Tag Archives: coyote

Muir Creek Loop – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

We had planned our most adventurous hike of Memorial Day weekend for Sunday. The goal was a long loop into the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, one of the wilderness areas we had yet to visit in our outings. Our intended route was to begin at the Muir Creek Trailhead and complete a 15.5 mile loop described by William Sullivan in his Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (Hike #37 in the 2017 4th edition). We were pushing the envelope a bit by attempting the loop this early in the year given that the route would take us to an elevation just over 6000′. A May 8, 2015 variation of the loop by fellow hiker Van Marmot appeared to have been snow free (trip report). That was an extremely low snow year and although this years snow pack was well below normal it isn’t nearly as bad as it was in 2015. We hoped the extra two weeks in timing would at least make what snow might be left passable. We figured the worst case scenario would be that we would hike up the creek as far as possible and make it an out-and-back if necessary.

With plans A & B at the ready we left Bend a bit before 5am and were ready to set off on the Muir Creek Trail by 6:45.
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It was a crisp 35 degrees as we set off through the forest. We were soon climbing over and around a good deal of blowdown.
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It wasn’t long before we began getting our first views of the meadows along Muir Creek.
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We were on the lookout for wildlife in the meadows as well as any sign of where the abandoned portion of the Meadow Creek Trail might drop us back onto the Muir Creek Trail if we were indeed able to complete the loop. We expected that junction to be somewhere near the one mile mark but never noticed anything that looked like it might be the old trail. Beyond the one mile mark we encountered what appeared to be a somewhat recently eroded section of trail.
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Just under a mile and a half from the trailhead we came to a beautiful view of Muir Creek as it flowed through a meadow.
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Just beyond the viewpoint we passed a nice patch of white lupine along the trail.
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Then we came to Alkali Creek which proved to be a little challenging to get across dry footed but we managed to find a fairly dry route.
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The trail spent most if its time in the forest but occasional openings in the trees provided meadow views and at one point we spotted a pair of deer nibbling on some bushes.
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Roughly two and three quarter miles from the trailhead we spotted East Fork Muir Creek Falls. Here we also saw the only other people we would see along the trail all day, a couple of backpackers who had set up camp near the falls.
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Beyond the falls the trail continued up along West Fork Muir Creek briefly joining OHV Trail 27.
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We left the OHV Trail at a bridge over the creek after a couple tenths of a mile.
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We were now on the Buck Canyon Trail which began at road 6560/190 on the other side of the bridge at the Buck Canyon Trailhead.
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Approximately a quarter mile from the bridge we came to the first of two bridgeless crossings of the creek. We searched to no avail for a place where we could cross without getting wet and eventually decided to ford the creek which was only calf deep but it was cold.
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A quarter mile later we were faced with a similar situation and plunged through the icy water again.
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In a small meadow we found some tall mountain bluebells beginning to bloom and a butterfly who appeared to be waiting for the flowers.
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The meadows increased as we officially entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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We soon entered Hummingbird Meadows which had a nice display of yellow glacier lilies.
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We also spotted a coyote here and watched it run off into the forest and disappear. A total of 5.3 miles from the Muir Creek Trailhead we passed the signed Hummingbird Meadows Trail.
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The trail continued to the large and scenic Hummingbird Meadows as it climbed gradually up Buck Canyon.
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The meadows continued for a mile and a half from the Hummingbird Meadows Trail to a junction with the Wiley Camp Trail which the Forest Service Website currently lists as “area is unavailable”.
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Near the upper end of the meadows we began seeing some decent amounts of snow.
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We also spotted a dreaded mylar balloon which we packed out.
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At the junction there was no sign for the Wiley Camp Trail but there was one for the Buck Canyon Trail pointing toward the Meadow Creek Trail (which was still quite a ways away).
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Shortly after passing the Wiley Camp Trail we came to Devils Slide, a half mile long rock-slide.
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We stopped to visit a small waterfall next to the rocks.
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After passing Devils Slide the trail entered an upper meadow.
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Here we found some large patches of marsh marigolds.
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A brief stint in the trees led us to more blowdown and another small waterfall.
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Then we were back in a meadow but this time there was quite a bit more snow.
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A few phlox and avalanche lilies bloomed here.
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We lost the trail in the snow as we left the meadow and entered the trees.
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For the next couple of miles we played find the trail due to the lingering snow. There was enough left that it made things challenging but not impassable. We did a bit of postholing, especially Heather, as we zig zaged through the forest looking for signs of the trail. Sometimes old tree blazes led the way and other times it was downed logs that had been cut for the trail. Occasionally the trail itself would appear for a bit only to be swallowed again by a snow drift. Having the GPS also helped as we were able to tell where the trail was in relation to our position.
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IMG_4483blaze in the tree

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After passing over a saddle at 6000′ we descended to Alkali Meadows. From the meadows we spotted Union Peak and some of the rim of Crater Lake.
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IMG_4506Hillman Peak and The Watchman

After a brief stint in the upper portion of the meadows the trail turned back into the trees for a couple of creek crossings.
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Soon we were back in Alkali Meadows and staring straight at Mt. Thielsen. (post)
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A little further down the meadow Mt. Bailey (post) joined the view.
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We left the snow behind after Alkali Meadows where the trail turned south traversing through a drier area for a mile to Bear Camp where we found the Meadow Creek Trail.
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IMG_4532The rim of Crater Lake

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We turned left onto the Meadow Creek Trail and quickly began a steep mile long descent.
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We passed through more meadows with more views.
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Just before reaching road 6540-700 we left the wilderness behind.
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We turned left onto this road and followed it just over a quarter of a mile to where we turned right and followed signs for OHV Trail 27.
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OHV Trail 27 left the wide road in favor of a rougher, narrow track.
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There had obviously been some recent maintenance done to this trail, unlike our earlier trails.
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We passed a nice view of Mt. Bailey and then saw the source of some of the maintenance.
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The little dozer was Forest Service but it alone couldn’t have created all the debris we’d been seeing along the trail. Broken trees and brush had lined the entire track. After passing another viewpoint, this time of Crater Lake’s rim and Union Peak we discovered what had been chewing up the vegetation.
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After roughly 1.5 miles descending on the OHV Trail we arrived Road 6540-900.
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As nice as it was to have an actual trail to follow from Road 6540-700 down to the next road crossing it would have been much nicer if it had been the Meadow Creek Trail which had originally continued all the way down to the Muir Creek Trail. All of that trail save the mile between Bear Camp and Road 6540-700 has been abandoned by the Forest Service and from the map OHV Trail 27 appears to have obliterated some of the original trail. Road 6540-900 is where Van Marmot had started his hike and his trip report noted that the lower portion of the Meadow Creek Trial between this road and the Muir Creek Trail was still usable.

We turned right on Road 6450-700 looking for signs of the trail. Luckily someone had placed some pink flagging at the old trail otherwise we would have probably walked right past it even though the GPS showed we were right near it.
IMG_4572Faded pink flagging in the tree marking the abandoned Meadow Creek Trail

The trail was approximately 100 yards from where OHV Trial 27 popped out on the road and just a short distance before a cattle guard.
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The old trail was faint but easy to follow, in fact it was easier to follow this trail than the Buck Canyon Trail had been in the snow.
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There was pink flagging along most of the half mile route but we did finally lose track of the tread just above the Muir Creek Trail. There was enough blowdown along the hillside that we had to make the final descent up on our own. This explained why we had been unable to spot any sign of the trail on our way by in the morning. We wound up just about a mile away from the trailhead so we headed back along the Muir Creek Trail maneuvering around the downed trees along the way. The 15.5 mile loop wound up being 16.2 according to our GPS, much of difference can be attributed to the back and forth hiking we did searching for the Buck Canyon Trail in the snow.

It was a beautiful hike even with the OHV Trail thrown in and we were amazed that on a holiday weekend we had only seen the one other couple all day. It was everything we’d hoped for in our first visit to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Muir Creek Loop

Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain

We have lived in Oregon all our lives and yet neither of us had ever been to the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We finally made it there on a weekend trip to Central Oregon. We had headed to Bend after work on Friday and planned on visiting the Painted Hills then checking out a pair of nearby wilderness study areas – Pat’s Cabin and Sutton Mountain.

The Painted Hills Unit is one of three units making up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It is located 10 miles NW of Mitchell, OR and contains five short hiking trails ranging from the .2 mile Painted Cove Loop to the 1.6 mile round trip Carroll Rim Trail. We began our visit at the Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead.
Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead

We had gotten our usual early morning start and had arrived a little before 7am. The Sun was just coming up over Sutton Mountain to the east and the sky was partly cloudy creating some interesting lighting.
Sun coming over Sutton Mountain from the Painted HIlls

The .3 mile Painted Hills Overlook Trail began at this trailhead and provided some great views of the Painted Hills, Carroll Rim, and Sutton Mountain.
Painted Hills Overlook Trail

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

Painted HIlls

Painted HIlls

Painted HIlls

There had been one other car at the trailhead but its occupant never left that area so it was just us on the trail with a host of birds that remained unseen but whose songs filled the air. The wildflowers on the other hand remained silent but stood out with their splashes of color.

Golden Bee Plant
Golden Bee Plant

Fiddleneck
Fiddleneck

Rough eyelash weed
Rough eyelash weed

Tolmie’s Onion
Tolmie's Onion

Arnica
Arnica

Silverpuff
Uropappus lindleyi; Silverpuffs

After returning to the trailhead we walked across Bear Creek Road to the Carroll Rim Trail which climbs almost 400′ in .8 miles to a rimrock viewpoint.
Carroll Rim Trail

The Painted Hills stole the show, but there were other sights along this trail as well including our fist encounter with chukars.
Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Carroll Rim
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Chukar
Chukar

Caterpillar
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Fiddleneck

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Orange globe mallow
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From the Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead we drove 1.2 miles following signs to the Painted Cove Loop Trailhead. Here a .2 mile loop passes colorful claystone formations.
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A short side trail forked off to the left leading to a viewpoint above the Painted Cove. While we were at the viewpoint Heather spotted a Coyote across the road.
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There was also a nice bloom of John Day Pincushion on the hillside.
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Next we headed to the Leaf Hill Trail traveling back the way we’d come and following signs to the trailhead.
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This loop passes around a small hill containing many fossils (we didn’t spot any though).
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Finally we visited the Red Hill Trail which leads to a close up view of a hill of red and yellow ash.
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Near the end of the trail we spotted our first ever bitteroot flowers. They were just beginning to open but it was exciting nonetheless given we had looked for these on other hikes and failed to find any.
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Our next destination for the day was a bit of a wild-card. While I was doing research for the Sutton Mountain hike I had seen references to another nearby wilderness study area calls Pat’s Cabin. i wasn’t able to find much information about it, but I did find a 2011 BLM map of the area showing a trail going up Pat’s Cabin Canyon. Internet searches turned up nothing in regards to the trail so we decided that we would check it out in person. The BLM map showed a parking area along Burnt Ranch Road just before reaching the Twickenham-Bridge Creek Cuttoff Road. We parked in a grassy area next to an old corral near a sign for the Burnt Ranch and Priest Hole Recreation Sites.
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From there we crossed Burnt Ranch Road and passed through a barb wire gate on an old dirt road. After approximately a quarter mile we came to a sign marking the boundary of the wilderness study area.
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Just on the other side of the sign was Bridge Creek. Bridge Creek lacked a bridge here and the flow was swifter and deeper than we were comfortable with trying to ford. Later in the year it may have been doable but on this day Pat’s Cabin would remain a mystery to us.
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Our final destination for the day was on the other side of Sutton Mountain so we drove to Mitchell and turned north onto Highway 207 for 9.3 miles. We were hoping to spot two things during our Sutton Mountain hike that we had not yet seen during a hike, pronghorns and hedgehog cactus. We spotted some pronghorns in a field before we even made it to the trailhead.
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That didn’t count since we weren’t on the hike yet, but it was still neat to see them.

The trailhead we were looking for was located just beyond milepost 15 behind a wire gate in a grassy meadow with lots of signs of cattle.
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An old roadbed serves as the trail.
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We followed the roadbed along a wire fence to a private barn. There were horses on the other side of the fence and cows on our side. We hesitated for a moment when we realized there was also a bull, but after he gave us a look he headed away toward the barn. The roadbed turned uphill to the left so we began to climb.
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There were a few wildflowers and as we climbed we began seeing more, especially different colors of paintbrush.
Larkspur
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Sagebrush false dandelion
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Wild onion
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Prairie star
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Paintbrush
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There was also plenty of lupine but much of it had not even started to bloom.
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A mile from the trailhead the roadbed curved to the right across a dry wash. On this side of the wash the lupine was further along and a few more flowers made appearances.
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Stoneseed
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Wallflower
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Milk-vetch
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As we climbed the trees gave way to grassy meadows where wildflowers dotted the ground with color.
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Maybe a grass widow
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Old man’s whiskers
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Paintbrush
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An arnica
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Larkspur
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Lupine
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Just over a mile after crossing the dry wash we arrived at an old corral and another barb wire fence. A roadbed continued straight from the corral but the correct route turned left and continued uphill on a fainter old roadbed on the far side of the corral and fence.
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We spotted additional wildflowers as we continued to climb.
Phlox
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Dwarf yellow fleabane
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Shooting star
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The fence eventually disappeared but we just stuck to the roadbed which was easy enough to follow. The open meadows allowed for some great views including the bottom portion of Mt. Jefferson.
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As we were taking in the views we spotted some pronghorns on the opposite hillside.
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They were a lot further away than those we spotted in the car but at least now we could say we had seen some while hiking.

Just under a mile and a half from the old corral the roadbed came to a pass where it curved to the right and continued to the NW. Our goal, the summit of Sutton Mountain, was to our SE though so we left the roadbed here and headed uphill along the rim cliff.
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We had seen our pronghorns but not a hedgehog cactus which we knew to bloom in the area in late April or early May. We had nearly given up hope as we neared the summit when Heather spotted the first one.
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They seemed to only be present in a small area along the rim and then only on the SW facing slope.
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We spent quite a while studying the different cacti before finally making our way to the official summit where we took a break and admired the view.
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Mt. Jefferson in the distance and the Painted Hills unit below.
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Lookout Mountain in the Ochocos.
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Many butterflies were out as we returned the way we’d come.
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We returned the way we’d come and found that the cows had moved from their earlier location and now the trailhead was crowded.
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The cows had thoroughly inspected our car leaving smudges in the dust along the body and drivers side window where they had licked the vehicle.

It was a wonderful day of hiking. It had been warm but not too hot which was nice given the lack of shade on these hikes. There was a great variety of wildflowers and wildlife including several of each that were new to us, and there were birds signing almost everywhere we were. We couldn’t recall another hike with as much birdsong, much of which came from western meadowlarks. For what it’s worth Sutton Mountain made its case to for becoming an officially designated wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667625239612

Minto-Brown Island Park and the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

We didn’t have any hikes planned for awhile after our visit to Tamanawas Falls due to Heather having a half-marathon to run on April 10th. Her half-marathon wound up being an opportunity for a pair of short hikes on race weekend though.

On the day before the race we made the short trip to Salem’s Minto-Brown Island Park for a short walk to help make sure Heather stayed loose. We’ve spent quite a bit of time in the park, sometimes walking and other times passing through on runs. This was the first time I’d brought the camera along to get some photos though.

The area used to be islands in the Willamette River but flooding changed the course of the river so that the former islands are connected to the rest of Salem. At more than 1200 acres, the park contains 19 miles of trails, a playground, a 30 acre off-leash dog area, and fishing opportunities.

The paths are a mix of paved and soft surface trails making the park a popular place to run, walk, or bike. High water does close some of the trails at times but there is almost always a few that remain passable. Later this year a footbridge connecting this park to Salem’s Riverfront Park will make it possible to visit both of these parks as well as Wallace Marine Park without setting foot on a road.

We parked at the Shelter Parking Lot at the end of Minto Island Road SW and set off toward the shelter following signs for the Blue Heron Loop. The park has plenty of signboard maps as well as trail pointers throughout.
Signboards at the parking lot near the gazeebo.

Rabbits are plentiful and often spotted in the strips of grass along the paths.
Lots of little rabbits in the park

The Blue Heron Loop leads across a footbridge between a pair of sloughs where we spotted a Great Blue Heron searching for snacks.
Slough in Minto-Brown Island Park

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron going after a treat

Shortly after crossing the bridge a sign for the Blue Heron Loop led us off the paved path and onto one of the parks soft surface trails.
Trail in Minto-Brown Island Park

This portion of trail passed another slough on the right where we spotted Canadian Geese, a pair of wood ducks (not pictured due to fast swimming), and an Osprey sitting in its nest.
Canada Geese

Osprey in its nest

We left the wooded path and came to a trail sign at a junction near one of the many fields in the park.
Trail signs in Minto-Brown Island Park

We left the Blue Heron Loop here and headed for the Brown Island Landfill (the park has a little of everything it would seem). We skirted around it to pick up the Turtle Loop running along the north side of the landfill.
There are several connector trails running between the Turtle Loop trails making several different distances possible. We took one of these through the field to rejoin the Turtle Loop along the Willamette River. Here we found some recent beaver work.
Minto Brown Island Park

Recent beaver work

We followed the Turtle Loop back along the river to the shelter parking lot and our car. Even though the park is in Salem its size and the variety of trails makes it a nice spot to “get away” and you are almost certain to see some wildlife along the way.

On race day we headed to the Banks Middle School in Banks, OR where Heather’s race would finish and she would catch a bus up to the starting line at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The race would follow the Banks-Vernonia State Trail which is a converted rail bed, Oregon’s first rail-to-trail. Heather hopped on a bus at 7am and I had a couple of hours to kill before the race would start at 9am. So I took the opportunity to hike a section of the trail. I had decided to be at the Buxton Trailhead, one of several possible traileheads to access the trail, which was near the 6 mile mark of the half-marathon.

The trailhead had a large parking area with picnic tables, and a shelter.
Buxton Trailhead

Buxton Tressel from the trailhead

Building and sign at the Buxton Trailhead

I had calculated that Heather would be passing by that spot a little before 10am so I had about 2 1/2 hours available to hike. I took a path to the left of the parking lot down to a creek crossing below the Buxton Trestle.
Footbridge over Mendenhall Creek

Mendenhall Creek

Buxton Trestle

The path then led uphill joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail just beyond the trestle.
Trail heading up to the Buxton Trestle

My plan was to head east toward the Banks end of the trail for an hour and then head back to the trestle to wait for Heather, but before I headed down the trail I wandered out onto the trestle.
Buxton Trestle
Buxton Trestle

View from the Buxton Trestle

The entire 21 miles of the trail are paved which makes it popular with bicyclists, runners, walkers, and it also sees some equestrian traffic. It was still pretty early though so for the first 45 minutes I saw more wildlife than people.
Starling

Stellars Jay

Wren

The highlight happened as I passed a draw to my left and noticed something moving up the hillside through the brush. It was a decent size but it had its head down making it hard to tell what I was seeing. When it finally raised its head I could see it was a coyote. It blended really well with the brush and wouldn’t stop moving making it extremely difficult to get a decent picture. I finally made a little noise to get its attention hoping it would pause long enough for a photo, but it was quicker than I was and darted off as soon as we made eye contact.
Coyote

In addition to the wildlife there were plenty of Spring wildflowers along the trail. The forested hillside was dotted with trillium, bleeding heart, pioneer violets, and a few fairy bells.
Trilliuims

Bleeding heart

Violet

Fairybells

From the trestle the trail had gradually descended to a gravel road crossing where it left the trees and leveled out as it began to pass between pastures.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Birds were abundant, mostly sparrows, swallows, and robins but across one of the fields I spotted a bald eagle flying between trees.
Sparrow

Sparrow

Bald Eagle

I also spotted a single tough leafed iris and a couple of camas blossoms.
Wild iris

Camas

By 8:30am the trail had become quite a bit busier, especially as I neared the Manning Trailhead which I reached just as it was time to turn around and head back.
Manning Trailhead

I had just crossed the Buxton Trestle when the first runners passed by on their way to Banks. These were the sub 6 minute milers so I figured I had about 15 to 20 minutes before Heather would be passing by. I grabbed a snack and waited along the trail for her to pass by which she did right on schedule.
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After cheering her on I hopped back in the car and headed for the finish line to meet her. Her goal for this racing season was to break 2hrs in a half-marathon which she managed to do finishing in 1:52:42. With the race completed and her goal accomplished our attention now turns to our hiking season which will last for the next 6+ months. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minto-Brown- https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666808908512

Banks-Vernonia – https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666857451492