Tag Archives: Beargrass

Horsepasture Mountain

After our last two hikes coming from Matt Reeder’s 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region we went back to work on our goal of completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks. We are just over 75% through his 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades 4th edition and had our eyes set on checking off one more with a visit to the former lookout site atop Horsepasture Mountain.

The hike up Horsepasture Mountain provided a bit of a logistical challenge for a couple of reasons. First is our self imposed guideline of trying not to spend more time in the car than we do on the trail and the 1.4 mile length of the Horsepasture Mountain Trail meant we’d need to come up with some additional trail time. The second issue was the continued closure of a section of Forest Road 1993 which adds nearly 45 minutes to the drive to the Horsepasture Trailhead. Prior to the closure the drive to that trailhead would still have been over two and a half hours but with the detour Google put the time at three hours and fifteen minutes. We also have a rule against driving over three hours to any trailheads for day hikes so I began looking for alternatives. A little online research led me to a solution, the Saddle Trail which is part of the O’Leary Trail Complex.

The trail begins at the East Fork Upper Trailhead which brought the drive time from Salem under two and half hours. We parked at a small pullout on the right side of FR 1993 across from the signed Saddle Trail.
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There was a caution sign on the post regarding a burn area but that was referencing portions of the O’Leary Trail Complex burned in 2017 which did not include either the Saddle Trail or the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We were facing a nearly 1700′ climb over the next two miles to a junction at Horsepasture Saddle. Luckily the trail was well graded and in good shape as it switchbacked up through a green forest.
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Wildflowers in the forest included a few washington lilies, penstemon, northern phlox and tiger lilies along with the typical group of white flowers.
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As far as markers went on this trail it did cross closed Forest Road 590 after .4 miles and passed a single rocky viewpoint near the 1.75 mile mark.
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Near its end the Saddle Trail passed through a small meadow with a few remaining wildflowers.
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The trail ended at a signed three way junction with the Olallie Trail.
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Here we turned right passing through thimbleberry bushes for a little over 100 yards to a four-way junction.
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We turned onto the Horsepasture Mountain Trail which climbed gradually at first.
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Flowers here included lupine, lousewort, wallflower, valerian, and fleabane.
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After nearly three quarters of a mile of gradual climbing the trail steepened as it climbed through meadows with beargrass. It wasn’t quite the beargrass display we had been hoping for but there were some nice blooms along the way.
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Other flowers in these meadows included coneflower, owls clover, and cat’s ear lilies.
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After 1.2 miles the Horsepasture Mountain Trail began to climb the mountain’s south side through a drier wildflower meadow.
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The Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor were visible to the east as was snowy Diamond Peak to the south.
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There was a nice variety of wildflowers on display.
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A large cairn and remains of the old lookout marked the summit.
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The view from the summit included Cascade peaks from Mt. Hood to the barely visible tip of Mt. Thielsen.
IMG_8337Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington.

IMG_8381The Three Sisters (with the top of Broken Top over South Sister’s southern shoulder) and Mt. Bachelor.

IMG_8345Diamond Peak(Mt. Thielsen is out there too)

IMG_8385Cowhorn Mountain on the left and the tip of Mt. Thielsen to the right.

We took a nice long break at the summit enjoying the views and the flowers. Birds and insects were our only company.
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The only negative was seeing the fire scars left in the Three Sisters Wilderness from the awful 2017 fire season. We returned the way we’d come passing two other sets of hikers making their way up the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We also ran into a family of grouse. A single chick flew across the trail then mama landed in the trail.
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Her display of feathers and her posturing let us know that she had other chicks in the area so we stopped and waited until two more flew across the trail.
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She then flew up into a tree to let us pass. The remainder of the hike was uneventful as we descended the Saddle Trail back to the trailhead. The seven mile hike and extended stay on the summit kept us within our driving to hiking time ratio but more importantly the hike had been really nice. Good views and wildflowers combined with solitude made for another great day in the Willamette National Forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Horsepasture Mountain

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Chucksney Mountain to Grasshopper Meadow – Overnight

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

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

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

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

Trail from the car parking at Box Canyon Horse Camp

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Beargrass and a small burn along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

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

Lupine along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Phlox

View from Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor

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

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Survey marker on Chucksney Mountain

A nice variety of wildflowers covered the ridge.

Owl's head clover

Catchfly

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Scarlet gilia

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

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

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

Diamond Peak from Chucksney MountainDiamond Peak

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Fireweed

Grand collomia

Wallflower

Coneflower

Columbine

Strawberry

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Meadow along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail junction with the Grasshopper Trail

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

Meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Cat's ear lilies

Cat's ear lilies

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

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

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Beargrass

Beargrass meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Blocks in a meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Sheep Moth

Sheep Moth

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

Diamond Peak

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

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

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

Forest Service Flag marking the Grasshopper Trail

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

Forest Service Trail flag

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

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Meadows along the Grasshopper Trail

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

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Owl's head clover

Scarlet gilia

Wildflowers along the Grasshopper Trail

Penstemon

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

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Lupine

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Grasshopper Trail

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

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

Washington lily

Washington lily

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

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

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

Lupine meadow

Camp site along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Wildflower meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Diamond Peak

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

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Grasshopper Meadow

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

Checkerspot butterfly

Swallowtail on tiger liliy

Mountain parnassian

Butterfly in Grasshopper Meadow

Fritillary butterflies

Butterflies in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper

There was even another common sheep moth.

Sheep moth

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

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

Diamond Peak from Grasshopper Meadow

The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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

Grasshopper Mountain

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

Grasshopper Meadow

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

Some sort of memorial in Grasshopper Meadow

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

Spring in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper butterflies

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

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

Washington lily in Grasshopper Meadow

Washington lily

Washington lily

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Western tanager

White crowned sparrow

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

Lupine in the morning light

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

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

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

Trillium

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

Grasshopper Trail junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

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

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

Big Bottom (Clackamas Wilderness) & Rho Ridge Trail

For the second outing in a row we turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” as our guide. A number of the hikes in this book are lesser known and therefor less popular which means fewer people and most likely more challenging due to spoty trail maintenance.

We began our day with a short hike into one of Oregon’s wilderness areas that we had yet to visit, the Clackamas Wilderness. This particular wilderness is broken up into five separate tracts of land, one of which is Big Bottom. The Big Bottom tract protects an old growth forest along the Clackamas River. Although there are no official trails in Big Bottom a decommissioned logging road allows for a mile long walk down to the wilderness boundary where a use trail continues north for a little over half a mile before vanishing in brush.

To reach the decommissioned road we drove Forest Road 46 north from Detroit for 28.6 miles to Fores Road 4670 where we turned left crossing the Clackamas River. Just beyond the bridge we turned right on FR 4671 for .7 miles and parked on the right at the old road.
Closed road 120 which leads to the Big Bottom unit of the Clackamas Wilderness

We followed the roadbed downhill through a previously logged forest.
Heading down to Big Bottom

Just prior to reaching the wilderness boundary the road bed became choked with downed trees which we simply detoured around.
Trees leaning over old road 150

At a junction with an even older roadbed we turned left (north) and followed what became a clear user path into the old growth of Big Bottom.
Big Bottom

Big Bottom

There were a few downed trees to navigate but the path was easy enough to follow until we neared a creek where the ground became marshy and the underbrush extremely thick.
Big Bottom

We turned around at that point returning to the car to complete a 3.4 mile hike. That was our warm-up for the day before a longer hiker on the nearby Rhododendron (Rho) Ridge Trail. Our plan was to start at Graham Pass and follow the trail south 4.8 miles to the Hawk Mountain Trail and take the .4 mile trail up to the Hawk Mountain Lookout.

To reach Graham Pass we followed FR 4670 for 13.9 miles to FR 6530 where a large parking area was visible. There was no signage visible at the parking area, just a blank signboard along an old logging road.
Rho Ridge Trailhead

With no obvious trail visible we turned to the forest service map and our GPS to try and see if we could tell where the trail was supposed to be. Both of these indicated that the trail lay just east of the parking area so we headed into the trees and began to hunt for any sign of it.
Beargrass near Graham Pass

After a few minutes of climbing through the brush and crossing the location of the trail as shown on the GPS several times we decided to head toward the logging road. The GPS showed it curving back to the east further uphill where the Rho Ridge Trail would cross it and we figured the worst case scenario was we’d have to walk the road up to the crossing where we would hopefully be able to identify the trail. We were also beginning to suspect that the location of the trail on the maps was incorrect which is not all that uncommon. Sure enough we found the trail before reaching the road.
Rho Ridge Trail

We turned uphill following this obvious trail through beargrass filled meadows.
Rho Ridge Trail

Beargrass along the Rho Ridge Trail

The trail was brushy at times with lots of huckleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

The tread was faint through most of the meadows and blowdown was common along the way but old blazes and yellow diamonds on trees helped identify the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

Blowdown over the Rho Ridge Trail

Rho Ridge Trail

The trail had several road crossing and shortly after the third we arrived at Fawn Meadow where a small stream flowed through a meadow of wildflowers.
Meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

Shooting star

Wildflowers along the Rho Ridge Trail

After a fourth road crossing the trail entered another beargrass meadow with a partial view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
Penstemon lined road crossing

Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams from a beargrass meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The brush was particularly thick as we exited the meadow which required us to really pay attention to the trail which was hard to see through all the green. We reentered the forest where we crossed one final old logging road before spotting the first snow along the trail. (There was actually a larger patch lower that we’d notice on the way back down but somehow we both missed it on the way up.)
Rho Ridge Trail

Snow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The little patch of snow was near Round Creek which was flowing on this day. The sound of the creek was nice but we didn’t dare stop to admire it due to the many blood thirsty mosquitoes that were present. Just under half a mile later we spotted the sign for the Hawk Mountain Trail.
Rho Ridge Trail jct with the Hawk Mountain Trail

We turned uphill here climbing approximately 300′ in .4 miles to the summit meadow and the Hawk Mountain Lookout.
Hawk Mountain Trail

Snow along the Hawk Mountain Trail

Hawk Mountain Lookout and Mt. Jefferson

Hawk Mountain Lookout

The view from the summit is a good one especially of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington from Hawk Mountain

Mt. Jefferson

Additionally Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington were visible further south with the very top of Broken Top poking up above the ridge north of Three Fingered Jack.
Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, an Mt. Washington

The view wasn’t the only attraction at the summit. An impressive display of wildflowers was underway which had attracted a wide variety of pollinators.
Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Butterfly on penstemon

After a nice break it was time to head back.
Mt. Jefferson from Hawk Mountain

On the way down the Hawk Mountain Trail we stepped off the trail briefly to get a view to the north since trees on the summit had not allowed us to see in that direction. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood were all visible.
Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

On the way back we managed to follow the trail all the way down where we discovered that the official start of the trail was just a few feet up the logging road from the blank signboard. The Rho Ridge Trail sign had been just out of sight.
Rho Ridge Trail sign

The hike from Graham Pass to Hawk Mountain was 10.7 but a shorter option exists by starting at the southern end of the Rho Ridge Trail. From this end the hike up to Hawk Mountain is just 4.2 miles round trip. This was the second straight outing that we didn’t encounter a single other hiker along the trails. As overcrowded as some of the popular trails have become it’s nice to know that there are still some out there that offer a little more solitude. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Big Bottom & Rho Ridge

Coffin Mountain, Bachelor Mountain, and Bugaboo Ridge

For the 4th of July we spent our day off revisiting Coffin and Bachelor Mountains and discovering the Bugaboo Ridge Trail. Our previous hike up Coffin and Bachelor Mountains was on a cloudy day in early August, 2013. We hadn’t experienced any mountain views that day and it was past peak for the wildflowers so we had added it to the list of hikes to redo. In addition to revisiting the two mountains we also planned on checking out the Bugaboo Ridge Trail which intersects the Bachelor Mountain Trail.

A recent presentation by Matt Reeder at Salem Summit Company had prompted us to pick up a copy of his book “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” which provided some additional details on the Bugaboo Ridge Trail. After reading his description it seemed well worth the additional mileage to check it out.

We parked at the Coffin Mountain Trailhead which is accessed via Straight Creek Road found 2.9 miles south of Marion Forks.
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On our previous visit we had parked here and started by walking 1.2 miles further along forest roads to the Bachelor Mountain Trailhead and hiking to that summit before returning and heading up Coffin Mountain. To change things up this time we headed up Coffin Mountain first. Most of the Coffin Mountain Trail passes through open wildflower meadows.
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Our timing was much closer to peak for the wildflowers and there was a wide variety in various stages of bloom.
Chaparral false bindweed
chaparral false bindweed

Aster
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Thistle
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Fireweed
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Cat’s ear lily
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Yellow leaf iris
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False sunflower and blue gilia
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Scarlet gilia and paintbrush
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Tall bluebell
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False sunflower
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Catchfly
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Mountain owl’s clover
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As the trail climbs views of the Cascades get increasingly better.
Mt. Jefferson
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Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, Broken Top, The Three Sisters, The Husband and Diamond Peak
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Washington, Broken Top, The Three Sisters and The Husband
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Three Fingered Jack
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The number of flowers increased the higher we got in the meadows.
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Red, White, and blue for the 4th
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Beargrass
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The trail enters a short section with trees where the Coffin Mountain Lookout is visible on the cliffs above.
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A final push uphill leads to the staffed lookout tower and helipad.
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It was a little different view than we’d had in 2013.
Coffin Mountain lookout

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We returned to the trailhead then set off on the road toward the Bachelor Mountain Trailhead. Although it’s possible to drive the 1.2miles we’d rather enjoy the scenery along the way.
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Coffin Mountain Lookout from the road to the Bachelor Mountain TH.
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The unsigned trail begins at the end of Road 430.
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The trail climbs fairly steeply through a forest in two long switchbacks before losing the trees and gaining views as it rounds a ridge end.
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The wildflowers on Bachelor Mountain rivaled those on Coffin although Bachelor Mountain is drier and rockier.
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Washington lily
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After the initial climb the trail leveled out along a plateau with views.
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The trail then reentered the forest shortly before arriving at a junction with the Bugaboo Ridge Trail.
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We kept to the Bachelor Mountain Trail and headed uphill toward the summit. This section of trail passed though a forest of small tightly packed trees, many of which were bent by the weight of winter snows.
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Once we were above the trees the wildflowers and views returned.
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Phlox
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Wallflower
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Another lookout used to sit atop Bachelor Mountain but it was burnt by the Forest Service years ago just leaving the views. To the north Mt. Adams was visible over Mt. Hoods shoulder.
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Mt. Jefferson loomed to the east.
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A little further south was Three Fingered Jack and the scars of the B & B Fire.
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Then came a clump of Cascade Mountains, Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters.
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Because Bachelor Mountain is taller than its neighbor there was also a nice view of Coffin Mountain.
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We headed back down the Bugaboo Ridge Trail junction and unlike our last visit this time we turned onto that trail and headed east through the forest.
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The Bugaboo Ridge Trail is a longer approach to Bachelor Mountain and it was evident that it sees much lighter usage based on the narrower tread and encroaching vegetation in places. We found it to be a great trail though. The trail left the trees and entered a series of rock gardens and meadows filled with wildflowers.
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The views were pretty darn good too.
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Heather spotted an interestingly colored larkspur along the trail, it was the only one we could find.
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The meadows and gardens began to give way to forest as the trail descended to the Bruno Meadows Trail junction.
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The Bruno Meadows Trail is yet another option to reach Bachelor Mountain, but we ignored that trail and continued to descend on the Bugaboo Ridge Trail. The descent was gentle except for a short section above the Bruno Meadows junction although there was a fair amount of blowdown to navigate. We decided to turn around at a logging road that the trail crossed in an old clear cut.
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The detour along the Bugaboo Ridge Trail to the road was just under 2.5 miles adding nearly 5 miles to the days hike but it had been worth the extra effort. This visit had been a vastly different experience from our visit in 2013. It was fun to be able to see what we had not been able to on that first trip, and it was a great way to spend the 4th. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157670004507771

Blair Lake Trail

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

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

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

Crescent Mountain

Our wildflower adventure in the Old Cascades continued on our way home from Bend on July 6th. The hike we’d chosen was Crescent Mountain which is less than five miles from Iron Mountain as the crow flies. A 4.5 mile trail climbs up the SE ridge of this crescent shaped mountain through a series of meadows to another former lookout site.

The first 2.5 miles climbed through a nice forest with a crossing of Maude Creek at the 1.3 mile mark.
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The trail then entered the first meadow which was full of bracken fern and some wildflowers.
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The ferns gave way to more wildflowers as the trail continued to climb. Then we spotted a field of beargrass ahead. It turned out to be the most densely packed we’d ever seen.
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Butterflies and birds could be seen flying about in all directions. Behind us a view of Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters opened up across the open hillside.
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There was a nice variety of flowers in bloom.
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The meadows lasted for about a mile before the trail reentered the forest and climbed a ridge to a trail junction. Taking the uphill fork to the right we quickly popped out on the rocky summit where the former lookout had stood. The view here was better than Iron Mountain with Three Fingered Jack unobstructed and Crescent Lake below nestled in the curve of the mountain.
Mt. Jefferson
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Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters
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Three Fingered Jack and Black Butte
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Hood & Mt. Adams
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Crescent Lake
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There were more flowers, butterflies and birds up at the summit and despite a brief encounter with mosquitoes when we left the meadows we were left alone to enjoy the scenery.
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Hummingbird enjoying the paint
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Coming down we ran into a pair of hikers passing through the meadow who were equally impressed with the flowers. We agreed that we’d probably timed it as well as could be hoped. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645550800815/
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Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645515763015/
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