Tag Archives: Diamond Peak

Bunchgrass Ridge – 7/04/2019

For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.

We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.

After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
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In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
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A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
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The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
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IMG_2117The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.

20190704_072419orange agoseris beginning to open.

20190704_072403Cat’s ear lily

IMG_2120Pussytoes

At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
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It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
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We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
IMG_2132The Three Sisters and Broken Top

IMG_2136Larkspur along the trail.

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IMG_2138Bunchberry

IMG_2142Anemone

IMG_2149Another meadow

IMG_2159The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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IMG_2170Queen’s cup

IMG_2181The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_2208Rhododendron

IMG_2210Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.

The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
IMG_2214View from the SW facing hillside.

IMG_2215Looking SE

The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
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IMG_2221Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.

After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
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IMG_2229Diamond Peak through the trees.

After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
IMG_2241Valerian in the saddle.

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IMG_2270Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey

IMG_2276Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2272Mt. Bailey

IMG_2656View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2658The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2281Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
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Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
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In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
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There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
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After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
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From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
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Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
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From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
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We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
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Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
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IMG_2332Giant blue-eyed Mary

20190704_091315Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_2328Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia

IMG_2334Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia

IMG_2339Coneflower

IMG_2342Cow parsnip

IMG_2345Tall mountain bluebell

IMG_2347More of the blue flowers

IMG_2350Larkspur

20190704_092323Jacob’s ladder

20190704_092346An aster or fleabane

IMG_2361Columbine and valerian

IMG_2362Lupine

IMG_2370Not sure what type of flower this one is.

IMG_2364Valerian filled meadow below the trail.

IMG_2373White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells

Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
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The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
IMG_2381Looking back at our route so far.

IMG_2383The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.

The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
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The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
IMG_2414Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.

IMG_2403Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2401Mt. Bailey

We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.

This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
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20190704_101615A few orange agoseris were scattered about.

IMG_2425Scarlet gilia

IMG_2432More scarlet gilia

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At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
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The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
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IMG_2452A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.

IMG_2456Wallflower

Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
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We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
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Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
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The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
IMG_2479Owl’s head clover

IMG_2488Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia

IMG_2491Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris

IMG_2508Coneflower

IMG_2510Hyssop

IMG_2514Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily

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20190704_105633Wait that’s not a butterfly.

As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
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IMG_2499Fuji Mountain

Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
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As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
IMG_2513The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.

We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
IMG_2552Heather at the rock outcrop.

I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
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IMG_2543Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain

IMG_2544Diamond Peak

I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
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After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
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IMG_2567Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)

IMG_2585Turkey vulture

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IMG_2594Back in the valerian meadows

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IMG_2683Not sure what this is going to be either.

We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge

Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1 – Winchester Ridge and Eddeeleo Lakes Loop

We ended our August hikes with an overnight stay near Waldo Lake. After several days of smokey skies the weather had shifted and most of the smoke had been pushed out of the area. The exception to that was the smoke being produced by the Terwilliger Fire burning east of Eugene along Cougar Reservior and into the Three Sisters Wilderness. 😦

We were hoping that the smoke from that fire wasn’t going to be aimed right at us all weekend.  Things were off to a good start when we arrived at the Jim Weaver Trailhead at the north end of Waldo Lake. The sky was a crisp blue but the sky wasn’t the only thing that was crisp. The temperature gauge in the car had read 36 degrees when we’d parked.
Jim Weaver Loop Trailhead

Diamond Peak from Waldo Lake

From the parking area we walked down to boat ramp and turned right at a Shoreline Trail sign.
Shoreline Trail

Initially the trail passed through green trees with occasional views across the lake to Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain (post).
Shoreline Trail

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo LakeDiamond Peak to the left and Fuji Mountain directly behind the island

Soon the trail entered the fire scar of the 1996 Taylor Burn.
Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Despite the frosty morning the wildlife was out in force.
Frost on the Shoreline Trail

Bluebird

Tree full of birds

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Bald eagle

After 2.3 miles we passed a trail signboard for the Rigdon Lakes Trail. We planned on returning the next day via that trail so for the time being we stuck to the Shoreline Trail for an additional 1.4 miles to another trail signboard, this time marking the Wahanna Trail. Along the way we’d passed Conim Lake on our right just a bit before leaving the Talor Burn fire scar.
Conim Lake near the edge of the 1996 Taylor Burn

Wahanna TrailWahanna Trail

Just beyond the Wahanna Trail junction we came to the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River flowing from Waldo Lake.
Footbridge over the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

A side trail to the left here led passed a small outbuilding to Dam Camp where we had hoped to find a camp site but that area was already spoken for so we settled for a spot further back from lake.
Some sort of monitoring station

Outlet of Waldo LakeDam Camp is to the left in the trees and rhododendron

Campsite near Waldo Lake

This worked out to be a fine spot despite not being close to the lake as it was closer to the Wahanna Trail which we would be taking then next day on our way to the Rigdon Lakes Trail. After getting camp set up we put on our day packs and continued beyond the river crossing just a tenth of a mile to a fork where the Wahanna Trail forked downhill to the right (the Wahanna and Shoreline Trail briefly share tread).
Wahanna Trail splitting to the right from the Shoreline Trail

The trail promptly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
Entering the Waldo Lake Wilderness

Just a quarter mile from the fork the trail forked again. This time the Wahanna Trail forked to the left while the right hand fork was the Six Lakes Trail.
Wahanna Trail to the left and the Six Lakes Trail to the right

Here we faced a choice. If we stayed left we could complete a long loop past Lake Chetlo and along Winchester Ridge and eventually following the Six Lakes Trail from its other end past the Quinn and Eddeeleo Lakes. Alternatively we could go right and after visiting the lakes turn back or decide to complete the loop in the opposite direction. We were feeling ambitious and felt up to the loop so we decided to go left. This way we would be saving the bulk of the lakes for the end of the loop.
Wahanna Trail

The trail remained relatively level for the next mile passing through a forest full of huckleberry bushes and several small meadows.
Wahanna Trail

Meadow along the Wahanna Trail

It was along this section that we encountered the only other people we would see during the loop. After 1.2 miles we spotted Lake Chetlo through the trees on our left.
Lake Chetlo

Lake Chetlo

Expecting to find a side trail down to the lake we continued on but the trail began to climb up and away from the lake. Less than a quarter mile later we were at a junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail and that had been the only look we had at Lake Chetlo.
Wahanna Trail junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right onto the Winchester Ridge Trail which climbed steeply for a little over half a mile to another junction. We had been on this section of trail before in 2012 as we were coming down from the Waldo Mountain Lookout and heading for Elbow Lake (post).
Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right at this junction as well to continue on the Winchester Ridge Trail which now leveled out somewhat as it traveled along the ridge.
Winchester Ridge Trail

The blue skies from the morning were quickly being replaced by smoke from the Terwilliger Fire as we made our way along Winchester Ridge. There aren’t many views from this trail to begin with and the couple that we did get we could just barely make out the Three Sisters to the NE.
South Sister through smoke

Smoke from the Terwilliger Fire obscuring the view of South SisterSouth Sister

Smokey view from the Winchester Ridge Trail

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters

View from the Winchester Ridge TrailRigdon Butte beyond the Eddeeleo Lakes from the Winchester Ridge Trail

Not only does the Winchester Ridge Trail suffer form a lack of views, but there aren’t many distinguishable landmarks along the way. A little over two and a half miles from the fork though the Waldo Meadows Trail came up from the left.
Waldo Meadows Trail to the left and the Winchester Ridge Trail to the right

That trail went downhill for .5 steep miles to Swann and then Gander Lakes, neither of which we could not see from the Winchester Ridge Trail. The trail climbed briefly beyond this junction before descending to yet another junction with a trail on the left. This time with the Winchester Trail, a total of 1.8 miles from the Waldo Meadows Trail.
Winchester Ridge Trail

Winchester Ridge Trail junction with the Winchester Trail

The Winchester Ridge Trail ends at the Winchester Trail. We stayed straight at the junction and followed the Winchester Trail for a half mile to its end at the Blair Lake Trail.
Winchester Trail

Blair Lake Trail sign

We turned right onto the Blair Lake Trail.
Blair Lake Trail

We had hiked the western end of this trail in 2015 on what remains to this day as the best beargrass hike ever. (post)

The Blair Lake Trail descended for a mile to Lower Quinn Lake which was unfortunately suffering from the increased smoke.
Lower Quinn Lake

After a brief stop at the lake we continued on the Blair Lake Trial for another quarter mile before reaching the signed junction with the Six Lakes Trail.
Blair Lake Trail junction with the Six Lakes Trail

Six Lakes Trail

We turned right onto this trail which climbed gradually for the next half mile to a fork where we went right to visit Upper Quinn Lake.
Upper Quinn Lake

Although the smoke wasn’t bad enough to cause us any issues with breathing or our eyes it was putting a damper on the views of the lakes. At Upper Quinn Lake we found a few empty campsites and lots of little frogs.
Frog at Upper Quinn Lake

Frog

Somewhere along the way we wound up losing the trail (most likely in one of the campsites) and had to bushwack back to the Six Lakes Trail. Once we had regained the trial we turned right and in just a tenth of a mile spotted the northern end of Long Lake beyond a grassy meadow.
Long Lake

Again we erroneously assumed there would be obvious side trails leading to the lake but the Six Lakes Trail passed on the opposite side of a rocky ridge for nearly a mile which hid the lake from sight.
Six Lakes Trail

When the GPS showed that we were nearly past the lake we decided to try and bushwack through the rhododendron to the southern end of the lake. We had managed to make it most of the way there when we spotted a tent set up near the shore. Not wanting to stumble into someones camp we settled for an obstructed view through the trees.
Long Lake

Long Lake

We left Long Lake and continued for another half mile toward Lower Eddeeleo Lake. Shortly before reaching the lake there was an obvious side trail to the left.
Side trail at Lower Eddeeleo Lake

This side trail led across a dry outlet creek to an open area along the lake shore. We took a longer break here. We could just make out the old Waldo Mountain Lookout through the smoke.
Waldo Mountain from Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Waldo Mountain

Waldo Mountain Lookout

We might have taken an even longer break if not for the yellow jackets who were just a little too interested in us for my liking. We left the lower lake and returned to the Six Lakes Trail which climbed a short way above the lower lake which was barely visible through the trees.
Six Lakes Trail

Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Just under one and three quarter miles from the side trail to Lower Eddeeleo Lake we came to a short side trail to Upper Eddeeleo Lake on our right. We stopped again briefly at this lake which had a little sunlight glinting off the water.
Waldo Mountain from Upper Eddeeleo Lake

The next lake on the map was Round Lake which lay below and to the east of Upper Eddeeleo Lake. The Six Lakes Trail wound around the lake but never got very close to it and the one side trail we spotted heading to the lake would have required a steeper climb back up than either of us were willing to do at that point so we once again settled for a very limited view through the trees.
Round Lake through the trees

The Six Lakes Trail climbed up a ridge away from Round Lake for the final mile of its 6.6 mile length before dumping us back out on the Wahanna Trail.
Six Lakes Trail

According to our GPS we had hiked a total of 19.4 miles at that point and still had the quarter mile climb back up to the Waldo Lake Shoreline Trail. We had known that this was going to be a long day but by our calculations we were expecting closer to a 17 mile day. We had also brought our dinner with us thinking we could eat it at one of the lakes, but between the smoke, yellow jackets, and a few hardy mosquitoes we hadn’t found a spot where we really wanted to sit for an extended time.

When we got back to the Shoreline Trail we turned right (away from camp) hoping to find a spot along Waldo Lake to eat. Fortunately we only had to go about 100 yards where we found a trail down to the rocky sore across from Dam Camp.
Waldo Lake with some smoke

Even better was the fact that the smoke was starting to move out of the immediate area bringing back some of the blue sky from the morning.
Waldo Lake

We tried a new meal, three cheese chicken pasta, which wound up being underwhelming. It sort of fit with much of the day. The hike was nice but nothing really stood out and the smokey conditions at the lakes didn’t help. It also seemed like most of the lakes were very similar in that they were surrounded by forested hillsides but nothing dramatic.

We sat out on the rocks for quite a while watching a paddle boarder and a canoe float around on the lake as well as having some mergansers swim by.
Merganser

It was quite a bit busier at the lake than where we normally camp and after getting a little chilly and returning to our tent to put on some extra clothing we noticed that a family? that had set up camp near where we had eaten had lit a campfire. Just a couple of days earlier the Willamette National Forest had announced a ban on all campfires and we had seen numerous posted signs that morning. On top of the illegal campfire we were also being treated to the melodious (NOT) sounds of someones portable music player. Thankfully the music died down and at one point we heard someone yell to the family that they needed to put the fire out. We went to bed hoping that the next day would be just a bit better. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
Deception Butte Trail

Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Chucksney Mountain to Grasshopper Meadow – Overnight

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

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

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

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

Trail from the car parking at Box Canyon Horse Camp

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Beargrass and a small burn along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

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

Lupine along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Phlox

View from Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor

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

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Survey marker on Chucksney Mountain

A nice variety of wildflowers covered the ridge.

Owl's head clover

Catchfly

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Scarlet gilia

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

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

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

Diamond Peak from Chucksney MountainDiamond Peak

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Fireweed

Grand collomia

Wallflower

Coneflower

Columbine

Strawberry

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

Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

Meadow along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail junction with the Grasshopper Trail

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

Meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Cat's ear lilies

Cat's ear lilies

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

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

Grasshopper Trail

Beargrass

Beargrass meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

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

Blocks in a meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Sheep Moth

Sheep Moth

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

Diamond Peak

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

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

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

Forest Service Flag marking the Grasshopper Trail

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

Forest Service Trail flag

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Meadows along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Grasshopper Trail

Owl's head clover

Scarlet gilia

Wildflowers along the Grasshopper Trail

Penstemon

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

Grasshopper Trail

Lupine

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Washington lily

Washington lily

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

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

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

Lupine meadow

Camp site along the Grasshopper Trail

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

Wildflower meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Diamond Peak

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

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Meadow

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

Checkerspot butterfly

Swallowtail on tiger liliy

Mountain parnassian

Butterfly in Grasshopper Meadow

Fritillary butterflies

Butterflies in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper

There was even another common sheep moth.

Sheep moth

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

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

Diamond Peak from Grasshopper Meadow

The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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

Grasshopper Mountain

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

Grasshopper Meadow

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

Some sort of memorial in Grasshopper Meadow

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

Spring in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper butterflies

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

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

Washington lily in Grasshopper Meadow

Washington lily

Washington lily

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

Grasshopper Trail

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

Western tanager

White crowned sparrow

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

Lupine in the morning light

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

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

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

Trillium

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

Grasshopper Trail junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Thielsen

For this week’s throwback we’re going back to September 22, 2012 for our visit to Mt. Thielsen. When we had summited Mt. Bailey a little over a month before when we had been on the opposite side of Diamond Lake. These two mountains couldn’t look much different. The summit of Mt. Bailey was a walk up, albeit a steep one while the pointy summit of Mt. Thielsen is only accessible via a final 80′ vertical class 4 scramble. We weren’t planning on even attempting the summit, we just wanted to go as far as possible which would be a higher elevation than we had been at on Mt. Bailey.

We parked at the Mt. Thielsen Trailhead off of Highway 138 and set off toward the old volcano.

Mt. Thielsen Trailhead

The trail climbed through a forest filled with blowdown for 1.4 miles to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Junction with the Spurce Ridge Trail

Mt. Thielsen was hidden from view along this section but looking back across the highway we had a decent view of Mt. Bailey in the morning sunlight.

Mt. Bailey

We continued past the Spruce Ridge Trail gaining a view of Diamond Peak to the north.

Diamond Peak

Soon the spire of Mt. Thielsen came into view through the trees ahead.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

The trail then entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and a section of forest that had been struck by massive blowdown.

Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

After passing through the blowdown the trail followed a ridge with increasingly better views to the Pacific Crest Trail 3.8 miles from the Trailhead.

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak along the rim of Crater Lake

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake

Howlock Mountain

Howlock Mountain

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

The official trail ends at the PCT but a clear climbers trail continued on the other side and we followed that further up along the ridge. The first part of the path led along the ridge with views of west face of the mountain revealing it’s swirling volcanic rock.

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

The path then bent slightly SE away from the sheer drop of the north side of the ridge and up a very steep slope of increasingly slippery scree.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

To the south the entire rim of Crater Lake was visible including Mt. Scott.

Crater Lake's Rim

Mt. Scott

Braided trails crisscrossed up through the loose rock and every step seemed to come with a complimentary slide backward. Although the hike to Mt. Bailey had been steep it hadn’t been this steep nor slick and the drop offs along the way not nearly as daunting.

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Looking down from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen

We were the first hikers up the trail that morning and at an elevation of a little over 8700′ I came to, what looked to me, to be an impassable wall of rock.

Where we stopped climbing

As I waited for Heather and Dominique I searched for signs of where to go from there. I was unsure of the correct route and the longer I stood in the same spot the more I took inventory of my surroundings. The view was quite impressive having now climbed high enough that Mt. McLoughlin was visible to the south of Crater Lake.

Mt. McLoughlin and Llao Rock

It wasn’t long before I started to feel just how high up we were and how steep the mountain was. At that point the nerves kicked in and butterflies filled my stomach. Apparently Heather and Dominique had begun feeling the same thing and when they were close enough to talk to we made a unanimous decision to turn back.

Shortly after starting back down a lone female hiker passed us going up. We stopped to watch her as she made her way to the point where I had turned around. We were curious to see how she would navigate the section. She didn’t miss a beat and was quickly above the spot and continuing on. We were only about a hundred yards down and I had to fight the urge not to go back and try again after she’d made it look so easy but I was apparently the only one fighting that urge so reason won the day and we continued our descent.

On the way down Dominique and I wound up too far to the north on the ridge and found ourselves near the edge of a vertical shaft

Patch of snow on Mt. Thielsen

Not liking how close we were to the edge we veered back to the south having to cross a very loos section of scree where Dominique slipped and scratched himself up pretty good. That was the only incident though and we made it back to the trailhead in relatively good shape.

At the time it was the most nerve wracking hike we’d done. Not making it as far up as we’d hoped was a bit of a disappointment but it was a good reminder that knowing when to turn around (and being willing to do so)is important. After all if you keep yourself safe there’s always next time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632958248940

Cowhorn Mountain and Indigo Lake

For our final multi-night backpacking trip this year we planned on hiking up a pair of lesser known Cascade peaks located between the Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen Wilderness Areas. At the center of our plans was 7669′ Cowhorn Mountain which we would ultimately make a loop around. Our first trail would be the Pacific Crest Trail which passes within .4 miles of Cowhorn Mountain’s summit. We planned on accessing the PCT from the Windigo Pass Trailhead located along Forest Road 60 at Windigo Pass. Forest Road 60 runs between Crescent Lake along Highway 58 and Highway 138 north of Diamond Lake. We came from Crescent Lake and decided to park 3/4 of a mile from the Windigo Pass Trailhead at the Oldenburg Lake Trailhead instead since this would be the trail we used to return on the final day of our trip and we prefer starting with a road walk over ending with one.
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We hadn’t been on the PCT long before we took our first off-trail detour of the day. We wanted to check out one of the Windigo Lakes which are located off the PCT to the east. Using topographic maps and our GPS we found our way to the first of the two Windigo Lakes where we had a nice view of Cowhorn Mountain.
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We left the lake and headed back uphill toward the PCT. We were aiming for a switchback about a mile from where we had left the PCT. The climb up to the switchback was a good deal steeper than the slope we had originally come down to reach the lake and as we neared the PCT we encountered some tightly packed young trees which dictated where we were able to go. We managed to regain the PCT maybe a hundred yards from where we had been shooting for.
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When we reached the switchback that we had been aiming for we could see the lake below.
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It was approximately 3.3 miles from the switchback viewpoint to the summit trail. The PCT stayed near the top of the ridge offering several views to both the north and south as well as our next goal.
Cowhorn Mountain
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Sawtooth Mountain
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Mt. Thielsen
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Diamond Peak
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The unofficial trail to the summit was marked by rock cairns on the shoulder of Cowhorn Mountain.
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The trail was worn enough to be fairly easy to follow as it crossed a cinder ridge.
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Halfway along the ridge was an outcrop made of black rock followed by another cinder covered section of ridge. We had our full backpacks on up until this point but we decided to ditch them before crossing the final cinder ridge and left them by a stunted pine tree. The climb to the summit is a class 2/3 scramble to the current high point. The mountain lost it’s spire top in a 1911 storm.
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We had a great 360 degree view from the summit. To the west was Sawtooth Mountain which we were planning on hiking up the next day.
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To the north the view included nearby Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.
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Maiden Peak was in front of the Three Sisters and it was interesting to see how close they looked to that peak from our current location. We had just recently been on Maiden Peak and even though those mountains had been mostly hidden by clouds they seemed further away from that peak than they did now.
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To the south Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey rose above several other Cascade peaks.
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Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Bailey
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We had brought a snack with us up to the summit and had hoped to take a nice long break up there but we wound up not staying as long as we planned due to there being quite a few yellow jackets flying around. Heather (and the rest of my family) can tell you I am not a bee person and I am especially uncomfortable around yellow jackets and wasps. I have been doing better the last couple of years with honey bees and bumble bees but I have no use for yellow jackets and can only handle their buzzing around me for a short time before I start to go crazy, and I really didn’t want to do something stupid on the top of a mountain, so we headed back down, retrieved our backpacks, and returned to the PCT.

We continued north on the PCT just over a quarter of a mile to a signed junction with the Cowhorn Traverse Trail.
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We left the PCT here and took the Cowhorn Traverse Trail downhill for .3 miles to another junction, this time with the Windy Pass Trail.
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We were now in the Oregon Cascades Recreation area, the largest unprotected roadless area left in the Cascades. We headed left on the Windy Pass Trail which followed a ridge west toward Sawtooth Mountain for approximately two miles to a junction with the Indigo Extension Trail.
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The Windy Pass Trail continued to the left passing behind Sawtooth Mountain. We would be taking that trail the next day when we climbed Sawtooth Mountain but for now we headed right toward Indigo Lake. The trail passed a nice viewpoint of Sawtooth Mountain before beginning a steeper descent toward the lake via a series of switchbacks.
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We decided to take another detour off-trail prior to reaching Indigo Lake to see if we could get to a small unnamed lake shown on the map. We left the trail when we appeared to be at a comparable elevation to the lake and managed to find it without much difficulty. The little lake was a beautiful green and had a nice view of Sawtooth Mountain.
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There was also a nice area for a tent so we called an audible and decided to set up camp here instead of down at Indigo Lake.
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After getting our camp set up we switched to our day packs and headed back to the trail to go see Indigo Lake. After a few more switchbacks we arrived at the lake’s primitive campground.
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We didn’t see anyone else there as we made our way counter-clockwise around the lake.
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At the south end of the lake was a talus slope where we spotted a couple of pikas.
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The southern end of the lake also provided a glimpse of Diamond Peak.
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We finished the loop around the lake and then sat at one of the wooden picnic tables for a bit.
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After our break we climbed back up to the unnamed lake and decided to walk around it as well. There weren’t any other people there either but we were far from alone.
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We spent the rest of the evening at the little lake watching the sunset after having dinner and then turning in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674041143915

Maiden Peak

Labor Day weekend finally brought some cooler temperatures to the Cascades. We had planned an overnight trip for Sat/Sun in the Maiden Peak area. Located to the NE of Willamette Pass Maiden Peak is the tallest point between Mt. Bachelor and Diamond Peak. The 7818′ shield volcano is also Oregon’s 29th most prominent peak(Prominence is how far you must drop before you start going up a higher peak).

Our plan for the visit was to park at the Pacific Crest Trailhead .3 miles east of the Willamette Pass Ski Area and take the PCT past the Rosary Lakes then take the Maiden Lake Trail to Maiden Lake where we would hopefully find a campsite. After setting up camp we’d hike up Maiden Peak before spending the night at the lake. The weather forecast called for a chance of isolated showers and an overnight low of 34 degrees so we had to remember to bring a few extra items that we hadn’t needed yet this year.

We arrived at the trailhead just after 7am.
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From the trailhead a short connector path brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail which slowly climbed for about 2 miles through a nice forest with no clear views of the surrounding area.
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The trail passed a rockslide at the 2.25 mile mark where we had hoped to see a pika but had to settle for hearing their warning “meeps” instead.
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About a half mile from the rockslide we arrived at Lower Rosary Lake. This is the largest of the three lakes and there were a couple of tents in the area. Despite the forecast we had beautiful bluebird skies overhead and no breeze whatsoever leading to some great reflections in the lake.
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To the north Maiden Peak rose above the forest.
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On the opposite side of the trail was a small steaming pond.
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A short climb from Lower Rosary Lake brought us to Middle Rosary Lake where we spotted some mergansers paddling away.
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Pulpit Rock loomed above this lake making for a dramatic scene.
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A narrow strip of land separated Middle Rosary Lake from North Rosary Lake.
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Beyond North Rosary Lake the PCT began to climb up toward Maiden Saddle. Just under 1.5 miles from the first view of Lower Rosary Lake, and .4 miles short of Maiden Saddle, we reached the junction with the Maiden Lake Trail.
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We left the PCT here and headed toward Maiden Lake. This trail traversed the side of Maiden Peak passing a couple of small ponds as it climbed to the lake.
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It was approximately 2.3 miles from the junction to Maiden Lake with an elevation gain of around 500′ which isn’t a lot, but the elevation gains came in short steep chunks. We were starting to get a little tired so we were relieved when we crested a hill and spotted a sign for Maiden Lake.
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We spotted the beautiful green of Maiden Lake from above and quickly made our way down to the lake.
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It was smaller than the Rosary Lakes and lacked the dramatic views that Pulpit Rock had provided those lakes, but it had it’s own peaceful charm. There weren’t any other tents at the lake so we had our pick of spots.  Following Leave No Trace principles we chose a spot back in the trees away from the lake.
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After getting our camp set up we switched to our daypacks and returned to the Maiden Lake Trail.
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A fairly level .6 miles brought us to another trail junction. From here the Maiden Lake Trail continues 2.5 miles to Forest Road 4664-100, but we turned uphill following a pointer for Maiden Peak.
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The trail toward Maiden Peak gained almost 1200′ in 1.7 miles with some very steep sections. Our original plan had been to return from the peak this way and then come back up and around on a loop using the PCT on our way back to the trailhead on the second day. We had already changed our minds and were planning on continuing on the loop after climbing up Maiden Peak and then just hiking straight back out on the second day. As we climbed these steep sections of trail that decision seemed justified.

As we approached a rock outcropping, views finally opened up to the south and we were able to get a good look at Diamond Peak.
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The trail was quite steep as it passed along the rock outcrop but the views continued to open up which sort of made up for the effort.
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Mt. Thielsen beyond Crescent Lake
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Mt. Bailey
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In addition to the steepness of the trail the tread along the upper portion was pretty loose making it even more challenging.
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There was a trail junction a quarter mile from the summit of Maiden Peak marked by several rock cairns.
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The loop we were planning on doing made a hairpin turn around a small stand of trees while the summit trail lay straight ahead. The summit trail passed a small crater as it wound its way up.
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Numerous Clark’s nutcrackers were noisily flying among the whitebark pines gracing the peaks slopes.
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The views from Maiden Peak were great. The weather was cooperating, with the exception of the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, the clouds that were present were adding to views and not obstructing them. The view north included Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor beyond Crane Prairie Reservoir.
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The NW view included little Bobby Lake below the Twins and Waldo Lake.
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To the west was Fuji Mountain, Mt. Ray, and Waldo Lake.
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Fuji Mountain
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SW was the Willamette Pass Ski Area on Eagle Peak, pointy Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak.
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Mt. Yoran
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To the south Lower Rosary Lake and Pulpit Rock were visible along with Odell and Crescent Lakes and a number of Cascade Peaks.
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Mount Scott, Tipsoo Butte & Howlock Mountain, Llao Rock, and Hillman Peak
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Mt. Scott
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To the east Paulina Peak was the highest point on the horizon beyond Wickiup Reservoir, Davis Mountain, and Davis Lake.
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The NE side of Maiden Peak was home to several volcanic features.
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Remains of the former lookout tower could be seen at the summit.
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We spent awhile exploring the broad summit and taking the opportunity to eat a little lunch before continuing on our planned loop. At the unsigned junction we turned right and headed downhill toward the Pacific Crest Trail which was 2.7 miles away. While the hike up had been steep this section of trail had it beat. We passed five mountain bikers headed uphill, the first two had been resigned to walking their bikes up, the second pair was struggling and looking for an inhaler, and the final rider was also struggling greatly.
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Another option I had considered when planning the trip was to come up this way to Maiden Peak with our backpacks before heading down the other side to Maiden Lake. Once again we were glad we had settled on our current plan.

The trail began to level out near the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.
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Mountain bikes are banned on the PCT so they come up using the Maiden Peak Trail. We however turned left on PCT and continued downhill toward Maiden Saddle.
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The PCT was a more gradual descent and it was a fairly easy walk for the next .7 miles where we took a side trail to the Maiden Peak Shelter.
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The shelter was only about a hundred yards off the PCT and it was by far the nicest shelter we’ve visited while on a trail. Solar powered, the shelter can sleep up to 15 and includes a wood stove, tables, and chairs.
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We were the only hikers at the shelter although entries in the guest book showed that other hikers had visited earlier in the morning. Several of the locals were out, possibly part of the neighborhood watch.
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From the shelter it was just under two miles to Maiden Saddle and another .4 miles back to the Maiden Lake Trail. Heather had brought the bags of Doritos that she had left over from handing them out to thru-hikers on the PCT in the Sky Lakes Wilderness since we would be spending more time on trail during this trip. We ran into our first thru-hiker between the shelter and Maiden Saddle. His name was Horse Whistler (a.k.a. James) and this was his first time in Oregon. It was nice to hear he was really enjoying the state so far and he couldn’t believe how much trail magic he’d encountered since entering Oregon. He was really looking forward to getting to the Three Sisters area and spending a day in Bend. After a nice conversation he was off to check out the shelter and we were on the look out for a view of the Rosary Lakes that he had good things to say about.

The viewpoint was above but not far from Maiden Saddle and exactly as Forest Whistler had described. The Rosary Lakes were lined up with Odell and Crescent Lakes.
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One of the locals was already there enjoying the view when we arrived.
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From the viewpoint the trail descended to Maiden Saddle via a couple of switchbacks.
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Another couple of switchbacks brought us down to the Maiden Lake Trail where we turned left and retraced our steps from earlier in the day.
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Heather handed out one final bag of chips to a gracious hiker who said they were going to go perfectly with his dinner before we’d turned onto the Maiden Lake Trail. The lake was just as pretty this time around.
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Instead of heading down to the lake on the trail we had taken earlier we stayed on the trail above the lake where there was a nice view of Maiden Peak with the lake below.
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This time we just headed down to our campsite where we grabbed our dinner, stove, and camp chairs before making our way to the lake. Where we once again were the only ones at the lake and we set up our chairs on a little sandy beach.
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It was already getting a little chilly, especially whenever a passing cloud would block the Sun and/or the breeze kicked up.
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When the Sun was out and the wind calm it was just about as perfect as it gets though. After a nice break at the lake we had dinner then decided to see if we could hike around the lake while we looked for a good place to filter water. We headed around counter-clockwise following a faint path to another campsite that was closer to the lake than it probably should have been. The lake was deeper along the shore here and we refilled our water supply before continuing on. The hillside grew steeper along the north side of the lake and we were forced to sidehill over and around some blowdown before being able to drop down to the sandy lakeshore on the southern end of the lake. Along the way we had a nice view back across the lake to our dinner spot.
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It was a little after 6:15 when we completed our loop and we tried sitting by the lake a little longer, but between the breeze and the vanishing sunlight it was a little too chilly without pulling out some of our warmer gear. Instead of retrieving some of our warmer clothing and going back down to the lake we decided to turn in for the evening. We had had a long day, waking up at 3:30am and then hiking a total of 19.4 (according to the GPS). I was asleep by eight and Heather thought she nodded off shortly after, about 8:30.

We were interested in seeing how well we would be able to stay warm overnight in near freezing temperatures. We both slept well and were able to sleep until almost 6am. It had definitely gotten a lot colder overnight than it had on any of our other overnight trips this year. We made good use of our down jackets as we packed up camp and ate breakfast down by the lake.
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We were headed back to our car by 7:15 planning on returning the way we’d come past the Rosary Lakes. One of the things we try and do is familiarize ourselves with the distances of the different sections of trail we’re hiking to break up the distances. As we were headed back to the PCT we stopped to look at our map from William Sullivan’s book to do just that when the idea of returning via the Willamette Pass Ski Area came up. It appeared more direct and I failed to pay attention to the fact that the section from the top of Eagle Peak down to the ski area did not have a distance noted leading me to believe it would be almost 2 miles shorter. Heather caught that but it was too early in the morning for me to comprehend what she was attempting to point out. Either way she was game for taking a different route though so when we got back to the PCT we turned right and climbed back up to Maiden Saddle.
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We followed the pointer for the Taits Loop sticking to the main trail until we could see what looked like a roadbed above and to our right.
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This was actually the Boundary Pass ski run which we began to follow uphill.
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The sky had been blue at Maiden Lake but by the time we had reached the saddle low clouds were passing overhead and now Maiden Peak was completely socked in.
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The Boundary Pass run headed steeply uphill toward Peak 2 which we did not need to climb so we stuck to the cat/road bed which turned into the Kris Kross run.
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This run crossed the Southbound run coming from the Peak 2 Lift and continued on to the summit of Eagle Peak.
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In previous years a gondola has operated from the Willamette Pass Ski Area during the Summer months allowing mountain bikers and hikers to catch a lift to the top of Eagle Peak for a fee, but it apparently never opened in 2016. The only views we had were down to part of Odell Lake across Highway 58 and straight down the Eagle Peak Accelerator Lift to the ski area.
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It looked too steep and brushy for us to attempt to go straight downhill from the lift so we turned down the Kaleidoscope run which headed SE at a more gentle grade.
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It was an easier walk but it was swinging us out wider than we really wanted and the first two ski runs we passed that would have headed us more in the direction we wanted, Good Time Charlie and Eagle’s Flight, both looked too steep. We finally spotted what looked like a good option marked by a sign that simply read “Sport”.
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This path traversed back along the hillside through the trees recrossing Eagle’s Flight and Good Time Charlie below their steeper sections.
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Looking up Eagle’s Flight
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Even though we were headed back in the direction we wanted we weren’t losing much elevation so when we reached Good Time Charlie we turned downhill.
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This run ended when it joined the Perseverance run which led straight to the ski area.
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The trailhead was actually .3 miles east of the ski area so we didn’t need to get all the way there so when we spotted the Sleepy Hollow chair lift to our left we began looking for a path down to it.
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We found a path through the trees and headed for the lift. The ski lodge and the unused gondolas where off to our right.
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From the Sleepy Hollow lift a nordic trail followed an old road bed to the Pacifc Crest Trail near the highway maintenance shed.
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It was just a few hundred feet along the PCT to the junction with the trail from the Willamette Pass Trailhead and an even short distance to our waiting car.
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In the end our route back turned out to be about .3 miles shorter (6.1 vs 6.4) than it would have been if we’d gone back by the Rosary Lakes, but it gained over 500 more feet of elevation. It was worth it though just to check out the ski area and made for a nice variety on the way back to the car. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672347862022