Tag Archives: deer

2019 Wildlife Gallery

We had so much fun in 2018 putting together posts of the different species and varieties of wildlife and wildflowers we’d seen that year that we decided to do it again for 2019. While we didn’t see a lot of larger animals this year we did see a lot of pikas, frogs and toads, and a number of new birds.

In the spirit of Leave No Trace principles we do our best not to cause any distress to the wildlife we see by keeping our distance, not feeding them, and doing our best not to disturb or startle them in any way.

Starting out small-
Beetle on a blue dicks

Ladybug on a thimbleberry leaf

Beetle

Beetle in a rose

Green beetle

Green beetle

Dragon fly

Dragon fly

Bug shenanigans

Bee on showy phlox

Bumblebee on thistle

Wasp

Catapiller

Caterpillar

Wooly bear caterpillar

Millipede

Snail and a millipede

Slugs on skunk cabbage

Slug

Wolf spider

Crab spider

Spider on bluedicks

Spider fight

We didn’t see as many different moths and butterflies this year but we saw quite a few of several types.
Moth on the Boulder Lake Trail

Moth on rainiera

Blue copper

Blue copper on aster

Some sort of copper butterfly

Ruddy copper

Skipper

A skipper of some sort or a duskywing

Skipper

Buttefly on the Hertiage Trail

Butterfly on aster

Butterfly on the Tarbell Trail

Butterfly

Fritillary butterfly

Butterfly along the Wenaha River Trail

Butterfly on valerian

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly on stonecrop

Butterflies on aster

Butterfly

Butterfly on a flower

It was a good year for reptiles and amphibians, especially frogs and toads.
Cascade toad

Toad

Western toad at Temple Lake

Frog

Frog

Frog

Frog

Frog

Frog on moss

Tree frog

Tadpole

Rough skinned newt on Amanda's Trail

Northern alligator lizard

Western fence lizard

Sagebrush lizard

Pygmy short horned lizard

Snake with an attitude

Water held a couple of creatures.
Crawdad

Fish in the Clackamas River

We had good luck with birds this year as well, being the one animal where we saw quite a few varieties for the first time (that we know of).
American goldfinch

Bald Eagle

Bird along the Boulder Lake Trail

Black-headed grosbeak

Bullock's Oriole

Canada geese

Chickadee

Clark's nutcracker

Duck on Monon Lake

Duck on Russ Lake

Ducks

Egret and great blue heron

Golden eagle being chased by a smaller raptor

Gray jay

Grouse

Hummingbird

Hummingbird on a mountain ash

Junco

Killdeer

Kingbird

Lazuli bunting

Lewis's woodpecker

Little bird along Trail 5

Mergansers

Merlin

Mountain chickadee

Northern flicker

Nuthatch

Osprey with Mt. Adams in the background

Ouzel at Sawmill Falls

Pied-billed grebe

Pileated woodpecker

Raven

Red breasted nuthatch

Red tailed hawk

Red-breasted sapsucker

Red-winged blackbird

Robin

Sparrow

Stellar's jay

Scrub jay

Swallow and a sparrow

Turkey

Turkey vulture

Varied thrush

White crowned sparrow

White pelicans

Wilson's snipe

Wood Ducks

Woodpecker

Wren

Yelllow rumped warbler

Yellow breasted chat

Yellow warbler

Yellow-throated warbler

Spotted towhee

Black-throated warbler

Small furry creatures included a number of our personal favorites the pika.
Pika

Chipmunk

GOlden-mantled ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

Belding's ground squirrel

Marmot

Squirrel

Rabbit

Finally the larger mamals which included the wildlife highlight of the year, watching a group of big horn sheep roughhousing on the far side of the Wenaha River canyon.
Big horn sheep

The deer near Wallowa Lake got into the roughhousing as well.
Deer in front of the Edelweiss Inn

Didn’t see many elk but these were at Zumwalt Prairie.
Elk

We spotted two coyotes in the brush at the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge. One’s head can be seen here as it was running off.
Coyote in the grass

There are still a handful of animals (that we are aware of) that we haven’t seen yet but continue to keep an eye out for. At the top of that list are cougar, bobcat, beaver, otter (Apparently there was one swimming in Crabtree Lake (post) while we were there this year but we didn’t notice it.) porcupine, wolf, and wolverine. The odds of seeing any of these are not in our favor, but they are out there and have probably seen us. Keeping an out for these and all the other animals we’ve seen or have yet to see is an additional motivation to get out and explore. Happy Trails (and tails)!

Cascade Head, Whalen Island, and Sitka Sedge – 6/25/2019

As we finished up a four day stretch of hiking to start a week of vacation we were looking for the best chance of decent weather which brought us to the Oregon Coast for our second visit to Cascade Head. I had originally had a grandiose plan to hike from the lower trailhead all the way over to Harts Cove (post) but I hadn’t paid close enough attention to detail and we wound up going with a plan B.

We started the morning at Knight County Park.
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IMG_0776Salmon River at Knight County Park

It had rained throughout most of our drive through the Coast Range but we were pleased to have been able to see the meadows on Cascade Head as we drove to the trailhead. We set off on the Nature Conservancy Trail which quickly crossed Three Rocks Road.
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The trail climbed through the forest along Savage Road popping out of the trees at a field where we could see that the meadows were not nearly as clear as they had been just a bit earlier.
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The fact that we could see the ocean was a bit encouraging though.
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After crossing to the other side of the road the trail passed an active slide and recrossed to the original trailhead.
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The trail continued to climb through the forest before leveling out for a bit as it crossed a series of overgrown streams on footbridges.
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IMG_0801One of the bridges.

IMG_0804Overgrown stream

When we finally popped out of the trees around the mile and a half mark we found ourselves in some pretty thick fog.
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We had hoped to see some of the elk herd that lives on Cascade Head but we couldn’t see much of anything, although we did spot a few birds.
IMG_0811White crowned sparrow

IMG_0818One of three hummingbirds

IMG_0844Another white crowned sparrow

There were just a few flowers scattered about as we made our way through and up the grassy meadow.
IMG_0824Checkerbloom

IMG_0832Monkeyflower

IMG_0835Yarrow

IMG_0848Field chickweed

IMG_0914Lupine

Parsley-leaf Lovage
Parsley-leaf Lovage

IMG_0853Foxglove with a spider web

IMG_0862Clovers

IMG_0875Iris

IMG_0880Self-heal

With no views from the meadows when we finally reached the upper viewpoint we headed into the forest.
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When we came to Siuslaw National Forest boundary my lack of attention to detail became apparent. I had seen where the road to the Upper Trailhead was closed annually from January 1st through July 15th, but I hadn’t noticed that the entire area starting at the boundary was closed to all traffic during that time period.
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So much for that plan. We gathered under the awning over the Nature Conservancy signboard and mulled over our options. We decided that it might be a decent time to check out a couple of other nearby hikes – Whalen Island and Sitka Sedge. These two hikes would be just a little less mileage than our original plan with quite a bit less elevation gain, plus they were close to Pacific City which gave us a great excuse to have lunch at the Pelican Brewing Company.

With a new plan we headed back to the upper viewpoint where the conditions had improved slightly. We could make out the trees and even a bit of the ocean in the distance through the fog.
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The problem seemed to be that the clouds/fog wasn’t coming in from the Pacific but was instead coming from inland up the Salmon River. We paused for a moment wondering if the view might clear up. While we were watching we spotted a doe walking along the tree line.
IMG_0877Look for the head to the right of the tall foxglove stalk.

We decided to keep descending figuring that we would still have a good view if the fog did happen to lift.
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As we were headed in the direction of the Salmon River the fog did indeed clear in a span of just over a minute.
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It was a remarkable change. As we were admiring the new, clearer view we noticed a pair of deer feeding in a gully far below us.
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As we continued downhill we were encourage to see an actual pocket of blue sky.
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We stopped to take in the view from the lower viewpoint.
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From the lower viewpoint the trail turned back inland where things were taking another turn. It was now beginning to rain.
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It was a fairly quick, damp, descent back to the car. We were briefly followed by a young fawn who quickly ran the other way when we turned around and spotted it. We had heard a couple of odd noises which caused Heather to turn and notice it. Were aren’t sure what prompted it to follow but hopefully it got back to it’s bed and mother.

The rain had ended by the time we arrived back at Knight Park and we headed north along Highway 101 for 12.7 miles to a sign for Pacific City and Sand Lake where we turned left. This was Brooten Rd. which we followed for 3.5 miles before turning left onto a bridge across the Nestucca River and into Woods. After 2.3 miles on what was now Sandlake Rd. we turned right at a T-shaped junction remaining on Sandlake Rd. for 2.9 more miles to the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island on the left.
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It was overcast here but not raining or foggy so that was a plus. We began our loop hike here by taking a trail near the southern end of the parking area.
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The 1.5 mile loop here passes several viewpoints of Sand Lake and the Lillian Parker Craft wetland. Near the first viewpoint we spotted a rabbit.
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The trail was nice and there were a few flowers along with the views.
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IMG_0969Lupine

IMG_0972White crowned sparrow

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IMG_0974Cape Lookout (post)

IMG_0979Beach morning glory

At the wetlands a curious hummingbird came to check us out.
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IMG_1001Groundcone

IMG_1011Tiger lily

After completing this short loop we drove back south along Sandlake Rd a mile and turned right into the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area. Purchased by the State in 2014 this is a relatively new hiking area offering a couple of loop options.
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We followed the Beltz Dike Trail to the start of the loops.
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With water and wetlands on both sides of the dike we were a bit surprised by the lack of wildlife which was basically just a few ducks, some crows, and a number of smaller birds.
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There appeared to have been quite a display of roses a bit earlier in the year.
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On the far end of the dike we turned right onto the Estuary View Loop.
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This trail passed through a typical coast forest and climbed to a viewpoint above the Sand Lake Estuary.
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We scanned the estuary for any interesting wildlife but didn’t spot anything so we continued on. As the trail looped around and began heading south it became quite a bit sandier requiring a little extra effort.
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At a rise in the trail there was a view south to Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock (post).

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We missed the the pointer for beach access where the Woods and Estuary View Loops met and continued south on what was now the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop.
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This section was much less sandy which made it easier to walk on.
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At the next trail sign we did follow the beach access pointer but we mistook it on the map for the one we had already passed.
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This path was a slightly longer route to the beach as it first paralleled it for nearly two tenths of a mile before a short spur trail to the right led out to it.
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Cape Lookout lay to the north while Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock were to the south.
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When we left the beach we turned right thinking that this was still the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop but a quick look at the Garmin showed that we were quickly approaching the outskirts of Pacific City so we promptly turned around and headed back to the junction and got ourselves back on the correct path.
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We took a final short detour at the pointer for the Elk Knoll Trail.
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This 500′ long path led to a bench atop a small knoll, there were no elk present.
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After sitting briefly on the bench we completed the loop but not before Heather did one of the craziest dances I’d ever seen as we were walking along the trail. She had suddenly seen something right in front of her and thought it was some kind of big insect coming for her. It wasn’t.
IMG_1087Obstacle hanging over the trail.

We both got quite a laugh out of her fancy moves and chuckled all the way back to the trailhead. Despite our detour the hike here was still under 4 miles bringing the days total to 11.1 miles.

After a quick change we drove into Pacific City and stopped at the Pelican Brewery before heading back to Salem. The food and drink were a nice way to end four days of hikes. With more rain in the forecast over the next couple of days we’ll see when and where our next hike takes us. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cascade Head, Whalen Island, and Stika Sedge

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

For our last day of hiking on our Memorial Day weekend trip to NE Oregon we planned on visiting Zumwalt Prairie. Managed by the Nature Conservancy there are four trails open to hikers totaling approximately 9.5 miles combined. We had originally planned on doing all four but for reasons to be explained later we wound up skipping the Canyon Vista Trail this trip.

We had had a mix of weather so far during the trip with a snow shower on Friday (post) and nearly 80 degree temperatures on Saturday (post). Sunday was again up in the air as the forecast called for a 50% chance of showers and possible thunder storms after 11am. We got our typically early morning start and made the 45 minute drive from Wallowa Lake to the the preserve.

As we left Wallow Lake we were surprised to see that the Wallowas were mostly cloud free so on the way to the hikes we decided to start with the viewpoint hikes first in hopes of getting some nice looks at both the Wallowas and the Seven Devils in Idaho. Based on the trailhead locations we thought we might start with the Canyon Vista Trail but as we turned onto Duckett Road and passed Duckett Barn and the information kiosk there we noted how rough and wet the dirt road was. The map of the preserve mentioned that between the turn off for the Harsin Butte Trail and the Canyon Vista Trailhead “high clearance /4wd vehicles are recommended….This road may be impassable at times during the winter or when wet”. We decided that there was no reason to risk getting stuck, especially since there seemed to be quite a bit of fog toward the area where the trail looked to be. When we reached the spur road for the Harsin Butte Trail we turned down it and started our day there.
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Described as sort of a scramble route the Harsin Butte Trail gains just under 700′ in .8 miles to the summit viewpoint. Even before we started climbing though the views were good.
IMG_8266Looking toward the Seven Devils in Idaho

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IMG_8272Findley Buttes (You can see some of the standing water on Duckett Road on the right hand side.)

From a distance and especially while driving it’s a bit difficult to notice all the flowers but once we got onto the trail we realized there were a whole lot of different flowers present.
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IMG_8283Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8286Phlox with larkspur in the background

IMG_8279Cusick’s paintbrush

IMG_8295White-stem frasera

IMG_8290Paintbrush

IMG_8297A wild onion

IMG_8298Larkspur

IMG_8304Milk vetch

IMG_8312Chickweed

IMG_8314Woodland stars

IMG_8311An assortment of flowers

We were following a clear path and could see the continuation of the path going up the side of Harsin Butte so we were a little confused when we passed a couple of rock cairns about a quarter mile from the trailhead.
IMG_8322One of the carins and the trail going up Harsin Butte in the background.

We ignored the cairns and stayed on the clear path.
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After another quarter mile of walking we realized that this was not the trail to the butte, it was heading around the west side of the butte to what looked like a corral instead. We backtracked to the cairns and followed them to find the continuation of the correct path.
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It seemed the higher up we went the more flowers we were spotting.
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One exciting find for us were the monument plants which we don’t get to see all that often.
IMG_8329Monument plant

IMG_8332Top of the monument plant

IMG_8343Shooting star

As we were climbing we noticed that the low clouds behind us seemed to be moving our way fairly quickly. I decided to try and double time it up to the summit in an attempt to avoid being over taken by clouds before getting to see the view. Apparently 3 days of hiking had taken more of a toll on me than I had realized and I was quickly sucking wind. The 5000′ elevation probably wasn’t helping me any and I regretted my decision every time I had to stop to try and catch my breath.
IMG_8347Here comes the clouds.

One of the times that I found myself gasping for air I noticed this rockcress.
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The path led briefly into a stand of pines where game trails crisscrossed and elk sign abounded.
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A few different flowers showed up in this area.
IMG_8353Bluebells

IMG_8426Yellow bell

IMG_8410Violets

IMG_8397Ball-head waterleaf

After a brief disappointment upon realizing there was a false summit I made it up to the actual summit with its solar powered antenna.
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The cloud scare proved to be a false alarm, at least for the moment as they passed to the north of Harsin Butte between it an one of the Findley Buttes.
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There were a few clouds over the Wallowas to the southwest but also some sun shining on the northern end.
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To the southeast the Seven Devils had a similar look.
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After a nice rest (I needed it) at the summit we headed back down. The clouds over the northern end of the Seven Devils lifted a little reveling a little more of the mountains.
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By the time we were finished, with what turned into a 2.1 mile hike, our shoes were pretty well soaked from the dew on the grass but the flowers seemed to love it.
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We didn’t see any elk but we did spot a Belding’s ground squirrel who had popped up to check us out.
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We hopped back in the car and drove back to the Duckett Barn and parked at the information kiosk there.
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Those clouds we’d been watching were starting to move overhead as we set off on Patti’s Trail, a short lollipop loop which began on the opposite side of Duckett Road from the kiosk.
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There weren’t as many flowers along this trail as we had seen on Harsin Butte but there were still quite a few and some that we had not seen during the first hike.
IMG_8481Camas

IMG_8490Old man’s whiskers and white-stem frasera

We followed blue posts and pointers to a fence.
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This area was a bit rockier and had quite a bit of phlox and large head clover.
IMG_8496Lots of phlox

20190526_075112Phlox

IMG_8506Large head clover, larkspur, and wild onion

20190526_075335Large head clover

IMG_8500Wild onion

The trail descended slightly as it approached Camp Creek. Although we still had some clouds passing overhead we had a clear view of the prairie and the flowers we were passing by.
IMG_8513Duckett Barn starting to disappears as we descended.

IMG_8510Possibly hoary balsamroot

IMG_8514Hoary balsamroot?

IMG_8515Phlox

20190526_081858Diffuseflower evening-primrose

IMG_8526Camp Creek

Patti’s Trail followed along Camp Creek to a small pond where red-winged black birds were hanging out.
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Beyond the pond the trail continued following the creek passing more flowers and blackbirds along the way.
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IMG_8529Possibly a mustard

IMG_8536White-stem frasera blooming

20190526_080638Violets

20190526_081638Hairy clematis

IMG_8549Old man’s whiskers

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20190526_082540Cusick’s paintbrush

The trail veered left at a stock pond.
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We paused at the pond and Heather spotted a deer running up a nearby hillside.
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The trail continued to bend back around to the left following what was described as the swale of a dry creek but again with the recent precipitation there was water flowing creating a nice little stream.
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The trail eventually left the creek and was headed straight for Harsin Butte in the distance.
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We’d lost sight of the posts at one point and were just sticking to what appeared to be the main track and ended up veering left of the butte and coming to a small watering hole where the track petered out.
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Looking back from this higher vantage point we could see the next post we should have been aiming for so we backtracked and found another fainter track that put us back on the right course.
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The clouds were breaking up nicely as we ended this hike and the butterflies were coming out.
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After completing the loop and returning to our car we headed back toward Zumwalt-Buckhorn Road and our final hike of the day and trip on the Horned Lark Trail. While we were still on Duckett Road though we spotted a pair of elk running up the Findley Butte near the barn and stopped to get a picture.
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Shortly after turning right onto Zumwalt-Buckhorn Rd we stopped again to get a picture of a Wilson’s snipe. One had flown up from the grass while we were on Patti’s Trail but we hadn’t been able to get a picture of that one.
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When we were finally done with stopping for wildlife we parked at the Horned Lark Trailhead just over 3 miles from Duckett Road.
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This trail was described as an “easy 1.9 mile loop which sounded like a perfect way to end our trip. We began by following a clear double track through the prairie. Lupine was blooming nicely in this area and there was a view of the Wallowa Mountains beyond the Findley Buttes.
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As with Patti’s Trail the route of the Horned Lark Trail was marked by blue posts.
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The trail descended toward a pond near Pine Creek.
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Once again flowers were good supply.
IMG_8642Paintbrush and biscuitroot

IMG_8643A ragwort or groundsel (I think)

IMG_8646False sunflower?

IMG_8648Old man’s whiskers and milk vetch

20190526_094353Western stoneseed

We spotted another ground squirrel ahead in the path.
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He may have been on high alert due to the presence of a merlin nearby.
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IMG_8664I had to dip into the digital zoom to get this photo so it’s a bit blurry.

We followed the path and posts to the fenced pond but the path disappeared near a post a bit beyond the pond.
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We consulted the map that we’d printed out and it appeared to show the trail following a fenceline near Pine Creek so that’s what we did until we were able to spot another post in the distance.
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The fence was popular with the birds.
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We picked up a faint path and followed it toward the post.
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We followed the posts up a draw where the tread was often indiscernible.
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Even now we were still seeing different flowers.
IMG_8707Dwarf yellow fleabane

IMG_8711Blue dicks

Maybe it was simply due to the fact that this was our fourth staight day of hiking and it was early in our hiking season but this loop despite being only 2 miles long didn’t feel easy. The deer that we spotted bounding up and over the hill ahead of use didn’t seem to think it was too difficult though.
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IMG_8717Looking back down the draw.

Back on top we were headed ESE and could see the Seven Devils and Harsin Butte on the horizon.
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The Wallowas were still visible too behind Harsin Butte and the two Findley Buttes (from left to right).
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With the completion of the Horned Lake Trail our total milage for the three hikes came to 6.9 miles. It would have been a bit less had we not followed a couple of wrong paths. Harsin Butte was the most difficult with the 700′ elevation gain followed by the Horned Lark Trail with the easiest being Patti’s Trail. The Canyon Vista Trail which we skipped would have been about 3.6 miles round trip and possibly around 500′ of elevation gain. It was a beautiful place to visit and I guess we have a good reason to go back with one trail left undone.

As we were driving back toward Enterprise we encountered a vehicle stopped in the road. They flagged us down and let us know that they thought there was a golden eagle sitting on a rock on the hillside. Between the distance and the angle of the sun it was hard to tell but then the bird flew and it looked awfully small for a golden eagle. It landed on a telephone pole allowing us to see that it was indeed only a hawk, but it was a nice scene regardless.
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We said goodbye to the Wallowas and drove into Pendleton for the night where, after having been threatened by their possibility all weekend we finally got a thunderstorm. Luckily we had already walked back from our dinner at OMG! Burgers and Brew where we had another excellent meal. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Zumwalt Prairie

Lower Wenaha River

After dealing with snow the day before at Freezeout Saddle (post) we called an audible and decided not to try hiking at Hat Point. That trailhead is a little higher in elevation along Hells Canyon than we had been during the Freezeout Saddle Hike. We turned instead to the Wenaha River Trail starting from Troy, OR. This trail provided us with the opportunity to make our first visit into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. We planned on visiting this wilderness later on this year but knowing our plans are always subject to change we jumped on the chance for a warmer, drier hike that visited another of Oregon’s wilderness areas.

The drive to Troy from Wallowa Lake was an eventful one. The wildlife was out in force. We kept our eyes on the numerous deer that we spotted along Highway 3 between Enterprise and the turnoff to Flora. At one point several elk ran across the highway ahead of us from one field to another. There were two deer in the second field that upon seeing the elk running away from the road toward them decided they should run too, only they ran toward the road (and us). The lead deer realized its mistake and turned around chasing after the elk leaving the second deer looking confused before also turning around. A short while later we were slowed by a turkey in the road. Its escape plan appeared to be to try and outrun our car. If you’ve seen a turkey try and sprint its a pretty funny sight. Eventually it remembered its wings and flew to the side of the road.

Thirty five miles from Enterprise we turned left at a sign for Flora, a ghost town that peaked in the early 1900’s. Beyond Flora the road was paved for the first 4 miles but then turned to mostly dirt with some gravel. For about 7 miles this road wound steeply down to the Grande Ronde River and Troy. Numerous hairpin turns with steep dropoffs made for a bit of a tense drive down but we arrived at the Troy Trailhead in one piece.
Troy Trailhead

Not only were we at a much lower elevation (under 2000′) but the forecast was for just a 30% chance of showers on this day so we were optimistic that we’d have a little better weather experience. The sky seemed to back that up as we looked back over Troy and the Grande Ronde River.
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This lower portion of the 31.3 mile long Wenaha River Trail passes through the 2015 Grizzly Fire scar.
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Some of the trees survived the fire.
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We had seen a trip report from the end of April over on Oregonhikers.org which indicated that the trail was in pretty good shape, but might be a bit brushy in spots. The author had also spotted big horn sheep during the hike so we were going to be keeping on the lookout for those.

In April it looked like there had been a nice display of balsamroot along the trail but most of that was now done but we were pleased to still find some flowers in bloom.
IMG_7762Vetch

IMG_7768Spreading dogbane

IMG_7776Wild rose with a beetle

IMG_7778Yarrow

IMG_7787Houndstongue

IMG_7784Paintbrush

IMG_7792Catchfly

IMG_7795sticky purple geranium

The trail itself began above the Wenaha River but soon dropped down to river level passing through a flat. This pattern would repeat itself over the course of the hike. The sections along the flats ranged from open grass to overgrown brush. We appeared to be the first to be going through the brush since the leaves were heavy with water which quickly soaked the lower halves of our bodies.
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As we made our way along the trail we discovered additional flower types.
IMG_7812Oregon sunshine

IMG_7818Monkey flower

WatercressWatercress?

IMG_7822Fiddleneck

IMG_7827Rough eyelashweed

IMG_7829Blanket flower with two sleeping bees

After a mile we arrived at a gate which we at first mistook for the boundary with the Umatilla National Forest.
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While we were on the lookout for big horn sheep it was colorful birds that we kept seeing (and hearing).
IMG_7848Yellow breasted chat

IMG_7865Lazuli bunting

The contrast in the hillsides on the opposite sides of the river was interesting. The north side consisted of smooth rounded terrain while the south side was much more rugged.
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While we were admiring the ruggedness of the opposite hillside we spotted some promising brown dots (they are in the picture above). With a little help from the zoom on the camera and our monocular we were able to confirm they were some of the big horn sheep we’d been looking for.
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Just a bit further down the trail we spotted another group. These were engaged in some rowdy play around a burnt ponderosa trunk.
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We watched them for quite a while before continuing on. The north side of the river became a bit more rugged and the rockier terrain provided more diverse flowers.
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IMG_7919Penstemon

IMG_7921Clarkia

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IMG_7945More spreading dogbane

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IMG_7952Scabland penstemon

IMG_7953Cinquefoil?

While the trail was up on the hillside we had nice views of the Wenaha below.
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A little over two and a half miles in we passed a second fence which was the actual forest boundary.
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Just beyond the boundary was a viewpoint across from Dry Gulch.
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From the viewpoint the trail made a couple switchbacks down to another brushy flat.
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Although it wasn’t thick there was a few pockets of poison ivy along the trail so we kept a watchful eye when the vegetation was close to the trail. It was along these flat sections where we spotted most of the birds.
IMG_7970Woodpecker with a snack.

IMG_7978Northern flicker

IMG_8003Black headed grosebeak

We also spotted a few big horn sheep on our side of the river.
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After climbing up a bit again we found a nice combination of false sunflower and balsamroot blooming along a ridge end along with a few other flowers.
IMG_7985Blue dicks with a beetle

IMG_8010Lupine

IMG_8012Salsify

IMG_8021False sunflowers

IMG_8024Balsamroot

IMG_8013Clarkia with beetles

IMG_8028View from the ridge end.

We repeated the dip and climb a couple more times before arriving at a neat rock overhang a bit before the 6 mile mark (at least according to our GPS). Along the way spotted more birds, a deer, and what appeared to be a rattlesnake that had met its demise along the trail.
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IMG_8040Another bunting

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IMG_8052Another chat

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20190525_095959Geranium

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Beyond the overhang we could see Crooked Creek Canyon ahead to the right where it joined the Wenaha to the left.
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From the overhang it was a little over a mile to Crooked Creek. The stretch began with another nice selection of flowers.
IMG_8077Skullcap

IMG_8081Stream globemallow

IMG_8083Thimbleberry

IMG_8084Threadleaf phacelia

The the wildlife kicked back in and not in the most welcome way for Heather. I had stopped to try and get a picture of a garter snake that had just moved off the trail.
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I heard Heather say snake a couple of time and I was thinking “Yeah I know I’m trying to get a picture of it” only she was talking about a second garter snake that was slithering into the grass on the other side of the trail. Then she notice the third one coiled a couple of inches from her left foot. She is not a huge fan of snakes but has gotten quite a bit more comfortable around them, but three in one spot was getting close to too much. The third snake slithered away when I approached and we continued on.

More welcome wildlife came in the form of a family of geese, a pair of Lewis’s woodpeckers, and butterflies.
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At the 6.3 mile mark we passed a rock cairn with a “6” on top. We weren’t sure but thought that it might have been marking the boundary of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
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Whether or not that was the official boundary somewhere near the cairn we did enter the wilderness crossing one more off of our list to visit.
IMG_8134Officially inside the wilderness

We followed the trail to the site of the former footbridge over Crooked Creek which was lost in the Grizzly Fire.
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We spent some time pondering what the crossing would be like for backpackers wanting to continue on the Wenaha Trail. The water level looked like fording would be possible but we couldn’t see how one would get up to the trail on the far side. The best we could figure is that you would need to ford closer to the mouth of Crooked Creek and not at the old bridge site but we didn’t investigate further.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The day was warming up nicely as blue sky began to emerge overhead. We ran into several groups of backpackers heading in and they all asked about Crooked Creek. We told them that we thought fording would be possible but they’d need to find a spot to get back up to the trail. One of them mentioned what we had suspected, that there was a way up a little further downstream.
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On the way back we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed the first time by.
IMG_8177Wren

IMG_8190Spider and blue dicks

IMG_8194Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8220Wild onion

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Near the spot where we had seen the first group of big horn sheep across the river Heather spotted a small group on our side along the river bank.
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By the time we made it back to the trailhead the sky was mostly blue and temperatures were in the upper 70’s. It was a far cry from the snow shower the day before.
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20190525_134957The bees woke up at some point.

For some reason I had started craving pizza near the end of our hike so when we got cell signal I did a quick search of restaurants in Joseph and decided a calzone from Embers Brewhouse which really hit the spot and provided breakfast for the next day as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Wenaha River

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge & B.C. Creek Falls

We took an couple of days off for an extended Memorial Day Weekend in order to take a trip to NE Oregon in hopes of checking off a few more hikes of our to do list of Bill Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). The plans included our fist visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness which would leave us with just seven more wilderness areas to visit in Oregon (post).

We also recently added a third goal of hiking in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. I had recently been looking at a map and began wondering how many of the counties we had hiked in and realized that there were only 5 in which we hadn’t as of the start of May this year: Columbia, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, and Morrow. We checked off Columbia with our visit to Sauvie Island (post) and we have hikes planned in Umatilla and Union later this year. That left Gilliam and Morrow which are adjacent to one another in the north central portion of the State with the Columbia River acting as their northern borders. Neither of these counties are home to any of the 500 featured hikes but the John Day River acts as the western border for Gilliam County. We had been in Sherman County on the west side of the John Day during our visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park (post) and remembered that there was a trail on the other side of the river, the Lost Corral Trail, which I quickly added to our future plans. That left Morrow County.

Sullivan does have a couple of additional hikes in the back of his Eastern Oregon book that are located in Morrow County but neither seemed to fit into our future plans. I turned to the map to see if anything would turn up and noticed that the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge was located in the county just NE of Boardman just off Interstate 84. We would be driving that by on our way to Wallowa Lake so I did a little research on the refuge. The Heritage Trail is the only official trail there but other areas are open to foot traffic and we were just looking for something that would allow us to stretch our legs and would allow us to check Morrow County off our new list.

We took exit 168 from I-84 and followed Highway 730 for 3.7 miles then turned left onto Patterson Ferry Road at a sign for the refuge. We drove 2.7 miles along Patterson Ferry Road past a parking area with restrooms to left at a large sign marking the start of a short driving loop.
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We had a map of the refuge with us, but the parking areas weren’t marked which was a little confusing. We followed the gravel road around a field parking at a lot on the right just under 1.5 miles from the start of the loop. A green fence blocked what looked like an old road bed.
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We decided to follow this track thinking that it might lead us to the Heritage Trail. There were a few wildflowers amid the grasses and a pleasant scent in the air coming from the trees.
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By the sound of them there were a whole lot of birds around but we weren’t having a lot of luck spotting them aside from a red-tailed hawk screeching in the sky above and a couple of western kingbirds.
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Several signed tracks split off from what appeared to be the main track that we were following. We aren’t sure but think they were pointers for hunting blinds.
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The track led us toward McCormack Slough where a bald eagle was keeping watch.
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At the slough we tried following a fainter track to the left thinking it might hook up with the Heritage Trail but there was no discernible path around the slough so we made our way back to the main track and returned to the car. Along the way we spotted two coyotes, several deer, a great blue heron and a pair of white pelicans.
IMG_7065First coyote in the grass.

IMG_7066Second coyote racing off through the grass.

IMG_7070One of the deer running off.

IMG_7072Great blue heron flying off.

IMG_7073White pelicans circling overhead.

We continued on the driving loop and just about a half mile later spotted the parking area for the signed Heritage Trail on the right.
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The paved trail follows an old road between a portion of the slough.
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We followed this trail for about a half mile where it joined an open road and then turned around and headed back. It was a short hike but we did see some more wildlife and a few flowers.
IMG_7076Bald Eagle

IMG_7080Wild Rose

IMG_7086Butterfly

IMG_7090Killdeer

IMG_7093An egret on the other side of the slough.

IMG_7097Sagebrush lizard

IMG_7099Another butterfly

IMG_7100Deadly Nightshade

IMG_7102A goose in the reeds.

Each of our stops here consisted of 1.1 mile hikes with a nice amount of wildlife. We drove back to the Interstate and continued east onto Wallowa Lake and our second hike of the day.

We had made reservations at the Eagle Cap Chalets near Wallowa Lake, just under 3/4 of a mile from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead and the start of our next hike. We decided to see if our room was ready and it was so we unpacked the car, threw on our packs and road walked to the trailhead.
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We started a 5 day backpacking trip here in 2016 (post) so the first quarter mile of trail was familiar before turning off of the West Fork Wallowa Trail onto the Chief Joseph Trail.
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The first section of trail may have been familiar but being two months earlier in the year the flowers were different.
IMG_7111Anemone

IMG_7115Fairyslipper

IMG_7122Arnica

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Rock Clematis

We turned onto the Chief Joseph Trail at the signed junction following a hand written pointer for B.C. Creek Falls
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The trail descended through the forest to a footbridge over the West Fork Wallowa River.
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On the far side of the river the trail climbed a series of switchbacks past more wildflowers and views down to the bridge below.
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IMG_7161Bluebells

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IMG_7172Prairie stars

IMG_7173More rock clematis

IMG_7178Paintbrush

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IMG_7191Larkspur

The trail then leveled out a bit as it traversed the hillside above the river passing a viewpoint of Wallowa Lake 3/4 of a mile beyond the bridge.
IMG_7206Area near the viewpoint.

IMG_7207Looking further into the Wallowas.

IMG_7242Wallowa Lake

We arrived at B.C. Creek a tenth of a mile from the viewpoint.
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After two bridges were washed out here the Forest Service stopped replacing them.
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After admiring the falls we turned back, not being tempted at all to attempt a ford to complete a possible loop back via the abandoned portion of the Chief Joseph Trail beyond the creek.
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Sullivan describes a second possible loop option by taking a spur trail through a private Boy Scout Camp. He noted that this trail could be closed to the public at any time but we decided to check it out turning left onto the unsigned but obvious trail .4 miles from the creek.
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After just a tenth of a mile a rocky viewpoint offered another look into the mountains and some purple penstemon.
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We also spotted a sign stating that the trail beyond was closed to the public and warning of surveillance cameras. We returned to the Chief Joseph Trail and headed back down to the bridge and recrossed the river. We then noticed another well used trail and followed it left along the canyon rim above the West Fork Wallowa.
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Flowers dotted the rocky terrain here.
20190523_152152Shooting star

IMG_7292Old man’s whiskers

IMG_7298Possibly a checkermallow

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We kept following the path along the rim to a viewpoint above a small unnamed waterfall.
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The user trail kept going beyond the falls so we did too eventually hooking back up with the West Fork Wallowa Trail a little over 100 yards from the trailhead. We then road walked back past the ground squirrels patrolling Wallowa State Park to the Eagle Cap Chalets, but not before stopping at the Khao Neaow Food Cart to get some Thai food to take back to our room for dinner.
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The food was great and after dinner we walked down to Glacier Grill and General Store to pick up some food and drinks for the room. On the way back we noticed a group of deer in front of the old Edelweiss Inn.
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They were a rowdy bunch.
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Our outing to B.C. Creek Falls was a modest 5 miles and a nice reminder of how much we loved our 2016 trip to the Wallowas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Umatilla WLFR & B.C. Creek Falls

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

As far as we know we didn’t have any mountain goat visitors during our night at Lower Twin Lake but I did wake up once and managed to see a streak across the sky which I assume was part of the Perseid meteor shower. Another goat did pass close by in the morning though as we were preparing to leave.
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It wasn’t nearly as chilly as it had been the previous morning and the air had gotten quite a bit hazier overnight.
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The increased smoke made us thankful that we had made our climb up Rock Creek Butte the day before instead of waiting until this morning. We had a fairly straight forward day planned as we would simply be returning the way we’d come the day before minus the side trip up to Rock Creek Butte’s summit. We were still seriously considering not going all the way back to Summit Lake which would be approximately a 13 mile hike. We figured we could shorten that by nearly a mile if we set up camp near one of the streams along the Summit Lake Trail.

As we began the mile climb from Lower Twin Lake back to the Elkhorn Crest Trail we passed the mountain goat who had stop to graze.
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A little further along we spotted three deer doing the same in a patch of yellow wildflowers.
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The hoofed animals weren’t the only ones out this morning.
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As we climbed away from the Twin Lakes Rock Creek Butte came into view.
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When we reached the Elkhorn Crest Trail we turned left and headed toward Rock Creek Butte where we spotted another mountain goat coming down the ridge where we had gone up the day before.
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It turned out to be a mountain goat filled morning. As we were passing around the western side of Rock Creek Butte a herd of goats came up from the valley below. Some of them crossed the trail in front of us while others stayed down in the trees until we passed.
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We had another encounter a short while later as I passed around a rock outcropping and came face to face with a goat heading south on the trail. We were both equally startled and the goat quickly leapt downhill behind more rocks.
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The increased smoke limited the views on the way back so we focused more on the things along the trail.
IMG_0579Mt. Ruth to the north

IMG_0575Rock Creek Butte to the south

IMG_0560Looking east toward the Wallowas

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Curiosity got the best of Heather as we came to a jeep track heading uphill to a ridge 9.3 miles from the Twin Lakes Trail junction and 1.2 miles before the Summit Lake junction.
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Wondering if there might be a view of Summit Lake from the ridge we followed it steeply uphill only to discover that the angle was wrong and we were looking north over Little Summit Lake which was hidden in the trees below.
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We were feeling relatively good all things considered so we had decided to go all the way to Summit Lake and stay there again only this time we would take the first available camp site we came too instead of going half way around the lake. We arrived at the lake to find it a little smokier than we had left it the morning before but it was still a great lake.
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We were the only people there when we arrived and did indeed set up camp in the first available spot.
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We were later joined by a solo backpacker who we had passed along the Summit Lake Trail. We spent the afternoon lounging around camp and hanging out with the locals.
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The total distance for the day was just a bit over 13 miles but there had been a lot less elevation gain making it a fairly mild day. We were dealing with some blisters and Heather was having a little issue with an ankle that was being bruised by her shoe which told her it was time for a new pair. The good news was the next two days were only going to be around 10 miles each, but we were facing some more climbing on day four along the Lost Lake Trail which I had been told was steep and rocky. We turned in after memorizing the route for the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 2

The second day of our Elkhorn Crest backpacking trip began with a welcome chill in the morning. It was actually cold enough to break out the beanie, Buff, and gloves.
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We ate breakfast as the Sun came up creating a nice reflection in Summit Lake.
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After packing up we decided to continue around the lake counter-clockwise to complete a loop around the shore. We crossed a small inlet in a meadow at the southern end of the lake.
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Beyond the meadow the trail passed a couple of other campsites with views to the north across the water.
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Birds were busily flying from tree to tree but one sat still long enough for a photograph.
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After completing the loop we began the 1.5 mile climb back to the Elkhorn Crest Trail. The trail crossed over several small streams and meadows as it passed through a forested section. We spotted two does and a fawn in the area.
IMG_0220One of the does (the fawn dashed by moments later)

IMG_0218Close-up of the doe

As we continued along we were hailed by the group of hikers we had passed early on the first day who had said they were aiming for Summit Lake as well. They wound up running out of gas they said so they set up camp on a rocky overlook of the valley below. After talking with them briefly we continued on to the cairn marking the junction with the Elkhorn Crest Trail where we turned left.
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Our goal for the day was Twin Lakes but we also planned to summit Rock Creek Butte, the highest peak in the Elkhorn Range. We were leaving our options open though. The route up was 9.5 miles away and we weren’t sure if it would be better to wait and attempt it the next day when it would be earlier in the day and likely cooler or if doing it today would be better since the sky was still relatively smoke free in the immediate area. Either way we had time to decide as we followed the trail along the western side of the crest.
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We were very interested in a peak on the horizon to the south. It was clearly separated from the Strawberry Mountains further west and we weren’t sure what it was. When we returned home it was one of the first things I looked up and it turned out to be Ironside Mountain.
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We spotted a number of animals along the crest in the morning including the biggest caterpillar either of us had ever seen digging in the dirt.
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Approximately a mile and a half from the junction with the Summit Lake Trail we came across the only water we would encounter along the entire Elkhorn Crest Trail. A small flower lined stream heading down into Sardine Gulch to join Cracker Creek.
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The trail had left the North Fork John Day Wilderness at Cracker Saddle and we began seeing the difference at a hairpin turn around a ridge.
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From above we couldn’t read the sign without the aid of the camera zoom.
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Someone clearly put some work into that. A little further along the trail we started noticing mining operations along the hillside. We could also see 9106′ Rock Creek Butte further along the ridge.
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The trail spent a short while along a wide section of the ridge top before returning to the western side of the crest.
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We would again gain the ridge top with a nice view down the Rock Creek Valley to the east.
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Nearly seven miles from the Summit Lake Trail junction we came to the Pole Creek Ridge Trail which headed faintly downhill along a ridge.
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By the time we’d reached this junction we had decided to attempt Rock Creek Butte on the way by instead of waiting for the next day. It wasn’t too hot and more importantly it looked like smoke was creeping towards us from both sides so we thought we’d better get what views we could while the getting was good. It was still a little over two and a half miles to the SW ridge of Rock Creek Butte where we would turn up for the climb.
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We were having a hard time coming from the direction that we were determining which peak ahead was actually Rock Creek Butte. We were hoping that the closest rounded peak was our goal and not the larger one further away. From the angle we were at they appeared to be somewhat similar in height.
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When we gained the ridge top again though we could just make out Rock Creek Lake in the basin below the further peak which told us that was our next goal.
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As it turned out the peak we had hoped was Rock Creek Butte was 500′ shorter although it did seem to have a possible route up.
IMG_0309Looking up “not” Rock Creek Butte

IMG_0310Rock Creek Butte is still a little ways away.

It took another mile and a half to reach the saddle where we would turn up the SW ridge of Rock Creek Butte.
IMG_0327Looking ahead to the saddle.

IMG_0330Nearing the saddle.

At the saddle we left the trail and ditched are backpacks in a group of trees in favor of our day packs.
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Before starting the climb we noticed that we weren’t the only ones traveling south on the Elkhorn Crest Trail. A pair of mountain goats could be seen walking along the trail.
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After watching the goats head over the ridge toward Twin Lakes we began our ascent.
Mountain goat sign was everywhere along the rocky ridge and there was no discernible path, although we did occasionally spot a human foot print in the dirt.
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The half mile route gains roughly 600′ with the final tenth of a mile being the steepest portion.
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A large cairn and register box sit atop the peak.
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From the summit Lower Twin Lake was visible to the south.
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Mt. Ireland and Vinegar Hill lay to the west.
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To the NE should have been the Wallowas but smoke appeared to have overtaken them.
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The view to the north included many of the peaks of the Elkhorn Range but there was no view of Rock Creek Lake due to the broad summit.
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A 500′ stroll across the summit though revealed the gorgeous lake below.
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IMG_0370Notice the golden-mantled ground squirrel sitting atop the large rock overlooking the lake.

Mountain goats were grazing in some green grass by a smaller body of water near the lake.
IMG_0375 (Full disclosure neither of us noticed the goats until I was looking through the pictures at home.)

IMG_0373Looking back at the summit cairn from the Rock Creek Lake overlook.

There were a lot of flying ants on the cairn as well as several lady bugs and some butterflies nearby.
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After recovering from the climb up we started back down just as another hiker was closing in on the summit. It turned out that he had been the other person besides us camped at Summit Lake the night before. We left him to the summit and slowly picked our way back down to our backpacks. After retrieving them we returned to the Elkhorn Crest Trail following a section of trail that had been blasted out of the rocks.
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Soon Lower Twin Lake came into view followed by Upper Twin Lake.
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The trail made a sweeping curve for the next three quarters of a mile above the lakes bringing around to the opposite end of them before arriving at a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail.
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Although the lakes are only about 350′ below the junction the Twin Lakes Trail takes its own sweet time getting down to them via a series of long switchbacks.
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They made for a relatively easy climb out the next day but I was ready to be done for the day and became rather impatient with the slow decent. After a little over a mile we arrived at the lake and chose a camp stie.
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Both our guidebook and signs at the trailheads had warned about the mountain goats in the area being habituated to humans. A good reminder of why people shouldn’t feed wildlife, without the fear of humans the goats have been known to nibble on tents, clothing and backpacks in search of salt. We made sure not to leave anything lying around outside the tent but it wasn’t long before the first goat passed nearby.
IMG_0407You can see Heather’s arm on the left side of the photo.

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About a half hour later a second goat followed.
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After dinner we watched a nanny and kid circle around the lake and graze nearby.
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We did leave our tent for about 45 minutes to visit Upper Twin Lake which was just .3 miles away.
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More mountain goats were grazing on the hillsides above this lake.
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The goats left our tent alone and we turned in for the night after what would be the longest day of our trip at 15.9 miles. Our original plan had been to return to Summit Lake the next day and stay there again but we were now considering camping along the Summit Lake Trail like the other group we had met had done. The nearby streams would allow us to get water and it would shave off a little distance both the next day and the day after when we were planning on heading from Summit Lake to Dutch Flat Lake. We decided to play it by ear the next day and turned in for the night halfway expecting to wake up to a mountain goat staring at us through the mesh on our tent. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 2