crosses the cape to the northern side where Cape Mears (post) and the Three Arch Rocks Wilderness could be seen.

View from the Cape Trail

Storm Rock, Finley Rock, Shag Rock and Seal Rock

We followed the trail around Wells Cove before it returned to the southern side of the cape.

Wells Cove

Wells Cove

Cape Trail

The final stretch of trail offered wide open views down to the Pacific.

View from Cape Lookout

View from Cape Lookout

View from Cape Lookout

It was a busy day on the trail, there had been a few other hikers out as well as several locals along the trail.

Snail

Douglas squirrel

Chipmunk

After resting at the viewpoint we returned to the trailhead and decided to try the South Trail which led 1.8 miles down to the beach. The trail switchbacked down through the forest but offered occasional views of the cliff lined southern face of Cape Lookout.

South Trail

Forest along the South Trail

Cape Lookout

We spotted another local on the way down to the beach.

Snake

We walked along the beach watching for sand dollars for a bit finally sitting down on a log and taking a nice long break as we listened to the ocean and watched more locals as they went about their days.

Cape Lookout

Sand dollar

Sand dollar

Beach south of Cape Lookout

Northern alligator lizard

Seagull

Wolly bear caterpillar

We eventually pulled ourselves away from the hypnotic trance of the Pacific and climbed back up to the trailhead. Other than one woman with her dog that we spotted in the distance we had been the only humans on the beach making it a relaxing way to end the day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cape Lookout

Throwback Thursday – Elk & Kings Mountains

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

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

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

Elk Creek

Trail sign for the Elk Mountian Trail

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

Elk Mountian Trail

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

Low clouds in the valley

Looking down from the Elk Mountian Trail

View from the Elk Mountian Trail

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

View from the Elk Mountian Trail

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

Elk Mountain summit

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

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

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

Elk Mountian Trail

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

Foxglove

Fireweed

Gentian

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

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

Kings Mountain Trail

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

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

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

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

Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams

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

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

Picnic table along the Kings Mountain Trail

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

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

Kings Mountain Trail viewpoint

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

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

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

Creek along the Wilson River Trail

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

Flickr: Elk and Kings Mountains

Throwback Thursday – Cascade Head

This Throwback Thursday hike was the first of what has become a tradition of hiking at the coast on the morning of family reunion in August. The festivities typically begin somewhere between noon and 1pm which give us plenty of time to get a short hike in beforehand.

In 2010 the hike we chose was at Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City. We started our hike at the lower trailhead at Knights Park.

The Nature Conservancy manages the Cascade Head Preserve and does not permit dogs, horses, bicycles, hunting or camping at the preserve.
Signboard at the Cascade Head Trailhead

The trail sets off from Knights Park through a typical coastal forest crossing Three Rocks Road after .4 miles then climbing through more forest for 1.1 miles (and crossing the road two more times) to an open meadow.
Nature Conservancy Trail

Nature Conservancy Trail

Mushrooms

Meadow on Cascade Head

View from the Nature Conservancy Trail

It was a cloudy day so the views were a bit limited but we could see Gods Thumb to the south of the mouth of the Salmon River.
View from the Nature Conservancy Trail

The trail then traversed the meadow steepening to an upper viewpoint in another .6 miles.
Nature Conservancy Trail

View from the Nature Conservancy Trail

Cascade Head

We followed the Nature Conservancy Trail another mile through a damp mossy forest to the upper trailhead.

Forest on Cascade Head

Forest along the Nature Conservancy Trail

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After reaching the upper trailhead we returned the way we’d come. We had hoped to see some of the elk that frequent the area but that didn’t happen. We did however see a decent variety of insects along the way.
Heart beetle

Millipede

Spider

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The hike was approximately 6.5 miles with 1300′ of elevation gain. We hope to get back someday when the skies are clearer and the elk are present. We will likely try earlier in the year too when the meadow hasn’t been subjected to the summer heat yet. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cascade Head

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.