Winopee Lake Trail

Our year of rearranging hikes continued with what was to have been our final overnight trip of the year. Similar to our last planned vacation a cold, moist weather system coming in from British Columbia caused us to rethink the backpacking plans. The forecast for the first day was for rain showers off and on all day and night with temperature dropping to near freezing then turning to snow and rain showers the next day.

In “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” long distance hiker Andrew Skurka writes “Raining and 35 degrees Fahrenheit is the most challenging combination of conditions that most backpackers ever experience.” We have yet to have the privilege of experiencing those conditions first hand and weren’t about to put that statement to the test now so we decided to do a couple of day hikes instead so we could dry off and warm up each day after hiking.

Since our original plans had included a visit with our Son in Bend after the overnighter we simply headed to Bend a day early where we could stay at Heather’s parents house. On our way over to Bend we stopped at the Winopee Lake Trailhead near Cultus Lake Campground.

Winopee Lake Trailhead

With much of the Three Sisters Wilderness still closed due to this year’s wildfires this trail had remained open and offered a chance for us to visit several different lakes which is one of our favorite destinations in the Fall and on rainy days. We didn’t exactly have a plan going into this hike, we knew it was a 10 mile round trip to Muskrat Lake based on an abbreviated description in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” but more lakes lay a little further from the trailhead and the trail ended at the Pacific Crest Trail which made a lollipop loop possible. We weren’t certain how far that lollipop would be so we decided to set a turn around time if we had not yet reached the PCT. It was 8am when we arrived at the trailhead so we set a turn around time of Noon and off we went.

Winopee Lake Trail

Not far from the trailhead we came to Cultus Lake where we could see everything but the top of Cultus Mountain across the water.

Cultus Lake

The trail then passed along Cultus Lake but back in the trees away from the lake shore. After almost a mile a side trail led down to a nice beach at the Little Cove Campground, one of three boat-in (or hike-in) sites along the north side of the lake.

Beach along Cultus Lake

Little Cove Campground at Cultus Lake

Cultus Lake from Little Cove Campground

Beyond the camp site the trail again veered just a bit away from the lake. Near the far end of the lake the trail climbed slightly to a junction at approximately the 2.5 mile mark.

Winopee Lake Trail

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Corral Lakes Trail

We stayed to the left on the Winopee Lake Trail and came to a second junction in another quarter of a mile.

Trail sign along the Winopee Lake Trail

Again we followed the pointer for the Winopee Lakes trail, this time forking to the right past a wilderness signboard and permit box and into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Winopee Lake Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Less than 3/4 mile after entering the wilderness we passed the short side trail to Teddy Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Teddy Lake Trail

We skipped this half mile side trail and continued on the relatively flat Winopee Trail for another mile to Muskrat Lake.

Muskrat Lake

Muskrat Lake

A unique feature at this lake is an old cabin ruin. The cabin was reportedly built in the 1920’s by a man who attempted to raise muskrats there. The last few years have not been kind to the cabin which as recently as 2012 still looked relatively intact.

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Cabin ruins at Muskrat Lake

The trail followed an unnamed creek beyond Muskrat Lake. This creek flows from Winopee Lake to Muskrat Lake.

Creek between Winopee and Muskrat Lakes

Soon we came to another body of water with a bunch of snags.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

According to the map on the GPS we were still hiking along the creek but this seemed more like a lake or pond and may have been attached to the irregularly shaped Winopee Lake.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

The trail left the water for a bit then passed a small pond that was clearly not part of Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Unnamed lake/pond near Winopee Lake

At the 7 mile mark we arrived at a trail junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail having never really gotten a look at Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Snowshoe Lake Trail

It was just before 10:30 so we had another hour and a half before our turn around time. We turned up the Snowshoe Lake Trail in case we had to turn back prior to reaching the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail passed several lakes before ending at the PCT  while the Winopee Lake Trail was lake-less for the remainer of its length.

In just a quarter of a mile we arrived at the first of these lakes, the trails namesake, Snowshoe Lake.

Snowshoe Lake

Snowshoe Lake

This was a nice little lake with a couple of campsites. We sat on some rocks above the lake and took a short break before continuing on. Another half mile through the forest brought us to Upper Snowshoe Lake on the left.

Snowshoe Lake Trail

Upper Snowshoe Lake

Upper Snowshoe Lake

The trail spent about half a mile making its way by this lake then passed by the mostly hidden Long Lake. We kept expecting to see a side trail down to that lake but never did. The forest was open enough that it looked like it would have been a fairly straight forward cross country jaunt to the lake if one really wanted to visit it.

Just under a mile beyond Upper Snowshoe Lake we came to Puppy Lake.

Puppy Lake

This time the trail was close enough to the lake to get some good looks of this pretty little lake.

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

A quick time checked showed it was still before 11:30 so we kept going arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail, a half mile from Puppy Lake, at 11:40.

Snowshoe Lake Trail jct with the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Despite off and on drizzle we had stayed relatively dry up to this point. That all changed on the PCT. After turning left on the PCT it took less than 10 minutes for our feet to become soaked. It wasn’t because it started raining harder but rather the presence of huckleberry bushes lining the trail. The colorful leaves made for some great fall color but they were also loaded with moisture.

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

We traveled south on the PCT for just over a mile to a four-way junction. Here the Elk Creek Trail headed west into the Willamette National Forest. That portion of the Three Sisters Wilderness was still closed due to fire.

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Winopee Lake Trail

Closed Elk Creek Trail

We turned west (left) back onto the Winopee Lake Trail.

Winopee Lake Trail

This section of trail through a drier, more open forest as it gradually descended back to Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Our first and only real view of the marshy Winopee Lake came after approximately 1.75 miles.

Winopee Lake

Another quarter of a mile brought us back to the junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail completing our little loop. We returned the way we’d come that morning. As we passed by Muskrat Lake we spotted a lone paintbrush standing defiantly against the changing seasons.

Paintbrush

The cool weather and lack of any significant elevation changes had allowed us to hike at a quicker pace than normal allowing us to complete what wound up being a 20 mile hike in 7 hours and 15 minutes. For a day hike that’s a bit long for many but with the various lakes and access to the Pacific Crest Trail this would be a good backpacking option after mosquito season.

It wound up being a fun day despite the drizzle but we were thankful to get to Heather’s parents house to warm up and dry off before our next outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Winopee Lake Trail

Advertisements

Oxbow Regional Park and Powell Butte Nature Park

A trip to Portland to celebrate my Grandmother’s 93rd birthday provided us an opportunity to do some hiking in the morning before the festivities began. In the previous couple of years we had taken a hike in the Columbia River Gorge before seeing Grandma for her birthday but the Eagle Creek Fire had changed those plans this year so we turned to a couple of Portland area parks instead.

We started our morning at Oxbow Region Park. We paid the $5/car day use fee and drove through the park to the boat launch near the campground.

Sign at the Oxbow Park boat ramp

After a quick trip down to look at the Sandy River we headed east on a trail marked by a hiker symbol and a sign for the amphitheater.

Sandy River

Amphitheater trail in Oxbow Park

We soon passed the amphitheater on our right.

Oxbow Park Amphitheater

On the left the banks of the Sandy River showed much erosion where an ancient forest is being exposed years after being buried by volcanic eruptions from Mt. Hood.

Eroding bank along the Sandy River

Eroded bank of the Sandy River

One of many signs along the river bank

We were on Trail M which passed by the campground before dropping down into a green forest.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Trail in Oxbow Park

The trail was near the river offering occasional views.

Sandy River

We had planned on sticking to Trail M which followed the river around past Buck Bend but encountered a closed trail sign along the way.

Closed trail in Oxbow Park

There was a trail leading to the right at the closure so we turned onto that trail instead. A lack of signage and the presence of more trails than what the map in our guidebook showed caused a bit of confusion for the next little while. It didn’t help that none of the trails in the park were showing on the GPS so we decided to wing it and just work our way in the general directions that our book showed.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Ferns in Oxbow Park

Trail in Oxbow Park

After about .4 miles of making our way to the south and west we arrived at what is labeled on the park map as Group Camping area 2.

Group camping area 2

Old outhouse

From the camping area we turned right (south) and began following the river again. We were looking for a trail (I believe it would have been Trail N) on our right that would lead us back toward the center of the park on a bit of a loop. We passed an unmarked trail to the right at a small section of wooden fence but it seemed too close to the camp so we continued on a bit further. We hadn’t gone much further when we began to second guess ourselves and turned back around. When we got back to the little fence we decided we were so close to the camping area we should explore in the other direction for just a bit.

We passed the covered picnic area and headed north along the river past a new looking bench.

Newer looking bench

Not too much further we spotted the back of the closed trail sign and realized we had inadvertently wound up on that trail after all. We turned around again and headed back past the camp and turned right at the fence. This path angled back past the camping area but was clearly not Trail N which we had not gone far enough to reach. It turned out okay though as we spotted a couple of deer along this trail near the camping area.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Black tailed deer

We continued to follow paths in the general direction shown in our guidebook (NW) and were passing along a hillside when Trail N joined from the left. This was when we knew for sure that turning at the small fence had not been the trail we had been looking for. We were now on a wide path which soon split.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Trails in Oxbow Park

We initially went right but that trail quickly arrived at the parks campground so we turned around and took the left fork. In a little under three quarters of a mile we came to an old roadbed (Trail G) at a gate post. The road was coming downhill from Alder Ridge and is the route taken by equestrians that start at the Homan Road Equestrian Trailhead. We had actually planned on starting there to avoid the $5 fee but there were “No Parking” signs all around the actual trailhead and we weren’t sure at the time about parking further away along Homan Road. It turns out that would have been okay but without knowing for sure we played it safe.

We turned up the old roadbed heading for Trail H which completes a 1.6 mile loop around Elk Meadow on Alder Ridge.

Trail "G" in Oxbow Park

Trail "H" in Oxbow Park

The loop was pleasant but low clouds ended any chance of views from the ridge.

Alder Loop (Trail "H")

Alder Loop

Foggy forest in Oxbow Park

After completing the loop we took Trail G, the old roadbed, back downhill to the junction by the gate post and turned left sticking to the old road bed until we reached a junction with the narrow Trail F forking slightly uphill to the left.

Trail in Oxbow Park

We hadn’t been on Trail F for long when we spotted a doe and fawn in the trees below.

Black tailed deer

Black tailed deer

We followed Trail F until we reached Trail D where we turned right.

Trail "D"

This path crossed the park entrance road and brought us to Trail C along the Sandy River where we turned right back toward the boat ramp.

Sandy River

We followed this path back to our car completing a 6.3 mile hike that consisted of a lot of backtracking. It was a fun hike though as we spotted 5 deer in the lush green forests of the park.

Oxbow

We weren’t due at my Grandma’s house until 1pm and it was not quite 10am when we finished this first hike so we had plenty of time to check out another nearby park. Our second stop was at Portland’s Powell Butte Nature Park. We used google to drive to Powell Butte from Oxbow Park which took a little less than half an hour. We parked in a large parking area near the Visitors Center.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Visitors center at Powell Butte Nature Park

We set off at a signboard with a trail map just beyond the Visitors Center.

Powell Butte Nature Park map

The map was a welcome sight after the issues we’d had in Oxbow Park. Heather took a photo which was really helpful considering some of the trails had been renamed and new trails added since our guidebook had been printed.

We followed the paved Mountain View Trail uphill away from the center.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Mountain View Trail

We followed this path for .44 miles to a three-way junction where we stayed left following a pointer for .1 miles to a Mountain Finder.

Mountain finder

It was too cloudy to see most of the peaks identified by the finder but the brief descriptions of each were interesting none the less. After checking out the finder we continued on what was now the Summit Lane Trail. We stayed right at junctions on this trail for just under three quarters of a mile as it looped around open grasslands and a small group of trees left over from an old orchard where a murder of crows had gathered.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Crows in Powell Butte Nature Park

Crows in an apple tree

At a four way junction we turned left onto the Douglas Fir Trail which left the grassland and entered a forest.

Douglas Fir Trail

After .6 miles we stayed right at a junction with the Fernwood Trail.

Trail sing in Powell Butte Nature Park

In less than a tenth of a mile from that junction the Douglas Fir Trail ended at the Cedar Grove Trail.

Cedar Grove Trail sign

Cedar Grove Trail

We climbed uphill on the Cedar Grove Trail for .4 miles where we then stayed right on the Elderberry Trail. This trail ended after just over a quarter mile at the wide gravel Meadowland Lane. We turned right on this path for a quarter mile which brought us back to the four way junction where we had taken the Douglas Fir Trail earlier.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Here we turned left back onto Summit Lane for less than a tenth of a mile to the Mountain View Trail which we followed back down to the Visitors Center for a 4 mile hike. We’ll have to go back sometime earlier in the year when more of the areas flowers are blooming and on a less cloudy day to see the mountains but even without those attractions this was a really enjoyable hike.

We arrived at Grandma’s right on time and had a good time celebrating her birthday with cake and ice cream before heading back home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Oxbow Regional Park and Powell Butte Nature Park

Chimney Rock

The first day of fall saw our time in Sumpter come to an end. We left town at 7am and started our long drive back to Salem. We had a couple of stops to make along the way, one to visit our Son in Bend and the other a short hike in the Crooked River’s canyon.

We took Highway 26 into Prineville and after a bit of confusion located Main St. and headed south. Main Street becomes Highway 27 and follows the Crooked River through a canyon to Prineville Reservoir.

Our planned hike was a 2.6 mile round trip to visit Chimney Rock along the rim of the canyon. We parked at the signed trailhead on the NE side of the road 16.6 miles from Prineville.
IMG_0234

IMG_0235

The weather systems that had provided rain and snow for the previous 5 days were breaking up creating a lot of different scenes in the sky as we set off on the trail.
IMG_0238

IMG_0251

IMG_0254

IMG_0261

The trail gains approximately 500′ in the 1.3 miles to Chimney Rock so it’s a pretty good climb at times but the views of the Crooked River Canyon are worth it.
IMG_0268

IMG_0273

IMG_0281

The sound of songbirds added to the relaxing scene.
IMG_0278

Chimney Rock was hidden for most of the hike but as the trail leveled out on the rim the unique pillar came into view.
IMG_0283

IMG_0287

The trail leads right to the pillar and a nearby bench.
IMG_0293

IMG_0295

From Chimney Rock we had a nice view of the Crooked River as it wound through the rimrock canyon.
IMG_0296

IMG_0297

It was a pretty quick up and down taking us just over an hour but it gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy some impressive views at the same time.

After visiting our Son we drove home over Santiam Pass. Clouds obscured many of the mountains but both Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington were brilliantly white with snow which was such a welcome sight. Just 7 days earlier when we passed by going the other way they were hidden by thick smoke from wildfires. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Chimney Rock

Phillips Reservoir and Granite Creek

We had originally planned a different set of hikes for the Thursday of our vacation week but after getting a look at Mt. Ireland from Baldy Lake the previous day we had decided to save that hike for another time. The plan had been to hike Granite Creek in the morning and Mt. Ireland in the afternoon.

With Mt. Ireland out and freezing temperatures overnight we were a little concerned about trying to get to Granite Creek in the morning due to having to pass over the 5860′ Blue Springs Summit between Sumpter and Granite. We turned to our trusty guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s 3rd edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” for a solution.

Hike number 142 – Phillips Reservoir was the answer we came up with. We’d passed the reservoir on Monday when we drove to Baker City for groceries. Located less than 10 miles east of Sumpter a hike there in the morning would give the roads time to warm up before attempting the drive to Granite Creek.

When we walked out to our car a little before 7am Thursday morning we felt even better about our decision. For the first time in a long time it was necessary to scrape the ice off our windshield.

We decided to start our hike from the Union Creek Campground.

As we drove east along Highway 7 we had to pull over to get a picture of the snow covered Elkhorn Mountians.
IMG_0021

We turned off Highway 7 at a Union Creek Campground sign and after paying the $6 day use fee we parked at the picnic area and headed for the Shoreline Trail.
IMG_0025

IMG_0027

Sullivan’s abbreviated entry for this hike was one of the least enthusiastic descriptions that we’d seen in any of his guidebooks so we were pleasantly surprised by the scene at the reservoir.
IMG_0028

We headed west on the Shoreline Trail which extended 1.7 mile east from the picnic area and 4 miles to the west. The trail passed along the reservoir through open pine woods.
IMG_0038

Within the first mile we’d already spotted a number of different birds.
IMG_0037Osprey and Great Blue Heron in flight

IMG_0041Ducks

IMG_0044Heron

IMG_0046Canada Geese

IMG_0054Hawk

We continued along the shoreline arriving at a dry Bridge Creek after 1.4 miles.
IMG_0062

IMG_0063

IMG_0064

Here the trail passed through a meadow with views of the Elkhorns to the north.
IMG_0066

IMG_0068

IMG_0071

IMG_0076

We spotted even more wildlife over the next mile before reaching the Social Security Point Trailhead.
IMG_0081Canada Geese

IMG_0083Chipmunk

IMG_0085Mergansers

IMG_0086Various ducks and birds

IMG_0091Woodpecker

It was 8:30am when we arrived at the Social Security Point Trailhead so we decided to continue another mile to the Mowich Loop Picnic Area before turning around.
IMG_0092

The trail passed through more open forest before reaching the wide open flat where Smith Creek empties into the reservoir.
IMG_0094

IMG_0106

Even more birds could be seen in the grassy flat and in the distance was a group of white birds that we later realized where pelicans.
IMG_0095Canada Geese

IMG_0107Raven

IMG_0097Pelicans, herons, and other assorted birds

Before exiting the trees we passed a carcass that had drawn a large crowd of ravens and magpies who were none to happy with our presence.
IMG_0110

IMG_0109

IMG_0114

After leaving the trees the trail wound up skirting a meadow and leading us up to Highway 7 a quarter mile from the Mowich Loop Picnic Area.
IMG_0111

We decided to call it good there instead of walking along the highway and turned around. More wildlife sightings occurred on the return trip including an osprey with a freshly snagged fish.
IMG_0117Squirrel

IMG_0122Hawk

IMG_0136Osprey

IMG_0138Northern flicker

The fog had lifted off the reservoir by the time we’d gotten back to the car and the weather was beautiful.
IMG_0133

It was 9:30am when we completed our 6.3 mile hike. We felt comfortable with it now being warm enough to make the drive over the pass to Granite Creek so we headed back to Sumpter then made the familiar drive to Granite.

To reach the Granite Creek Trailhead from Granite we turned left on Red Boy Road (Road 24) for 1.4 miles then forked right on Granite Creek Road for 4.3 miles to the signed trailhead.
IMG_0141

From the trailhead a gated mining road headed downhill to the left (our return route) while the Granite Creek Trail headed slightly uphill to the right after passing through an open fence.
IMG_0142

IMG_0144

For a little over a mile the trail traversed the hillside above Granite Creek through open pine woods.
IMG_0149

IMG_0150

IMG_0159

The trail then descended to a crossing of Indian Creek before entering the North Fork John Day Wilderness.
IMG_0162

IMG_0165

The trail was still above the creek but not quite as far above.
IMG_0178

We had remarked on the variety of trees we were seeing in the forest here which included western larch trees. We spotted one that was already changing into its fall color.
IMG_0176

The forest around the trail shifted from open pine to a denser fir forest before crossing Granite Creek on a wide footbridge at the 2 mile mark.
IMG_0180

IMG_0183

The trail once again climbed away from the creek before dropping back down to a log footbridge over Lake Creek.
IMG_0187

IMG_0189

IMG_0190

Near the 3 mile mark we passed a small wooden box housing Snowshoe Spring.
IMG_0192

Two tenths of a mile later we passed the Lake Creek Trail coming downhill on the left.
IMG_0194

A second crossing of Granite Creek followed .2 miles later.
IMG_0200

IMG_0201

Shortly after crossing the creek we arrived at the end of the Granite Creek Trail at the North Fork John Day River Trail.
IMG_0203

This was the same trail we’d started out on for our Tuesday hike.

We continued on this trail just far enough to cross the river on a footbridge.
IMG_0204

IMG_0208

IMG_0207

We returned the way we’d come but after 2 miles at a fork we headed downhill to the right where we joined the mining road.
IMG_0219

This road passed through mining tailings left over from dredges and hydraulic mining.
IMG_0221

IMG_0224

There are still active claims along the road so we stayed on it for the 1.3 miles back to the trailhead.

The total distance for this hike was 6.8 miles putting the two hikes combined at 13.1 miles. The weather had been about as good as we could have asked for and we’d stayed reasonably dry other than our shoes due to the wet vegetation. It was a relaxing end to our week hiking in the Blue Mountains.

On our way back to the Sumpter Stockade we noticed that the corn dog cart (Cajun Concessions) was open even though it was Thursday. After dropping off our hiking gear in our room we walked up the street and each got a hand dipped corn dog and cheese stick. It was now a perfect ending to our stay in Sumpter. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phillips Reservoir & Granite Creek

Baldy Lake

At the beginning of our vacation the forecast had called for Tuesday to be the coldest and wettest day of the week and then Wednesday and Thursday were expected to be a bit warmer with decreasing chances of precipitation and by Thursday afternoon partly sunny skies. By Tuesday that had all changed and a second weather system was following up the first. Wednesday morning was expected to be a little warmer than Tuesday  meaning less chance of snow on our drive to the trailhead but as the second system moved in that day more precipitation was expected and now there was a chance of isolated thunderstorms.

The good news in that forecast was we had no issues getting to the Baldy Creek Trailhead in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The Baldy Creek Trail set off from a small campground and promptly crossed the North Fork John Day River on a log footbridge.
IMG_9839

IMG_9840

IMG_9841

We then entered the North Fork John Day Wilderness.
IMG_9842

The 121,099 acre wilderness is made up of four separate areas with this being the third we’d visited during our vacation but the first in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The other two, Olive Lake and the North Fork John Day River, were in the Umatilla National Forest.

The trail passed through a nice, albeit wet, forest for just over a mile before reaching the first of several crossings of Baldy Creek.
IMG_9844

IMG_9848

IMG_9849

After crossing Baldy Creek the trail almost immediately crossed Bull Creek before entering a small section of forest recovering from a fire.
IMG_9851

IMG_9854

We had enough of a view from the area of the fire to get an idea of where the snow line was. We knew going in that we would be hitting snow at some point on the hike since Baldy Lake sat at an elevation just over 7000′ plus the forecast called for 2-4 inches of snow during the day.
IMG_9857

Not long after crossing Bull Creek we recrossed Baldy Creek on a footbridge where we noticed a small amount of snow between the logs.
IMG_9860

As we made our way uphill along the creek the amount of snow on the ground slowly increased.
IMG_9862

In the next three miles the trail crossed Baldy Creek four more times. There were footbridges at all of the crossings but several of them were in such a state that it was easier to find a different way across the water.
IMG_9871

IMG_9886

IMG_9889

IMG_9893

Beyond the final bridge the trail veered away from Baldy Creek and began climbing a bit more. As we climbed we found more and more snow on the trail and the trees.
IMG_9902

IMG_9905

2017-09-20 09.52.56

At the 5 mile mark we passed a trail sign at a junction.
IMG_9907

We were loving the winter scenery, it was such a welcome sight after a summer full of wildfires. On top of the snow on the ground and in the trees it had started snowing a bit. I mentioned that the only thing that could make it better would be to see a deer or even better an elk in the snow. Not five minutes later I looked up the trail and saw an elk cow staring back at me.
IMG_9915

She disappeared into the trees but then a second cow and two calves stepped onto the trail.
IMG_9916

IMG_9917

The trail was now winding around a hillside with several small streams which seemed to be attracting the wildlife. The elk had been at one of these streams and not too much further at another stream was a varied thrush and some grouse.
IMG_9927

IMG_9930

Our hike the day before along the North Fork John Day River had felt like fall but now we were in a winter wonderland.
IMG_9936

We crossed a greatly diminished Baldy Creek then came to a junction with a trail coming from Silver Creek Road.
IMG_9938

IMG_9939

Baldy Lake was approximately a quarter mile from the junction.
IMG_9946

IMG_9947

It was just a bit foggy when we arrived at the lake making it impossible to see the cliffs beyond the lake including Mt. Ireland.
IMG_9951

IMG_9958

We found a log and brushed off the snow so we could take a seat and enjoy the lake. The wind was really blowing along the ridge above the lake but it was calm along the water and not particularly cold.
IMG_9968

We hadn’t been sitting there long when the clouds started to lift revealing the lookout tower atop the 8321′ Mt. Ireland.
IMG_9976

IMG_9975

IMG_9973

Our original plans had called for us to hike up to the lookout on Mt. Ireland at some point during the week but given the conditions we had decided to save that hike for another trip, so for now getting to see it from the lake would have to suffice.

We finally started to get chilly just sitting there so we tore ourselves away from the lake and headed back. It was snowing pretty hard as we made our way back down and we could see the difference along the trail.
IMG_9981

IMG_9991

IMG_9993

We eventually left the snow behind which ironically made me colder. My feet and hands had stayed relatively dry in the snow but now they were starting to get wet. My hands, without gloves (I’m a slow learner), froze when a brief round of hail passed over. We picked up our pace eager to get to a heated car.

As we passed by the old fire area a little blue sky was visible.
IMG_0014

By the time we’d reached the trailhead there was quite a bit more blue allowing us to bask in a little warm sunshine.
IMG_0019

It had been a 14 mile hike that took us a few months into the future when winter snows will be here to stay. Getting to see the elk had been a big bonus to what was a great hike and fun adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baldy Lake

North Fork John Day River

A day after a cold, wet hike in the North Fork John Day Wilderness by Olive Lake we were headed back to that wilderness for another go around. We had decided to hike the North Fork John Day River on Tuesday because it was the lowest elevation hike we had lined up for the week and Tuesday was supposed to be the coldest day of the week.

We waited until 7am to leave Sumpter hoping that the slightly later than normal start would allow time for any potential snow on the roads to clear, especially over the 5860′ Blue Springs Summit between Granite and Sumpter. Ironically there was only a few patches of snow along the road at the summit but 15 miles further north the trees were flocked and snow was falling steadily at the 5500′ Crane Creek Trailhead. There was a good chance we would passing by this trailhead on our hike if everything went according to plan.

Our starting point for the day was another 2.5 miles away at the North Fork John Day Trailhead.

This trailhead is located at the North Fork John Day Campground at the junction of roads 73 and 52. At an elevation of 5200′ the trailhead was low enough that there was no snow and only a light rain was falling as we set off on the trail.
IMG_9667

We crossed Trail Creek on a log then passed through a section of forest before arriving alongside the North Fork John Day River.
IMG_9671

IMG_9674

IMG_9678

Soon we entered the North Fork John Day Wilderness.
IMG_9681

Just two weeks before we’d spent Labor Day weekend backpacking on Mt. Adams (Day 1 and Days 2 & 3) in 80 degree temperatures and we’d just driven through snowy winter landscape but along the river was the first time this year that it had felt unmistakably like Fall.
IMG_9686

IMG_9713

We passed several mining ruins before arriving at the “Bigfoot Hilton” at the 2.6 mile mark.
IMG_9694

IMG_9696

IMG_9720

IMG_9721

We hopped across Trout Creek just beyond the Bigfoot Hilton and continued further into the wilderness occasionally being startled by grouse.
IMG_9723

IMG_9725

IMG_9734

IMG_9709

Four miles from the Bigfoot Hilton we came to a junction with the Crane Creek Trail.
IMG_9752

Here we turned left for .2 miles down to the North Fork John Day River.
IMG_9754

After talking with a group of bow hunters camped near by we faced a choice, go back the way we’d come or ford the river and continue on a loop. It would have been a little shorter to go back the way we’d come but the prospect of a loop was too appealing, besides we were already wet so staying dry wasn’t an option.
IMG_9755

The calf deep water was reasonably warm all things considered which was a nice surprise. On the far side we met a couple of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employees on their way to do a three day Chinook salmon survey. We wished them luck with the weather before continuing on our respective ways.

The Crane Creek Trail was much more overgrown than the North Fork John Day Trail but it was relatively free of blowdown.
IMG_9763

IMG_9769

The trail climbed steadily for 4.1 miles to the Crane Creek Trailhead, the last portion passing through the meadows of Crane Flats where we found most of the snow had melted.
IMG_9783

IMG_9792

IMG_9800

IMG_9808

IMG_9810

At the Crane Creek Trailhead we picked up the North Crane Trail which would lead us back to the North Fork John Day Trailhead.
IMG_9813

Remnants of the morning snow remained along this 2.6 mile trail as it passed through alternating meadows and forest.
IMG_9823

IMG_9828

IMG_9827

We had been expecting to have to ford the river again to get back to the trailhead but ended up taking a right at some point when the actual trail veered left and popped out onto Road 73 just before the river a quarter mile from our car. We crossed the river on the road and walked through the campground to our car.
IMG_9832

It was a much warmer hike than we had been expecting and a really enjoyable 14 mile loop. We would be heading back to the same area the next day for another hike at a higher elevation but for now it was time to head back to Sumpter and get cleaned up. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork John Day River

Olive Lake

With the forecast calling for the possibility of snow at higher elevations from Monday through Friday of our vacation we were keeping a close eye on forecasts to help choose when to do each of the hikes we’d planned on. The really cold air wasn’t due to hit until about 11am Monday morning so we decided to do our planned loop past Olive Lake first knowing that the high point of the loop was at an elevation over 7400′ in the Greenhorn Mountains. We hoped that by starting early we could stay ahead of any snow that might fall so with that in mind we got an early start and arrived at the Lost Creek Trailhead just before 7am.

The trailhead is located 11.5 miles west of Granite along Road 10. Along the way to the trailhead the road passes the historic Fremont Powerhouse.
IMG_9510

Our plan for the hike was to start on the Lost Creek Trail then take the Saddle Camp Trail to Olive Lake then continue up to Saddle Camp and take the Blue Mountain Trail SE to the Lost Creek Trail and take that back down to the trailhead. We set off on the trail and in .2 miles came to the remains of a redwood pipeline that supplied water from Olive Lake and Lost Creek to the Fremont Powerhouse.
IMG_9512

IMG_9515

IMG_9526

We got distracted by the pipeline and missed the right turn onto the Saddle Camp Trail. We’d gone almost a quarter mile past the junction when we caught our mistake. Shortly after passing a North Fork John Day Wilderness sign we realized we’d missed it since our map showed the junction prior to the wilderness boundary.
IMG_9517

This was our first time in this particular wilderness checking one more Oregon Wilderness off our “need to visit” list.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The Saddle Camp Trail was marked with a sign that was much easier to spot from this direction.
IMG_9522

IMG_9524

We followed this trail through the forest for a mile and a half to another junction.
IMG_9529

Here we turned right and headed downhill for .2 miles to the Olive Lake Campground.
IMG_9531

IMG_9534

It is possible to drive to the campground and there is a 1.9 mile trail around the lake which we decided not to take on this day due to the presence of low clouds and wanting to get up and down as early as possible. We did however visit the lake shore.
IMG_9536

IMG_9540

After checking out Olive Lake we returned to the junction and continued uphill on the Saddle Camp Trail. After .7 miles we crossed Lake Creek near Upper Reservoir, a large marshy meadow.
IMG_9547

IMG_9550

IMG_9552

In the next 2 miles the trail passed along the meadow before climbing 600′ to Saddle Camp and a junction with the Blue Mountain Trail.
IMG_9554

IMG_9555

IMG_9557

IMG_9563

IMG_9568

IMG_9569

IMG_9573

A light rain had fallen off and on and now at the saddle we were in the clouds so it was damp. Luckily we had our rain gear on and stayed relatively dry as we traversed along Saddle Ridge. It was a bit of a shame about the clouds because the open ridge would have provided some excellent views along the way.
IMG_9576

IMG_9580

IMG_9585

IMG_9588

IMG_9592

It was close to 10:30am when we spotted a cairn apparently marking the high point of the ridge. A few small snowflakes greeted us as we approached.
IMG_9595

IMG_9593

IMG_9601

The wind had kicked up as well and it was getting cold fast as we passed the cairn.
IMG_9599

As we began to descend to a junction at Dupratt Springs Pass the snow began to accumulate.
IMG_9605

IMG_9606

We had to hunt around just a bit to find the Lost Creek Trail sign at the pass but Heather located it and we headed downhill past a large cairn.
IMG_9607

IMG_9610

IMG_9613

IMG_9614

I don’t have a pair of waterproof boots/shoes and this was one of the rare times that I wish I had some and will probably be picking up a pair in the not too distant future. Both my feet and hands (due to taking pictures and not wearing my thicker waterproof gloves) were painfully cold as we entered the first of several meadows on our return route.
IMG_9619

We wound up losing the trail somewhere near the end of the meadow and had to do a little bit of back and forth using the GPS to locate the tread again which we did in another small meadow where we crossed Lost Creek.
IMG_9620

The trail wound up following an old roadbed before reaching the Lost Creek Trail junction at another saddle 2.3 miles from Dupratt Springs Pass.
IMG_9623

IMG_9633

We’d dropped out of the snow and the air had warmed up enough that we were warming up some as we descended from the pass. It was just under three miles back to the trailhead from the junction. The trail passed through five meadows and crossed Lost Creek again before arriving back at the Saddle Camp Trail junction where we had turned that morning.
IMG_9639

IMG_9640

IMG_9646

IMG_9652

IMG_9655

We passed a couple of bow hunting camps near the meadows but didn’t see any hikers on the trails. We did spot one doe near one of the meadows but she bolted before my cold hands could retrieve the camera.

Overall it was a nice hike that would have been a lot better without the clouds (and frozen extremities). We returned to Sumpter wondering if the 5800′ pass on the road between Granite and Sumpter would wind up being an issue at any point during the week. After changing and warming up we drove into Baker City and picked up some food and supplies from Safeway. We were all set for the week, now we just needed the weather to cooperate. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Olive Lake

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.