Tag Archives: balsamroot

Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

We officially kicked off our 2018 hiking season with a pair of hikes toward the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. We started our day off by driving east of Mosier on I84 and parking at the Memaloose Rest Area. At the western end of the rest area a gated service road serves as the trailhead.
IMG_2440

We followed the forested old road uphill past some old structures.
IMG_2444

IMG_2445

IMG_2448Arnica

20180428_070754Fairy slippers

As we climbed the forest began to give way to an oak grassland.
IMG_2455

IMG_2457

IMG_2460

The old road passed by the Memaloose Pinnacles, a group of basalt towers.
IMG_2473

Just over a half mile from the rest area the trail left the old road. Here a small viewpoint looked across the Columbia River to the Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek (2016 trip report) areas of Washington.
IMG_2483

We turned uphill to the left climbing up toward the Memaloose Overlook.
IMG_2485

IMG_2496

Our pace was slowed as we searched the grassland for different wildflowers. It felt good to get reacquainted with our old friends some of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time.
20180428_072117Paintbrush

20180428_072134Desert parsley

20180428_071825Larkspur

20180428_072234Vetch

20180428_072416Lupine

IMG_2502Broomrape

20180428_072846Shooting star

20180428_072906Manroot

We arrived at the overlook a mere .8 miles from the rest area.
IMG_2508

IMG_2509

The overlook is along Highway 30 which makes it a possible alternate trailhead.

IMG_2515

IMG_2517

There was a large patch of fiddleneck near the overlook.
20180428_073421

20180428_073259

After admiring the view from the overlook we crossed the highway and continued uphill.
IMG_2527

The flower show not only continued but it picked up as we climbed.
IMG_2543Prairie star

IMG_2548Balsamroot

Even some of the seed heads were photogenic.
20180428_073806

The forecast had called for a chance of showers but the showers weren’t materializing and instead we got some nice sun breaks.
IMG_2556

With all the flowers we had been discussing there were some we had yet to spot. One such flower was the chocolate lily which we suddenly began seeing with some frequency.
IMG_2569

IMG_2689

The star of the hike though was the balsamroot which was thick in areas.
IMG_2577

IMG_2579

IMG_2587

The trail crossed a small stream which we hopped across.
IMG_2596

IMG_2600

Not far from the stream crossing was a four-way junction. The right hand path would have eventually led to the top of 957′ Chatfield Hill which on a clearer day would have offered views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along with wildflower meadows. The left hand path would have led to nowhere in particular. We went straight and headed up 822′ Marsh Hill.
IMG_2610

As we began our climb a pair of hawks flew overhead engaged in an aerial duel. I did my best to capture some of it but it’s not easy with a point and shoot camera.
IMG_2611

IMG_2615

IMG_2617

IMG_2620

Much of Marsh Hill was covered in yellow balsamroot with purple lupine and white large-flowerd triteleia scattered about.
IMG_2635

IMG_2684

IMG_2632

IMG_2640

From the hill we could make out part of Mt. Hood to the south through the clouds.
IMG_2637

IMG_2642

To the east the grassy southern slope of Tom McCall Point (2015 trip report) was easy to identify.
IMG_2643

The green hillsides of the Washington side of the gorge rose above the blue waters of the Columbia River to the north.
IMG_2658

To the west was nearby Chatfield Hill.
IMG_2675

We stuck around on the summit for awhile hoping that there would be enough of a break in the clouds for Mt. Hood to pop out but it soon became clear that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to save Chatfield Hill for another year given the clouds weren’t going to let the mountains come out and play. We returned the way we’d come. We only saw a few other hikers, no rattlesnakes (they are prevalent here), didn’t notice any ticks, and stayed out of the poison oak.In addition to the dueling hawks we did see countless smaller birds.
IMG_2591

IMG_2692

This first hike came in just under 4 miles which is why we’d had a second stop planned. That next stop was at the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The order in which we chose to do these hikes proved inconvenient from a driving perspective as both trailheads are only accessible by eastbound traffic on I84. In addition neither trailhead provides access to westbound I84 so in order to reach the Mitchell Point Trailhead from the rest area we headed east on the interstate to the Rowena exit (76) where we could get back onto the interstate headed west. We then had to drive by Mitchell Point to the Viento State Park exit (56) where we again exited the interstate only to immediately return heading in the other direction. After driving up and down I84 we arrived at the trailhead right around 10am.
IMG_2708

There are a couple of trails that start from the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The Mitchell Point Trail climbs to the top of Mitchell Point in just over a mile and the Wygant Trail which leads to the top of Wygant Peak. Our trail for this visit was the Wygant Trail although our goal was not the view-less peak itself which is 4.2 miles from the trailhead. We were headed for the last good viewpoint along the trail which was only approximately 3 miles up the trail.

The Wygant Trail is located to the west of the parking area and begins along an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
IMG_2710

IMG_2714

We followed an old road bed for a quarter mile then followed a trail sign when the road veered left.
IMG_2716

We soon rejoined the road for another half mile before turning left at another sign.
IMG_2732

The Trailkeepers of Oregon have been working on this trail which was one of the earlier trails to reopen after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The fire didn’t reach this particular trail but it had been closed none the less. A work party from TKO had been out the day before working on the trail and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
IMG_2733

There is a lot of poison oak along the majority of the trial so a big thank you to the volunteers that have been clearing the brush. The difference between the sections that they had worked and those that had not was huge.

After a mile we spotted a sign for the abandoned Chetwoot Loop to the left of the trail.
IMG_2742

Soon after the sign for the Chetwoot Loop we arrived a ridge above Perham Creek.
IMG_2744

We chose not to follow the viewpoint sign here due to the amount of poison oak seemingly lining the trail in that direction so we turned left and headed down to Perham Creek. A footbridge had spanned the creek up until 2016 when a slide washed it out.
IMG_2753

Interestingly it didn’t appear that it was the creek that did the bridge in but rather a slide down a small gully on the east side of the creek.
IMG_2757

A decent sized log served as an adequate replacement for the bridge allowing us to cross dry footed.
IMG_2756

The trail then climbed away from the creek, at times fairly steeply. As we passed through a brushy clearing we spotted a spotted towhee.
IMG_2768

We continued on watching closely for the ever present poison oak arriving at a lower viewpoint after a little over a mile and a half. Here we had a nice view of Mitchell Point to the east.
IMG_2773

Despite this not being a wildflower hike like our previous stop there were some flowers present, including varieties we hadn’t see in the Memaloose Hills.
IMG_2783Vanilla Leaf

IMG_2784Valerian

IMG_2787Ballhead waterleaf

IMG_2807Trillium

At the 2.5 mile mark a side trail led to a middle viewpoint.
IMG_2794

IMG_2802

IMG_2803Dog Mountain

This viewpoint was covered in pink plectritis.
IMG_2798

Just uphill from this viewpoint we passed the upper junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail.
IMG_2814

From the junction it was just another .6 miles to our goal at the upper viewpoint. It was pretty good climb during which we passed the only other hiker we’d see on this trail. This section of trail had not been cleared yet and was somewhat crowded by the poison oak. I also had picked up a couple ticks which were flicked off. The good news was another TKO work party was planned for the following Friday.
IMG_2822

The upper viewpoint had a nice view west down the Columbia River and of Wind and Dog Mountain (2016 trip report) on the Washington side of the gorge.
IMG_2829

We were a bit surprised to see what appeared to be a grass widow blooming at the viewpoint.
IMG_2827

There was also a couple of clumps of phlox present.
IMG_2828

We headed back down to the trailhead dodging the poison oak and keeping an eye out for any more ticks (one did manage to make it all they back home with us before being apprehended). We had briefly considered doing the Mitchell Point Trail before we’d started on the Wygant Trail but that idea had completely left the building by the time we arrived back at the trailhead.
IMG_2834

We have plans for that trail at a future date. We did however walk over to the Mitchell Point Overlook before heading home where the forested top of Wygant Peak could be seen to the west.
IMG_2836

IMG_2838

It was a nice way to start our season. A total of 10.2 miles hiked with a decent, but not insane, amount of climbing to get us started. The views and the wildflowers had been good and aside from a couple of sprinkles while on the Wygant Trail the weather had exceeded our expectations. The difference in the terrain and vegetation between these two hikes was also enjoyable given that they are less than miles apart as the crow flies. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

Bald Butte

I’ve already done a lot of shuffling on our hiking schedule this year due to the high amount of snow that fell over the winter/early spring that doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to melt off. We are currently in the midst of some 90+ degree days so that should help but for our latest outing the original plan to visit Lost Lake had been scrapped over a month ago and we were off to the replacement hike – Bald Butte.

Interestingly this hike was less than 15 miles (as the crow flies) from Lost Lake with the high point on Bald Butte coming in at 3770′ while the lake sits a little under 3200′. Location, location, location. In any event the snow coverage maps showed plenty of snow around the lake and none on the butte the day before our visit.

We began our hike at the Oak Ridge Trailhead. To reach the trailhead turn west on Smullen Road off of Highway 35 approximately 14.4 miles south of Hood River, OR. At a sharp right turn take a left off of Smullen Road onto a short dirt road to the parking area. The trail starts on the far side a small footbridge.
Oak Ridge Trail

The Oakridge Trail is 2.4 miles long and gains almost 2000′ as it climbs from the trailhead to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail which runs north/south for 16.4 miles. The trail was fairly level at first passing through an old clearcut with a view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Flowers blooming along this stretch included lupine, arnica and some nice hound’s tongue.
Lupine

Arnica

Hound's tongue

We began to climb after the clearcut as the trail entered the trees.
Oak Ridge Trail

Additional flowers were blooming here including a few chocolate lilies, woodland stars, silvercrown, and various white flowers.
Chocolate lily

Prairie stars

Silvercrown

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Anemone

Heather spotted a nice striped coralroot.
Coralroot

Switchbacks made the climb less strenuous than it could have been and soon we entered oak grasslands with even more flowers.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Balsamroot

Naked broomrape

Larkspur

One of the benefits of gaining elevation on a hike is that doing so typically creates more variety in the flowers seen which was certainly the case here.

The trail continued to switchback up through increasingly open grasslands allowing for some nice views.
Oak Ridge Trail

Balc Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail
Bald Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Rainier in the distance
Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Just before reentering the forest we ran into a small patch of paintbrush.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Paintbrush

Paintbrush

At this elevation the flowers in the forest included fairy slippers, toothwort, and trillium.
Oak Ridge Trail

Fairy slippers

Toothwort

Trillium

The trail leveled out somewhat once it was back in the forest and we soon arrived at the junction with the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Oak Ridge Trail and Surveryor's Ridge Trail junction

We turned left following a pointer for Bald Butte which was 2 miles away.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

After passing a “Leaving National Forest” sign the ridge became rocky and more open which once again provided views of Mt. Hood and now Mt. St. Helens joined the skyline.
Surveryor's Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Red flowering currant was profuse along this stretch and we also spotted a gooseberry bush.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Red flowering currant

Gooseberry

Mt. Adams also made a brief appearance.
Mt. Adams

The trail dropped slightly to a saddle where power lines and another possible trailhead sat beneath a hill.
Powerlines along the Surveryor's Ridge Trail

The trail so far had been off-limits to motorized vehicles but the final section is popular with dirt bike and ATV riders. We followed a steep dirt track under the power lines and up the hill.
Heading toward Bald Butte

There were quite a few flowers in bloom with more to come in the following weeks.
Biscuitroot

Daggerpod

Various small wildflowers

Near the crest of the hill we found one glacier lily still blooming.
Heading toward Bald Butte

Glacier Lily

After dipping into another saddle we faced the final somewhat steep climb to the summit of Bald Butte.
Bald Butte

Bald Butte

There was a nice display of wildflowers blooming along the way.
Wildflowers on Bald Butte

Balsamroot

Paintbrush

There had been a pesky line of clouds in front of Mt. Hood all morning and although it was still present it did seem to be slowly improving.
Mt. Hood and balsamroot

As we neared the summit Mt. St. Helens came into view followed by Mt. Rainier and most of Mt. Adams.
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

We had run into one dirt bike rider as we were coming up Bald Butte, he was headed slowly back down with a flat front tire. A second rider arrived as we were exploring the far end of the butte hoping for a clearer view of Mt. Adams (there wasn’t one). We were a little put off when the rider took his bike out into the wildflowers instead of leaving it in the dirt next to the road and more so when he started it back up while he was still out in the meadow. It was totally unnecessary and that’s all I have to say about that.

Mt. Hood was indeed becoming increasingly visible as we began our hike back to the trailhead.
Mt. Hood

As we were nearing the power line saddle we spotted a snake along the trail.
Snake

The snake wasn’t the only one out now that the day had gotten later. We had seen two other hikers that morning but passed a good deal more on our descent.

Back in the grassland a number of lizards scurried about.
Oak Ridge Trail

Lizard

It was nice to once again have a camera able to zoom in on the wildlife which came in handy one last time near the trailhead.
Douglas Squirrel

It was a little over 80 degrees back at the car and for the first time in a long while there was hope that summer was indeed coming. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bald Butte

Dog and Augspurger Mountains

This was our second visit to Dog Mountain and probably our final one for several years at least. While the wildflower meadows on Dog Mountain are arguably the best in the Columbia Gorge, that distinction brings crowds. We do our best to avoid crowded hikes, but our visit in May 2014 was on a morning when low clouds covered the upper meadows limiting views of the gorge and the flowers. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/dog-mountain/

Reports of the flower show being near peak and the promise of a sunny day brought us back to Dog Mountain for the views we missed and an additional visit to Augspurger Mountain which we had done on our previous trip. We left extra early arriving at the trailhead just after 6am to find close to a dozen cars already in the parking area. The parking area has recently gone through some changes reducing the number of spots from 200 to 75. For more information check out http://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=23519.

Two trails start from the parking lot, the Dog Mountain and Augspurger Trail, which make an 7 mile loop possible. The Augspurger trail also continues 4.7 miles beyond its junction with the Dog Mountain Trail past the summit of Augspurger Mountain to meadows with views of 3 Washington volcanoes.

We started up hill on the Dog Mountain Trail gaining almost 700′ in the first half mile to a junction in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trailhead

We forked right at the junction following the slightly longer, less difficult, and more scenic trail. After another mile (and another 800′ of elevation gain) we arrived at the lower meadow. The flowers were still in pretty good shape here and the view was better than during our first visit.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain from the lower meadow//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Columbia River from the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Paintbrush, lupine, balsamroot and other flowers in the lower meadow

Wildflowers in the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Wind, Greenleaf and Table Mountains from the lower meadow

The less and more difficult trails rejoined after another half mile back in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trail

Another 550′ climb over the next half mile brought us to the site of a former lookout at the lower end of Dog Mountain’s upper meadow. The balsamroot painted much of the hillside yellow. Other flowers were mised in adding splashes of red, white, and purple to the color palette.
Dog Mountain Trail

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Lakrspur and balsamroot with a little paint

Balsamroot, lupine and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Larkspur, balsamroot, and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

We continued .4 miles from the former lookout site to a signed junction where a .1 mile path led up to the trails high point at the top of the meadow.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Balsamroot on Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain Trail

Junction in the upper meadow

The trail had not been too crowded, but we had already encountered more people in the first three miles than we had on our previous thirty-three miles of trail. It wasn’t the people that chased us from the top of the meadow though, it was the bugs. There was no breeze to keep them down and there were a lot of them including some biting flies. After taking in the view including Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance to the south and Mt. St. Helens to the west we headed back down to the junction.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance form the top of the upper meadow

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens from the top of the upper meadow

Mt. St. Helens

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River from the top of the upper meadow

We continued on the Dog Mountain Trail another 1.1 miles, passing more wildflowers and fewer people, to its junction with the Augspurger Trail.
Paintbrush, buttercup, larkspur, balsamroot and chocolate lily

western stoneseed

Phlox

Balsamroot, paintbrush, phlox and larkspur

Meadow on Dog Mountain

White capped sparrow on balsamroot

Vanilla leaf and star flowered solomon's seal

Junction with the Augspurger Mt. Trail. (The spelling is wrong on the sign.)

We turned right at the junction and headed for Augspurger Mountain. It was immediately obvious that far fewer hikers used this portion of the trail. Brush crowded the path as it followed a wooded ridge dropping 400′ into a small valley.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

A fairly steep climb on the far side of the valley brought us to a dirt road which we followed uphill to the right. After passing under some powerlines the road reentered the forest. At a sharp right hand turn markers indicated the continuation of the Augspurger Trail.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Another half mile of climbing brought us to the first of several small meadows. This one had wildflowers and views back to Dog Mountain and Mt. Hood and to the west down the Columbia River.
Dog Mountain, Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance from the Augspurger Trail

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and larkspur

Serviceberry, paintbrush and larkspur
Lomatium and paintbrush

For the next 2+ miles the trail alternated between trees and meadows as it followed a ridgeline up Augspurger Mountain. Each meadow seemed to host a different combination of flowers and plants and the sections of forest all had different feels to them.
Augspurger Trail

Dutchman's breech

Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Fairy slippers

Augspurger Trail

Wildflowers along the Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and a beetle

Trillium

Augspurger Trail

Valerian

We momentarily lost the trail in the final meadow near the top of the mountain. Between some downed trees and new growth it was hard to tell where the trail was. I thought I had found it leaving from the right side of the meadow but quickly lost an sign of it in the trees. We went back to the meadow and picked up a faint but clear path heading to the left out of the top of the meadow.
Augspurger Trail

We followed this path into the trees. We were passing below the summit of Augspurger Mountain when we spotted a “summit” sign on a tree above us to the right. We headed uphill to tag the summit before continuing.
Summit of Augspurger Mountain

The path then began to lose elevation and entered another long meadow. This meadow provided views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in addition to Mt. St. Helens and also contained a fair amount of glacial lilies.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens

Glacial lilies

Glacial lilies

The one constant in all the meadows we’d been through was the bugs. The trail continued faintly down through the meadow which we could have followed down another couple of tenths of a mile, but we didn’t really want to have to regain any more elevation than we were already going to need to so after a brief rest we began our return trip.
Augspurger Trail

We ran into two other groups of hikers along the Augspurger Trail on the way back to the Dog Mountain Trail junction. There was a good deal of traffic on the final 2.8 mile stretch from the junction down to the trailhead, most of which was headed in our same direction. The parking lot was packed when we arrived back at the trailhead a little after 1pm and people were walking along the highway to cars they had parked along the shoulder. We had managed to get the wildflower and mountain views that had eluded us in 2014 and now we’ll leave Dog Mountain for others to enjoy. After all there are plenty of less popular trails we have yet to explore and even though they may not have the wildflowers to rival Dog they’re all worthy of a visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668107094945

Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail

We had stayed in Central Oregon after visiting the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain on Saturday. Before heading home we took the opportunity to do a pair of short hikes in the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area near Crooked River Ranch. The first of the hikes started at the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.
IMG_4756

The falls are only a half mile from the trailhead and can get very busy, but we were there early and had the trail to ourselves. We followed the path down into the Deschutes River Canyon.
IMG_4767

Flowers included sand lilies, balsamroot, and thread-leaf phacelia.
IMG_4761

IMG_4771

IMG_4779

Colorful rocks formations lined the canyon walls.
IMG_4772

IMG_4776

IMG_4788

IMG_4790

Steelhead Falls is only about 20′ tall but the width and setting of the falls makes it an impressive sight.
IMG_4795

IMG_4798

Beyond the falls the Deschutes calmed and various ducks and geese were enjoying the morning.
IMG_4804

IMG_4807

IMG_4816

We continued past the falls for .6 miles planning on visiting the Gray Tower, a 70′ rock formation. Our guidebook instructed us to turn right at a dry wash and then “stay right at junctions” up to the tower. We turned at the wash with the Gray Tower visible up the hillside.
IMG_4840

We apparently did too good a job at staying right and wound up following a path up a ridge with the wash on our left. We began to suspect that we were too far right when were getting further away from the Gray Tower and there was no sign of the ridge we were on bending back towards it. We spotted a trail on the opposite side of the wash and realized that it was the trail we should be on and headed back down. The detour had not been without its charms though, as it provided a nice view across the wash to the Gray Tower and to Mt. Jefferson (covered in clouds this morning).
IMG_4846

IMG_4853

We’d also seen some nice wildflowers.
Paintbrush
IMG_4841

Rough eyelashweed
IMG_4848

Desert yellow fleabane
desert yellow fleabane

White-daisy tidytips
IMG_4858

Once we had returned to the dry wash we headed up the left-hand side on a horse path keeping the wash on our right while we stayed right at the junctions. This trail did indeed lead us to the tower.
IMG_4866

We followed the horse path past the tower veering right heading for the start a .9 mile loop described in our guide book. At some point we lost the trail as it turned uphill and we were once again forced to backtrack. We decided to head cross country to try and pick up the trail, which we managed to do. When we reached a split to the trail on top of the rim we went right to start the loop. There was a small rocky knoll a short distance to the left with some small junipers on it at this junction.
IMG_4887

Several deer were watching us as we began the loop.
IMG_4886

IMG_4892

IMG_4897

We passed around a small hill through juniper and sagebrush keeping left at junctions marked by rock cairns.
IMG_4902

It was a beautiful sunny day which would have normally meant some nice mountain views but all the Cascade peaks were draped in clouds making for an interesting sight.
IMG_4900

IMG_4914

IMG_4919

Heather spotted a coyote that ran off too quickly for a photo, but several birds stayed put long enough for pictures.
IMG_4904

IMG_4908

IMG_4911

We completed the loop and managed to follow the horse path all the way back down to the river without losing it this time. The sun was now on the river and ducks paddled about as red-winged blackbirds filled the canyon with their songs.
IMG_4834

IMG_4938

IMG_4930

IMG_4936

IMG_4940

After returning to the trailhead we drove further into Crooked River Ranch to the Scout Camp Trailhead.
IMG_4951

This trail descends over 600′ to the Deschutes River and its confluence with Wychus Creek. The path starts out level passing through juniper and sage before dropping down into the canyon.
IMG_4953

IMG_4968

IMG_4975

Turkey vultures soared overhead and occasionally landed on the cliffs.
IMG_4970

IMG_4974

At the .4 mile mark the trail splits marking the start of a 2 mile loop. We went left following a trail pointer and headed downhill through fields of balsamroot and other wildflowers.
IMG_4989

IMG_4976

IMG_4984

IMG_4978

IMG_4988

IMG_4994

The further into the canyon we got the thicker the balsamroot became.
IMG_5011

IMG_5014

IMG_5026

A couple of different types of lizards were sunning themselves.
Side bloctched lizards
IMG_5000

IMG_5004

Western fence lizard
IMG_5025

After a fairly steep .7 mile descent the trail leveled off passing along a cliff face with the river on the left.
IMG_5041

A family of canada geese paddled about on the water.
IMG_5037

The cliff face gave way to a hillside of flowers.
IMG_5050

IMG_5051

IMG_5055

we then passed through a grassy area before the trail appeared to end at a rock wall below a rock fin where a fish monitoring station was set up.
IMG_5062

IMG_5075

IMG_5078

We climbed up and over the rocks which brought us to the continuation of the loop. From here we could see the spot on the opposite side of the river where we had eaten lunch during a 2012 hike on the Alder Springs Trail.
IMG_5080

The trail then climbed up the canyon switching back once to a view above the rock fin.
IMG_5087

IMG_5090

IMG_5093

IMG_5101

IMG_5102

We continued to climb passing another set of cliffs with small caves and rocks that appeared ready to come crashing down at any moment.
IMG_5103

IMG_5116

IMG_5118

Some of the brightest paintbrush we’d seen was along the hillside below these cliffs as well as some tiny but spectacular Cusick’s monkey flowers.
IMG_5112

IMG_5114

IMG_5124

We finished the loop and climbed back out of the canyon. As the views opened up we could see that the mountains had finally managed to shed most of their cloud cover.
IMG_5128

IMG_5130

IMG_5134

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flowers along the Scout Camp Trail and fortunate to have had the Steelhead Falls trail all to ourselves. It was a great end to a weekend of wonderful hikes in Central Oregon. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667267583520

Tom McCall Preserve and Mosier Twin Tunnels

We do our best to plan and prepare for all of our hikes, but we were reminded that now matter how much pre-trip preparation we’ve done things can still happen. For our last hike that meant an extra 4 miles of hiking.

We had headed back to the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge for a combination of several hikes near Mosier, OR. First up was the plateau trail at the Tom McCall Preserve. The trail sets off from the Rowena Crest Viewpoint located along the Historic Columbia River Highway 6.6 miles east of Mosier.
Rowena Crest Trailhead

The trail heads out onto the plateau toward the Columbia River passing several viewpoints and lots of wildflowers including our first bachelor button sightings.

Bachelor Button

Balsamroot at Rowena Crest

IMG_1299

IMG_1306

Columbia River from Rowena Crest plateau

IMG_1335

The trail also passes a pair of ponds where we had to be on the watch for poison oak.
IMG_1378

After approximately one and a quarter miles the trail ends at a viewpoint on the edge of the plateau. Across the river was a train while below on our right were a pair of turkey vultures and on our left a couple of deer down in Rowena Dell.
IMG_1348

IMG_1344

IMG_1347

Deer below Rowena Crest plateau

After returning to the parking area we headed up the second trail at Tom McCall Preserve to Tom McCall Point. The summit of the point had been shrouded in clouds while we were on the plateau trail.
IMG_1304

The clouds were breaking up as we began our climb though.
IMG_1407

IMG_1411

This path was wonderful. There were plenty of views as well as some wooded sections. We also saw several types of flowers that we had not seen along the plateau trail such as paintbrush, broomrape, larkspur, and chocolate lilies.
IMG_1412

IMG_1432

IMG_1416

IMG_1413

IMG_1421

IMG_1428

IMG_1434

IMG_1468

The clouds finally lifted from the summit by the time we were about halfway up the trail.
IMG_1470

We were also high enough to see the entire plateau behind us.
Rowena Crest from the Tom McCall Point trail.

The views from the summit were impressive, but alas the clouds had not broken up enough to reveal either Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams which on a clear day would have been visible.
IMG_1490

Summit of Tom McCall Point

We had planned one more hike for the day since the two trails at Tom McCall Preserve only totaled 6 miles. The Mosier Twin Tunnel trail set off on the west side of Mosier at the Senator Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead.
Trailhead for Mosier Twin Tunnels

The trail is actually a portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway that has been converted to a hiking and biking path. Our plan was to hike out about 2.5 miles to an overlook of Koberg Beach State Wayside to add another 5 miles to the days totals. The path begins amid rock piles that reminded us of the lava flows in Central Oregon. Here the basalt cliffs that are typical of the gorge had broken up leaving the jumble of rocks. A fence separated the path from the rocks to protect pits made by Native Americans, possibly used as vision quest sites. One such pit is visible in the upper left hand side of the picture below.
IMG_1516

About a half mile from the start of the trail is the first viewpoint.
IMG_1522

IMG_1521

IMG_1523

IMG_1525

Not long after the first viewpoint the trail comes to the first of the twin tunnels.
First of the Mosier Twin Tunnels.

Inside Mosier Twin Tunnels.

The first tunnel has a pair of windows carved into the rock wall offering views of the river.
IMG_1530

IMG_1531

Upon exiting the second tunnel the path continues under an odd concrete structure. Dominique thought it reminded him of being in a parking garage. The purpose of the structure is to act as a rockfall shield able to withstand a 5000lb. boulder falling from 200ft above.
IMG_1533

Just under a mile from the tunnels is a second overlook at the county line between Wasco and Hood River counties.
IMG_1536

IMG_1537

Our planned turnaround point was to be .8 miles from this second overlook at a .2 mile side path. We continued on toward the turnaround but Dominique wasn’t feeling all that well so he eventually took one of the car keys and headed back. It turns out he was only about 100 yards from our planned turnaround point. I was waiting for Heather by a gravel path that led off through a fenced meadow.
IMG_1540

IMG_1543

Viewpoint along the Mosier Twin Tunnel trail.

This was in fact the path we were looking for, but it ended at the fence where there was no view to speak of and certainly no sign of a beach wayside. On top of that I had viewed the hike on Google Maps and had expected the side path to drop down a bit and this path led up. We also felt like we hadn’t gone .8 miles since the second viewpoint so I checked the Garmin which showed that Koberg State Park was still ahead. We decided this wasn’t it and continued on. We kept walking and talking thinking the viewpoint was going to be just ahead. We began seeing more and more people but it was now after noon and that made sense, but when we passed a couple with a stroller we both began to wonder what was going on. They didn’t look like they had hiked over 2 miles already. Then Heather spotted some signs ahead. There were quite a few and they were big which didn’t make sense for a small side path, then we noticed an RV parked above the trail to the left. Now we knew something was wrong for sure because there were no roads open to vehicles anywhere near our planned turnaround point. Then we saw the parking area, restrooms, and information center at the western trailhead near Hood River. We’d gone nearly 2 extra miles! The good news was they were nice bathrooms and we had spotted a snake and our first California Poppies (while on a hike) in those extra miles.
IMG_1554

California Poppy

It turned out that the main portion of Koberg State Park is located across the Interstate from the western trailhead, but a portion of it is also located below the outcropping that the gravel path led onto. There just isn’t anything there to see. We hurried back as quickly as our sore feet would let us. On the way we spotted a bald eagle soaring above the trees and some wind surfers sailing above the Columbia.
IMG_1571

IMG_1577

At the car we found a napping kid who it turned out had stuck to our original plan better than we had. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652170987082/

Columbia Hills State Park

Spring came early to the Pacific Northwest and many of the flowers are running a week or two ahead of schedule so I’d been keeping my eye on the wildflower situation in the Columbia Gorge. Recent trip reports from the east end of the gorge showing the flowers out in force, a promising forecast, and a free day at Washington State Parks made for a combination that I just couldn’t pass up. Due to Heather training for the upcoming Corvallis half-marathon she was unable to accompany me this time, but my parents were able to join me for three short hikes in Columbia Hills State Park.

The park is located in Washington just across the Columbia River from The Dalles, OR and encompasses 3,338 acres offering rock climbing, fishing, sailboarding, and many other activities in addition to the hiking trails. We started our day off at Horsethief Butte, a rocky outcrop left over from an ancient basalt flow popular with rock climbers.

Basalt cliffs on the opposite side of Highway 14 from the trailhead.
IMG_0561_stitch

The trail starts off with a nice view of Mt. Hood over The Dalles.
IMG_0554

IMG_0580

The trail crosses a short section of flat grassland before splitting with the left fork heading up into a canyon of Horsethief Butte and the right fork leading around the mesa to rejoin the left fork on the far end of the canyon. There were a variety of flowers to be seen along this portion of the trail.

Manroot
IMG_0616

Bugloss fiddleneck
IMG_0617

Death camas
IMG_0623

Prarie star
IMG_0631

Large-flower triteleia
IMG_0578

Western stoneseed
IMG_0581

Larkspur
IMG_0584

Desert parsley
IMG_0619

When the trail split we took the left hand fork and headed for the canyon. At Horsethief Butte the dirt trail gave way to a short rock scramble up to the canyon entrance. At the top of the scramble the canyon opened up to reveal a good sized slot dotted with yellow balsamroot flowers.
IMG_0586

IMG_0589

Members of the Mazamas, an outdoor group based out of Portland, were busy setting up and climbing among the rocks.
IMG_0597

At the far end of the canyon the view opened to the Columbia River and Mt. Hood.
IMG_0596

IMG_0598

Here the trail dropped out of the canyon (without a rock scramble) to rejoin the right-hand fork. Before heading back we turned left and continued another quarter mile behind the butte to a viewpoint where poison oak patches were growing.

Poison Oak
IMG_0615

We headed back and completed the loop with Mt. Hood looming to our left.
IMG_0626

Next we headed to the Dalles Mountain Ranch, a short 4.5 mile drive away. To get there we drove 1.8 miles west on Hwy 14 and turned right on Dalles Mountain Road for another 2.5 miles to a fork. The trailhead for the ranch was to the right about .2 miles. Here an abandoned farmhouse and other buildings sat amid fields of balsamroot and lupine.
IMG_0634

We explored the area around the farmhouse first where several pieces of old equipment were on display along with the flowers and views of Mt. Hood and distant Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_0635

IMG_0653

IMG_0665

IMG_0666

There were also a couple of trail options. I wandered down to Eight Mile Creek through a spectacular field of balsamroot and lupine.
IMG_0668

IMG_0684

IMG_0681

IMG_0688

Our final stop was another short 1.4 mile drive up Dalles Mountain Road where a gate marked the end of the drive and the start of the Columbia Natural Area Preserve.
IMG_0693

We set off on the 2.5 mile hike up the closed road that would led us to the summit of Stacker Butte. Entire hillsides were covered in yellow from the balsamroot with a smattering of other flowers thrown in.
IMG_0713

IMG_0704

IMG_0716

IMG_0718

The total climb was a little over 1100′ but it was never too steep and the sweeping views drew attention away from the climb.
IMG_0720

IMG_0719

It was interesting to note the change in the mix of flowers as we climbed. Along the lower portion balsamroot and lupine dominated with a few prairie stars mixed in. A little higher up we ran into paintbrush and phlox.
IMG_0751

IMG_0767

IMG_0776

Next came larkspur and big-head clover.
IMG_0778

IMG_0797

Flowers weren’t the only things we spotted. There were numerous birds and a few deer in the area.
IMG_0783

IMG_0855

IMG_0844

We had lost our views of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the clouds, but when we reached the summit of Stacker Butte new views opened up. To the NW Mt. Adams was mostly obscured by a line of clouds, but Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks were virtually cloud free.
IMG_0879

IMG_0885

IMG_0865

Almost directly below us lay Stacker Canyon where the Klickitat Rail Trail follows Swale Creek toward the Klickitat River, a hike we had done last April. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/klickitat-rail-trail-swale-canyon-from-harms-rd/

IMG_0875

IMG_0876

It was a little too windy (and chilly) to spend much time at the summit so after a quick snack break near an air control wigwam we headed back down the road.
IMG_0860

On our way down I got my first butterfly pictures of the year.

Sheridan’s Hairstreak
IMG_0899

Blue Copper
IMG_0936

With all of the options Columbia Hills State Park has to offer it makes a great place to spend a day outdoors, especially during the spring flower bloom. There are ticks and rattlesnakes in the area in addition to the poison oak so you’ll want to pay attention if you visit, but don’t let that stop you from checking this park out. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157649434751593/

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
DSC08412
DSC08432
DSC08434

By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
DSC08470
DSC08465

We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
DSC08478
Scarlet Gilia
DSC08529
DSC08502
Lewis Flax
DSC08519
DSC08521
Prairie Star
DSC08538

Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
DSC08531
Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
DSC08523
and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
DSC08562

We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
DSC08581
DSC08585
DSC08589
DSC08598
DSC08600

We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
DSC08616
DSC08620
It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
DSC08654

It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
DSC08644
DSC08646
DSC08648

Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
DSC08649
Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
DSC08701
From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
DSC08699
Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
DSC08698
Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
DSC08695
Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
DSC08756
Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
DSC08757
And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
Mt. Shasta fro m Hager Mountain

We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
DSC08789
DSC08831
DSC08815
DSC08839

By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
DSC08855
DSC08875
DSC08866

We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
DSC08938
DSC08956

Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
2014-06-14 13.45.55
DSC09004
DSC09014
DSC09012

Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
DSC08987
DSC09003
DSC09032
DSC09034
DSC09049
DSC09085
DSC09110
DSC09115

A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
DSC09060
To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
DSC09088

It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644765557647/
Facebook – Hager Mt.: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204238532710679.1073741885.1448521051&type=1
Fprt Rock: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204238985722004.1073741886.1448521051&type=1