Tag Archives: Clackamas Wilderness

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

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