Upper Rogue River Trail and Boundary Springs

Hike #2 on our mini-vacation was a visit to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Crater Lake National Park. The plan was to start at the Mazama Viewpoint on Hwy 230 and first visit Boundary Springs which is where the Rogue River begins. Then we would hike down the Rogue River to Rough Rider Falls. We would have turned around there but my parents decided to come along and start at a different trail head and hike up the Rogue to the falls. They dropped us off at the Mazama Viewpoint before heading down to the lower trail head. This allowed us to continue past Rough Rider Falls and meet them at that spot.

It was a cloudy morning and we’d driven through a little rain/snow mix on the way there. An occasional light rain would continue all day long with a glimpse of blue sky thrown in every now and then. We started off on the Upper Rogue River Trail from the Mazama Viewpoint and followed the trail half a mile to a junction with the Boundary Springs Trail. Shortly after joining this trail we started getting glimpses of the Rogue flowing through the forest.
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We crossed the boundary of Crater Lake National Park and continued on toward the springs. The river was increasingly scenic as we went.
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Near Boundary Springs was a pretty waterfall:
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The river just below the springs:
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The largest of the springs:
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After poking around the springs we returned to the Upper Rogue River Trail and turned left to head down river to Rough Rider Falls. The trail started out far above the Rogue as it flowed through an interesting canyon.
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We came upon a couple of deer that were too quick for pictures and a pair of noisy woodpeckers that didn’t seem too pleased with one another.
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We also saw the best candysticks we’d come across:
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And a strange mushroom thing:
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The trail descended back down to the river which was amazingly clear where the water was calm.
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Once the trail lowered into the canyon it became a bit messy. Many downed trees created tricky obstacles and the trail was in need of some maintenance.
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It was 4.2 miles from the Boundary Springs Trail to Rough Rider Falls. A sign above the falls announced them.
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It was pretty above the falls but we couldn’t get a good feel for them until we descended below them.
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After Rough Rider Falls we passed a pretty little waterfall coming from a hillside into the river.
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A little island with whitewater on each side:
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And finally an unnamed waterfall:
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The strangest thing of the hike was the amount of climbing we felt like we did considering we were supposedly traveling downhill with the river. When we arrived at my parents car we discovered that they had just finished about 15 minutes earlier. There were some mosquitoes around the car so we quickly tossed our gear in the back and hopped in. We had hopped to stop by Crater Lake on the way home since Dominique has never seen it and it had been years since my parents had. We were there in 2012 but smoke from a fire had obscured most the views. With the weather flipping between blue sky and rain showers all day we weren’t sure if we would be able to see the lake but my parents had their National Park Pass with them so we decided why not give it a try. As we drove up to the north rim we entered the clouds and some more rain/snow mix. The visibility was worse than our previous visit so I took a couple of pictures to show we were then we turned around and headed home.
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We plan on heading back this Fall for another try and maybe then we'll be able to actually see the lake. Happy Trails!

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Lookout Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

We recently returned from a long weekend in Central Oregon. We had a few hikes that we were wanting to try in June in that area starting with Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest. Roughly 26 miles east of Prineville, OR the summit of Lookout Mountain is the 2nd highest point in the Ochoco Mountains. The summit is part of a broad plateau of sagebrush and wildflowers which also offers a 360 degree view.

There are a couple of options for reaching the plateau. For our visit we decided to start at the Round Mountain Trailhead on road 4205 just after turning off of road 42. We could have shaved nearly 2 miles form the hike by continuing up road 4205 to the Independent Mine Trailhead but the road is quite rough and I would rather be hiking than bouncing around in a car. The 0.9 mile path between the trailheads was pleasant enough with a number of wildflowers and a deer sighting.
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We accidently left the trail and wound up on road 4205 across from signs for the Independent Mine and the Baneberry Trailhead.
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Our version (2008, 2nd edition) of 100 Hikes in Eastern Oregon didn’t give any information about this trail but a sign at the Round Mountain Trailhead made mention of extensive trail work and renaming starting in 2010. Our book did show an old road leading down to the mine though so we decided to check it out. We reached the Baneberry Trail before getting to the mine and saw that it was an interpretive nature loop. Thinking it would loop us around to the mine we turned on the trail and began the loop. It was evident why the trail was named Baneberry as the forest was full of the plant.
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Many benches and interpretive signs were located around the trail telling of the mining activity, forest, and wildlife.
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As we continued on the loop it became evident that we were not going to loop to the mine site but instead were heading around in the opposite direction. When we had almost completed the loop a trail shot off uphill to the left which we took thinking it might take us up to the Independent Mine Trailhead. We lost the tread in a small meadow but we could tell the trailhead was just on the other side so we followed what looked like it might be the trail through the meadow and popped out at the trailhead.
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From the trailhead we had more options. Straight ahead up the shorter steeper trail 808A, right on what was now named trail 804 or left on trail 808. We chose 808 based on the suggested route in the book. The trail passed through several meadows full of hellbore with views nice views to the north with Mt. Jefferson visible on the horizon.
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The trail then turned south and we climbed up onto the sloped plateau. From here the trail climbed through open ground covered with wildflowers and sagebrush and the occasional stand of trees.
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Big-headed Clover
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Brown’s Peony
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Looking ahead from the lower plateau
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We crossed Brush Creek
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and found some leftover of snow
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There were some small lilies in this area as well as a few shooting star and mountain bluebells.
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We came out of a clump of trees into another sagebrush covered meadow where we could see the summit of Lookout Mountain.
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There were more flowers as we climbed through the sagebrush toward the summit. Balsamroot, paint, larkspur, and columbine dotted the landscape. There were other flowers both known and unknown to us as well.
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Old Man’s Whiskers
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The lupine was yet to bloom.
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A sign stood at a trail crossroads giving directions.
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From the summit we could see Cascade Peaks from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt. Hood in the North.
Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance:
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We also spotted a very strange plant on the summit which thanks to some detective work form the folks at portlandhikers we identified as balloon-pod milk-vetch.
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On our way down we stopped by a snow shelter built by the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Forest Service in 1989.
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We spotted another deer on the way down and the butterflies started coming out as the day wore on.
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Just before reaching the Independent Mine Trailhead on trail 804 we passed a left over mining building and an abandoned mine shaft.
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We saw what must have been the same doe on the way down as we saw on the way up. She came out of the exact same group of trees and we wondered if she might not have a young fawn bedded down in them. We didn’t want to disturb it if there was so we continued on back to the Round Mountain Trailhead and our car. Day one had provided a great 10.3 mile hike and we had three more days to go. Happy Trails!

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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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Mary’s Peak, Beazell Memorial Forest & Ft. Hoskins County Park

Every once in a while it can be fun to change things up a bit. For our latest day of hiking we did just that. Instead of one longer hike we decided to knock a few shorter hikes off our to-do list. We had a graduation open-house that we wanted to stop in at that afternoon in Dallas, OR so we headed down to the central coast range for a trail triple header.

We started at Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in the Oregon coast range. We had visited the peak in 2009 when we were just starting to get into hiking. That day we had taken a 2.5 mile route from Conner’s Camp to the 4097′ summit. It was the most challenging hike we’d done up to that point and we felt every bit of the 1530′ climb. Our plan was to redo that hike (at least on the way up) to see how we would fare now that we’ve been hiking for several years.

There are several ways to get to the summit varying in length from just over a mile to almost 11 miles round trip. The East Ridge trail would be our route up from Conner’s Camp. The trail sets off from the parking area in a forest of old-growth Douglas Fir which tower overhead. The forest is very open despite the giant trees due to the lack of lower branches which allows for an abundance of green undergrowth. Vine maple, salal, fern, and many other plants contribute to a lush green understory. Low clouds were hanging in the tree tops while many white woodland flowers dotted the forest floor.

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The trail climbs steadily for 1.1 miles to a junction where the East Ridge Tie trail continues on to the North ridge trail making a loop possible. We would be retuning from that direction but in order to recreate our 2009 climb we turned left to continue up the East Ridge trail. The trail steepens after the junction and it was this section that seemed to go on forever the first time we hiked it. It proved to be a stiff climb but we quickly reached a second junction, this time with the North Ridge trail. Forking to the left we continued up a short distance to the lower meadow and blue(ish) skies. πŸ™‚

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The trail wraps around a hillside through the meadow, which was yet to really start blooming, before reaching a gravel service road in a saddle. The clouds were lapping up over the hillside from the north creating what can only be described as a “fog rainbow”.

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The gravel road winds up to the summit around the south side of Mary’s Peak, but a more direct (and steeper) trail leads up to the upper meadow from the far side of the road. Since that was the way we had gone before we crossed the road and headed up again (and again wondered why). When we emerged from the narrow swath of trees that divides the two meadows we found that the upper meadow was also yet to bloom. Clumps of lupine had yet to even begin to bud and only a few scattered flowers dotted the slope.

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The sky was blue though and we had the peak to ourselves so we climbed through the meadow to a picnic table at the summit. We were above the clouds but it appeared that Mary’s Peak was the only peak which had managed to rise above them. Even the 10,000′ Cascade peaks to the east were hidden. To the west the Pacific Ocean blended in so well with the layer of clouds and blue sky that it was difficult to make out where one ended an another began.

The view west:
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After setting our stuff down at the table we began exploring the summit. To the west where the road came up from below we began to find flowers. Purple larkspur and yellow biscuit root covered the ground.
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We started to head down the road following the flowers and as we rounded a bend we were greeted with a color explosion. We’d found the flowers. They were all on the south side of the peak. Phlox, larkspur, paint, and various yellow wildflowers covered the slopes on this side.
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After taking a few pictures (okay lots) we went back to the table to gather our packs and headed back down the road. As we made our way down we found some blooming lupine and penstemon as well.
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To get back to the car we took the 1 mile section of the North Ridge trail from the upper junction to the East Ridge Tie trail and turned right on it for 1.2 miles back to the first junction and finally back to Conner’s Camp.

From there we drove back to U.S. Highway 20 and headed west to the Kings Valley Highway Junction. Turning right we continued 4.8 miles on Highway 223 to the Beazell Memorial Forest. The forest consists of 586 acres gifted to Benton County by the former owner, Fred Beazell, as a memorial to his late wife Dolores. Our plan here was to hike a 3.2 mile loop using the South Ridge trail.

The trail begins at a footbridge behind a restored barn which was being readied for a wedding reception on this day. After crossing Plunkett Creek on the bridge the trail joins an old road for half a mile. The forest is dense and scenic in a narrow valley. At the .5 mile mark the trail splits off to the right and recrosses the creek twice before rejoining the road at a junction in another half a mile.

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Here the South Ridge trail leads to the right up the side of the valley. A sign was posted warning of a logging operation and trail closure from October 2013 through April 2014. Being that it was June we continued on. The trial switchbacked up 350′ through increasingly open forest with wild iris and some flowers we had not seen before.
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At the top of the hill a short spur trail leads to a small meadow with a nice view across the valley.
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After leaving the meadow the trail drops down over the west side of the hill where signs of the logging operations could be seen. After joining a logging road for a bit the trail again split off to the right, passing an old cistern before returning us to the barn and our car.
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We had one more hike planned for the day so we hopped back into the car and continued another mile and a half north on Hwy 223 to Hoskins Rd. Following signs to the left for Fort Hoskins County Park we drove another 1.8 miles to the park entrance on the right. The park is at the site of an 1856 outpost.
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We started our hike here by taking the half mile interpretive loop past the old fort site and historic buildings. This path looped around a lovely meadow where daisies and foxglove bloomed and a few apple trees remained from an old orchard.
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While we were inspecting the Commander’s House a Bald Eagle flew past and began circling overhead.
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The path then passed the foundation of the Hoskins School before climbing back to the parking area where a longer loop began on the far side of the road.
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The longer 1.3 mile loop climbed over 300′ through a hillside meadow filled with wildflowers.
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The day turned out better than I had expected. We managed to get 12.3 miles of hiking in while visiting some interesting places and still made it to the graduation party on time. Happy Trails!

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Badger Creek

We combined our latest hike with a bit of reconnaissance hoping to check out some possible camp sites for an overnight trip this Summer. The plan was to hike the Badger Creek Trail from Bonney Crossing 7.7 miles to it’s junction with the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail looking for possible tent sites near the junction. This was our first visit to the Badger Creek Wilderness which is located just to the east of Mt. Hood in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Badger Creek flows from Badger Lake through a forested valley before joining Tygh Creek and eventually emptying into the White River. From Bonney Crossing the trail heads up the valley through a diverse forest as it climbs from an elevation of 2200′ to Badger Lake at 4500′. We turned around at just under 3650′ for our hike.

For once we were not one of the first cars at the trailhead, in fact we wound up having to park a little bit up the road as the few spots at the trailhead were taken. After walking down to the trailhead we were quickly greeted by a wilderness sign signaling the edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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Not a lot of sunlight was finding it’s way down into the valley in the morning but it did manage a few highlights.
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There was an interesting mix of both trees and flowers along the trail. Various types of pine, cedar, fir, and oak trees could be seen withΒ a number of different flowers. The most interesting of the flowers was an odd yellow flower on a tall stalk that we kept seeing. After doing some research I discovered that it was silvercrown.
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Some of the other flowers present were balsamroot and lupine:
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Prairie Star
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Fairy Slippers
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Arnica
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There was also large patches of Vanilla leaf and skunk cabbage which were both really fragrant on this day. The vanilla leaf was much more pleasant. πŸ™‚
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While the trail stayed fairly close to Badger Creek there really weren’t a lot of opportunities to get down to the creek. Steep banks and dense vegetation limited access but there were a few places where camp sites had been established that allowed access to the creek.
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Shortly after the Post Camp trail joined up with the Badger Creek Trail was the only real discernible waterfall that we saw.
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Being down in the forested valley meant that there were not many views up. The best views came at our turnaround point at the cutoff trail junction where we could see the top of Lookout Mountain and a couple of the other high points of the surrounding hills.
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As the day went on it got quite warm on the trail and the wildlife started to come out, especially the butterflies. We had seen a couple of deer on the drive in but on the trail we didn’t spot anything larger than a snake.
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One of the more interesting sightings was a butterfly that had been caught by a camouflaged spider.
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We were surprised that we didn’t see more people on the trail on the way to our turnaround point based on the number of cars that were at the trailhead when we’d set off. We were even mores surprised by the large number of hikers we encountered on our way back to the trailhead. We just kept passing groups heading in the whole afternoon. I’d seen conflicting reports as to the popularity of this trail but apparently on Memorial Day weekend it is rather popular. We found plenty of new cars at and near the trailhead when we got back and as we were packing up at 4pm cars continued to arrive.

We wound up getting a pretty good idea of where we’ll aim to set up camp when we do our next trip to the Badger Creek Wilderness and are looking forward to visiting Lookout Mountain on that trip. Happy Trails!

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Dog Mountain

Oh those pesky clouds. We had been moving this hike all over the calendar in hopes of catching the wildflowers that this hike is famous for at the optimal time. After checking in on portlandhikers.com and seeing some encouraging trip reports we decided it was now or never. The forecast was iffy but there was a chance of some sunshine and little chance of rain and this hike fit our schedules here better than it would again while the flowers were still in bloom. A more flexible schedule would have allowed us to head up earlier in the week when the sky was clear and the sun shining, but that won’t happen for some time yet. For now we are at the mercy of the weather.

Dog Mountain is on the Washington side of the Columbia River just east of Carson. This is a very popular hike, especially during flower season, so we were sure to leave extra early to beat the crowds. We were car number 4 at the trailhead when we arrived shortly before 7am. We were beneath the clouds and could see their edge to the east where clear sky taunted us just a bit further up the gorge. As we began the 3 mile climb to the summit we could see that Mt. Defiance was cloud covered on the Oregon side of the river.
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There were some nice flowers along the early part of the trail but I had a hard time getting decent pictures due to the cloud cover and dim light of the more forested lower parts of Dog Mountain.
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At the half mile mark (which seems much further given the almost 700′ the trail has already climbed) the trail splits offering two routes to the upper meadow. The right hand spur is the recommended spur both for scenery and ease. For once we took the “less difficult” route and opted for the scenery of the lower meadow.
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Just about a mile form the split we came to our first view of the lower meadow which was filled with a large variety of flowers, but dominated by yellow balsamroot.
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The wind was really blowing on the exposed hillside and the clear skies to the east were still teasing us but the beauty of the flowers trumped all.
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We could see the lower portion of the upper meadows from here and it was obvious that the clouds were passing right over the summit area. We held out hope that by the time we climbed the final 1.6 miles the conditions would improve.
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After leaving the lower meadow the trail reentered the forest.
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As the trail emerged from the trees we passed through a short stretch of thimbleberry bushes before entering a hillside filled with balsamroot.
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There were many other wildflowers mixed into the balsamroot too. We were doing our best to spot all the different varieties.
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There is a viewpoint that was the site of a lookout in this lower portion of the meadow but on this day we didn’t have a view.
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Except for that of the meadow.
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The viewpoint as we continued up.
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The flower display continued as we kept climbing. It was pretty cold due to the moist air and steady wind and even climbing couldn’t keep our hands from being a bit numb. The flowers that were in bloom changed as we got closer to the summit showing that there would still be time to get up there and enjoy them in the next couple of weeks.
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A trail junction announces the final .1mi to the summit where a little balsamroot was outnumbered by some smaller yellow flowers.
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On a clear day Mt. Hood would have been peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Defiance and the Columbia River would be snaking along below but with no sign of the clouds ending we took a short break and began our return. For the return trip we turned right at the junction and headed for the Augspurger Mt. trail. This trail passed through even more wildflower meadows before reaching the Augspurger Trail in just over a mile.
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The Ausgsuprger Mt. trail headed down a narrow ridge and then wound around Dog Mt. back to the parking area.
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Along the way were many woodland flowers in the forest and the occasional view once we had descended below the clouds.
Wind Mountain:
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As we got closer to the trailhead small patches of wildflowers began to be more frequent. In places where there the hillsides were free of trees flowers reigned.
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The parking lot had filled when we made it back just before 10:30. We’d seen a handful of hikers coming up the Augspurger trail but the majority of them obviously went up the way we had. We had joked about doing the loop again if the sky had cleared by the time we got back to the car. It hadn’t and seeing the number of cars in the lot all I could picture was a conga line going up the trail so even if it had I think I would have passed and saved the view for another visit. The wildflowers had certainly lived up to their hype even with the poor visibility. We plan on putting this hike back on the to do list in coming years, and this time we’ll look for a sunny day on which to tackle it. Happy trails!

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Coldwater Lake & The Hummocks

We ended our “Creek Week” vacation by changing things up a bit and heading to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument hoping to see some snowy mountains. Our creek theme wasn’t totally abandoned though. Our destination was Coldwater Lake which was formed during the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption when Coldwater Creek was blocked by debris from the mountain. The creek still flows into and out of the lake on it’s way to the North Fork Toutle River.

The slide that created Coldwater Lake also created the Hummocks which are piles of rock, ash, and other debris that was washed down and deposited along the Toutle River. A 2.5 mile trail loops through these mounds and that was where we decided to start our hike. Our plan was to hit that popular trail first before it got crowded then walk back along the shoulder of Highway 504 for a quarter mile to the entrance to Coldwater Lake and once there either do an 8.8mi out and back to a footbridge over Coldwater Creek or continue over the bridge on a longer loop up and around the lake. We decided to wait until we got closer to the bridge before choosing which option we would take.

It was quite foggy when we arrived at the trailhead for the Hummocks loop making it pretty clear that we wouldn’t be seeing Mt. St. Helens for awhile at least.
The Hummocks trailhead

The scenery along the trail deserved our attention anyway with many ponds and streams nestled between the various mounds.
Ducklings on one of the ponds
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As we were making our way through the strange landscape we spotted some elk on one of the Hummocks a short distance away.
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They didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with us. There were also numerous ducks, geese, and other birds enjoying the ponds and marshes along the trail.
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The trail also passes a nice viewpoint above the North Fork Toutle River where Mt. St. Helens would be visible on a clear day. We settled for the river and another group of elk grazing on the far bank.
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Shortly after leaving the viewpoint we were passing through a wooded area when I noticed an elk around 30′ away standing in the trees. Before I could get the camera up it disappeared but that had been the closest we’d come to an elk yet.

The clouds were beginning to clear up when we made it back to the parking lot and set off along the highway toward the Coldwater Lake entrance. We passed over Coldwater Creek on it’s way from the lake down into the Toutle Valley and then crossed the road and headed down to the lake.
Coldwater Creek

The view across the lake was spectacular from the trailhead. Minnie Peak lay ahead with a dusting of snow and a misty covering of clouds.
Coldwater Lake
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A little island was a popular spot for geese and ducks. I am sure they were there for the views.
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As we traveled along the north shore of the lake the views both ahead and behind kept getting better. The clouds were lifting revealing more and more snow covered peaks.
Coldwater Lake
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A few flowers were ahead of schedule giving us a taste of what will be coming in the next few weeks.
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Scouler's Cordaylis

I had my eyes on Minnie Peak waiting for the last cloud to finally let go. It was a stubborn one though and just wouldn’t quite disappear.

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The trail crosses several small streams before reaching what was a very nice waterfall on this day. Rock Gully Falls, as it’s called in Sullivan’s book, was swollen with melt water making it a damp crossing since there is no bridge.
Rock Gully Falls
The crossing
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We spotted several more elk above us on the hillside as we rounded a small peninsula shortly after passing the falls. It was amazing watching them quickly traverse the steep hillside.
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Can you spot them here?
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The next marker along the trail was a fan of rocks that had been part of a slide into the lake.
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Near the end of Coldwater Lake we came to a shallow pool of water that was, at least at one time, home to a beaver. We didn’t see one but we did see plenty of ducks and geese here.
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Evidence of Beaver work
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The cloud had finally left Minnie Peak revealing the craggy mountain top by the time we reached the trail junction just above the bridge over Coldwater Creek.
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Coldwater Creek came raging down the valley putting on an impressive show.
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We had decided to do the full loop as it appeared that snow would not be an issue and loops are generally more fun than retracing your steps so we crossed the bridge and began to climb the ridge on the south side of Coldwater Lake. The views behind us as we climbed just kept getting better.
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The rock fan
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It was a stiff climb but the views eased the pain some. As the trail began to become more gradual, we could see the Coldwater Visitor Center far off in the distance on the opposite hillside.
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Down in the little valley Heather spotted more elk moving in the trees.
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Just a short while later she spotted another elk heading our way. It stopped in a little bowl below us to check us out.
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Nique correctly identified it as a young bull as it began to come toward us again.
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He then veered slightly away from us and crossed the trail a ways ahead and disappeared behind a small rise. I kept looking up the hillside to see if I could see where he was heading.
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Just moments after taking the above picture he popped his head up over the rise and looked right down at us. As I fumbled with the camera he jumped down onto the trail no more than 10 yards in front of us and sped off back the way he had come originally. By the time I got a picture he was quite a ways down the into the bowl.
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That had gotten my heart racing as I wasn’t sure if he had decided to turn aggressive. I had been expecting him to run away from us not at us. After the excitement we continued on to tractor junction where a trail leads up to Coldwater Peak. The junction is named for the piece of logging equipment that was laid to rest there by the eruption.
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We had finally found a little snow in this area but not much was left.
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After curving around the trail came to a great open viewpoint.
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We could see Rock Gully Falls and the North Coldwater Lake trail really well.
Rock Gully Falls

We had heard a lot of croaking on the Hummocks trail but hadn’t seen any frogs or toads there or along the lake, but now at almost 3500′ Nique spotted one.
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Coldwater Peak became visible as we made our way back toward the west end of the lake. It was interesting to see this side of it after having hiked up it last year.
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Just as the trail began to descend we came to more logging equipment that didn’t survive the eruption.
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From here we could also see the Hummocks parking lot and our car.
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We still had a ways to go.

Our last elk sighting was a big one. As we were coming down, the largest herd we’d seen was scrambling to stay ahead of us and dropping down over the hillside.
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What a sight πŸ™‚
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We made it down to the South Trailhead and began our road walk back to our car. Mt. St. Helens finally decided to make an appearance at this point.
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When we got back to the car I dropped off my pack and jogged down the Hummocks Trail to the first good viewpoint to get my volcano pictures.
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Now that’s the way to end a hike – Happy Trails indeed! πŸ™‚

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Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.