Tag Archives: hiking

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Days 2 & 3 – 5/24 & 5/25/2020

After the 14.5 mile hike to find our campsite the day before (post) we woke up a little before 6am and ate breakfast by the river. We were excited to spend a day without our full packs. Based on my calculations we were anticipating the mileage for the day to be close to 14 miles (it was more but we’ll get to that later) so a lighter weight pack was welcome.

We set off just after 7am and the trail began to climb away from the river not far from where we’d camped.Middle Fork Trail

There was still a bit of that pesky poison oak present when the conditions were just right but we could tell we were gaining elevation by the change in the forest and some of the flowers we were starting to see.Vanilla leaf along the Middle Fork Trail

Vanilla leaf

Arnica

Arnica

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River from the Middle Fork Trail

Viewpoint above the river.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Closer look at some stonecrop.

Just under 2.5 miles from camp we arrived at the lovely Rigdon Meadows near Sacandaga Campground (which I had begun referring to as Scandinavia because I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to be pronounced).Rigdon Meadows

Western buttercup and camasCamas and buttercups at Rigdon Meadows.

The campground remained closed due to COVID-19 and the road was gated but there were several campers parked near the meadows.Middle Fork Trail

Gate at the closed entrance to Sacandaga Campground.

We picked up the trail on the other side of the gate where it joined the route of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road.Middle Fork Trail at the start of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The wagon road was planned to stretch from Eugene, OR to Fort Boise in Idaho but much of it was nothing more than a rudimentary trail (Wikipedia) that allowed private companies to acquire public lands along the stretches of road that they “completed”.

This 1.2 mile section of the wagon road passed a small unnamed lake near its crest.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Unnamed lake along the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The other end of this portion of the wagon road was located near a meadow where some idiot had driven onto the grass from a nearby forest road.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Middle Fork Trail

About a half mile after crossing the road the trail crossed Noisy Creek.Unnamed Creek

A short distance later we crossed another muddy forest road and then came to a decent sized creek that wasn’t on either our paper or GPS maps.Middle Fork Trail

Noisy Creek

After the mystery creek we came to the signed Swift Creek which was the widest creek we’d crossed on the trip.Footbridge over Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Former bridge over Swift Creek.

The scenery really began changing beyond Swift Creek. We hadn’t seen any poison oak since the wagon road and now we were in a drier forest with huge ponderosa pines and cedars. We were also high enough now to see some blooming rhododendrons. I did manage to pick up my second tick of the trip somewhere in this area.Dogwood along the Middle Fork Trail

Ponderosa behind a dogwood tree.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron near the dogwood tree.

Tall cedars along the Middle Fork Trail

Cedar

The trail dropped down towards the river to a wetter area between Skunk and Found Creeks.Skunk Creek

Skunk Creek

Tall bluebells

Tall bluebells

Middle Fork Trail

Slug

The Middle Fork Willamette River was a narrower here and doing it’s best to erode the riverbank.Erosion along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

The narrower Middle Fork Willamette River

The trail soon began to climb above the river along some basalt cliffs where several springs flowed out from the rocks earning the moniker of Cliff Springs.Cliff Springs

Cliff Springs

Middle Fork Trail near Cliff Springs

On the far side of the springs the trail dropped again to a crossing of Indigo Creek.Middle Fork Trail

Before reaching the creek we stopped to listen to a wren signing.Wren

Bridge over Indigo Creek

Bridge over Indigo Creek.

Indigo Creek flowing into the Middle Fork Willamette River

Indigo Creek empyting into the Middle Fork Willamette River.

About a tenth of a mile from Indigo Creek we arrived at a junction where a trail to the left had a pointer for Indigo Springs.Trail to Indigo Springs

We turned up this short trail and climbed to FR 21 where we again turned left and followed the paved road a short distance to the entrance of Indigo Springs Campground.Heading toward Indigo Springs

Coming to FR 21.

The status of this particular area was a bit hazy. The 3 site campground was closed as well as the restrooms, but the Willamette National Forest had opened all day-use trailheads (not the restrooms at those with toilets). We walked up the access road to the 1 parking spot trailhead (which was occupied with a second car nearby). We were proceeding under the understanding that trails and trailheads were open and it was only using the campsites, restrooms, and picnic tables that was still prohibited so we followed the 0.2 mile loop clockwise around Indigo Springs.Indigo Sprngs Trail

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Creek

There were several springs feeding the creek amid mossy green rocks.Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Springs

Apparently the route of the wagon road passed here too.Another portion of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

After admiring the springs we returned to the Middle Fork Trail and continued up river toward Chuckle Springs.Middle Fork Trail

The trail dropped down to the river and spent a good deal of time right along it with a few easy access points, something that there hadn’t been many of thus far during our trip.Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Fariy slippers

Fairy slippers

There was a bit of an up and down though and we encountered the one significant tree down of the entire trip along one of the ups.Blowdown over the Middle Fork Trail

Large tree down

Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get around and we were soon headed back down to the riverbank.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Red rocks in the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Trail

After just over a mile we began to enter the scar of a 2010 fire.Middle Fork Trail entering the scar of a 2010 fire

Just after entering the fire scar a butterfly landed on the Garmin followed by a second landing on my right shoe.Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

These were much nicer insects to have on me than the ticks.

The trail had split here at one time but the right hand fork along the river was now blocked by a small log and appeared possibly abandoned although a footbridge remained in place.Closed alternate route of the Middle Fork Trail

The way to Chuckle Springs was to the left though so we headed left and soon began climbing up a narrow ridge above Chuckle Creek.Chuckle Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and continued up the ridge alongside the creek.Chuckle Creek

Cascade along Chuckle Creek

Middle Fork Trail

A quarter mile from the fork we arrived at another fork where the Chuckle Springs Trail joined from the left.Middle Fork Trail junction with the Chuckle Springs Trail

A very short trail led down to a picnic table where there were two groups of people talking. We had encountered two of them before reaching Cliff Springs and the other 3 were new to us. Given social distancing guidance we took a seat on some logs near the junction and waited for them to depart before heading down to the springs.Picnic table near Chuckle Springs

Sign for Chuckle Creek

Chuckle Springs

Not quite as impressive as Indigo Springs these were still a nice green oasis amid the burn area. We didn’t stay long just in case others were on their way and sure enough we ran into another couple on their way to the springs at the junction. We left the spring to them and headed back to camp.

The return trip was livened up by a couple of snakes. Heather is not the biggest snake person but she does pretty well with them all things considered. The first snake was a garter snake stretched across the trail in one of the ponderosa pine areas.Snake in the trail

Garter snake

This snake had no intention of moving to the point that we thought it might have been dead (it wasn’t).

Then as we were passing Rigdon Meadows I walked right by a good sized gopher snake laying in the middle of the road bed. Heather spied it though and stopped in her tracks.Gopher snake

Gopher snake

Gopher snake

This snake also seemed intent to stay put until Heather started to go around it. Every time she took a step it would move just a bit closer to her. After about 3 rounds of this game I moved forward and the snake took its cue to head off into the grass and let Heather pass.

We stopped about one and a quarter miles from camp along the river to cook dinner and refill our water supply which had gotten fairly low. I had managed to miscalculate the distance for the day which we had clued into on the way back. For some reason, I apparently was unable to double the first portion of our hike from camp to Sacandaga Campground. I had estimated that we were roughly 2 miles from the campground and by not doubling those 2 miles I was coming up with 13.8 miles instead of 15.8. We were actually closer to 2.5 miles from the campground which would have boosted the mileage to 16.8. Add in a little extra wandering and we wound up just over 17 miles for the day.

The spot we’d found by the river had a nice view and we were joined by a caterpillar and had a brief visit from an ouzel.Middle Fork Willamette River

Caterpillar

Ouzel

We were pooped by the time we made it back to camp and we both had developed some impressive blisters. My best was on my right pinky toe and Heather’s was on one of her big toes. It was clear that we’d be spending some time applying moleskin and bandages in the morning before heading back to the car.

We turned in for the night thinking about the long hike out. I was thinking about the way we were feeling, the extra distance due to the reroute, and the ford of Indian Creek and worrying that by the time we got to that ford the combination of the sore feet and tired legs would make it even more difficult than it had been on Saturday. Additionally coming from the opposite direction might also be trickier. On Saturday getting into the creek was fairly easy and the trickiest part was just after passing the center (and strongest current) there were several large rocks which we had to step up onto. Coming from the other direction we would need to drop off of those rocks into the strongest current. I wasn’t loving that idea so Heather and I started talking about options. Both the reroute and the fords were along the same section of trail between FR 2134 and FR 2127. We got the idea to see if it looked like road walking FR 21 between the two bridges would be any shorter and from the look of it on the maps it would be so we decided that was our plan for the hike out.

We woke up at first light and packed up our little campsite and then ate breakfast along the river before throwing our packs on and heading back.Leaving our breakfast site on the last day of our trip

Our little meal site along the river.

We stuck to the plan and when we arrived at FR 2134 we hopped up onto the shoulder of FR 21 and started pounding the pavement.FR 21 at FR 2134

The road walk was pretty brutal on our already sore feet, but there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we got to see some different things this way. It was also close to 2 miles shorter than if we had stuck to the trail.Youngs Rock Trail at FR 21

Youngs Rock Trail – A hike for another time.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Oregon geranium

Oregon geraniums

Oregon sunshine

Oregon sunshine

Plectritis and larkspur

Plectritis and the only larkspur we spotted all trip.

Boulder Creek Falls

Boulder Creek Falls

When we finally arrived at FR 2127 we took a break on the bridge.Road signs along FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

The highlight of the final leg of our hike was spotting a pair of harlequin ducks floating on the river. It’s only the second time we’ve seen these colorful ducks.Harlequin ducks

Harlequin ducks

Our distance for this final day was 12.1 miles giving us a total of 43.7 miles over the three days. I said to Heather “Leave it to me to turn a 4.4 mile easy hike into a nearly 44 mile hike.” I’m not sure if she found that as funny as I did. 😄

If I were to do it over (and the bridge over Indian Creek was replaced) I would have started at FR 2127 instead of 2120. That first 5+ miles didn’t have quite the scenery of the other sections, and it had the most poison oak. It also would have allowed us to camp closer to the springs making that day more reasonable. The view at Little Pine Openings sure was nice though.Middle Fork Willamette River

Overall though it was a good trip and it was just nice to be out again. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Day 2 & Day 3

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Day 1 – 5/23/2020

We continued to adjust our hiking plans to allow us our best chances of social distancing and visiting areas that are actually open. In January our plans for the three day weekend had been to stay in Roseburg and take day hikes along Highway 138. With staying in motels not the greatest way to socially distance, those plans were a no-go so we looked next to our 2021 plans. Those plans were a three day backpacking trip along the 30+ mile Middle Fork Trail SE of Oakridge to complete one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in his Central Cascades book, Indigo and Chuckle Springs (hike #83 in the 5th edition). This would be our first backpacking trip together since early September 2018 having skipped 2019 so that we could take care of our ill cat Buddy. (Heather did an overnight trip with some friends to Elk Lake Creek so she had been out once in 2019.)

The hike he describes is an easy 4.4 miles starting at the trailhead by Indigo Springs Campground. Doing the hike that he describes would have violated a couple of our self imposed rules. First the driving time to that trailhead for us would have been over 3 hours and secondly the amount of time spent hiking would have been less than the driving time (by a lot). My solution was to turn it into a backpacking trip by starting just south of the Sand Prairie Campground near milepost 12 of Rigdon Road (Forest Road 21). The plan was to hike around 13 miles on Saturday and then set up a base camp. Sunday we would hike the remaining distance to Indigo and Chuckle Springs and the return to camp and hike back out Monday morning. Our itinerary remained the same for the trip, but for reasons I’ll get to later the distances were not quite what we had planned on.

The Middle Fork National Recreation Trail stretches from Sand Prairie Campground to Timpanogas Lake (post).
There are a number of trailheads and access points for the Middle Fork Trail and we chose to start at the FR 2120 Trailhead.
Middle Fork Trail south of Sand Prairie Campground

A short distance from the trailhead we crossed Buck Creek on a nice bridge.
Buck Creek

For the first 5 miles the trail was relatively flat with a few ups and downs. This section was to the east of the Middle Fork Willamette River and to the west of Rigdon Road (FR 21). There were occasional glimpses of the river as well as some time spent along and on FR 21.
Middle Fork TrailMiddle Fork Trail along FR 21.

Middle Fork Willamette RiverOne of only a couple of spots where we were able to get to the river.

Where the trail crossed roads either signs or flagging were present to identify the continuation of the trail.
Middle Fork TrailOrange flagging on the left after crossing a gravel road.

The scenery was mostly green forest with a few meadows and a couple of creek crossings along the way. There were a few woodland flowers present as well as some patches of poison oak.
Middle Fork Trail

ThimbleberryThimbleberry

Cone CreekCone Creek

AnemonesAnemones

Bills CreekFootbridge over Bills Creek

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Columbine along the Middle Fork TrailColumbine

Middle Fork TrailYellowleaf iris along the Middle Fork Trail.

Pine CreekPine Creek – At first it looked like they put the bridge in the wrong spot, but there was another branch to the creek.

View from the Middle Fork TrailSmall meadow along the trail.

At the 4.4 mile mark the trail popped us onto FR 21 for a little over a quarter mile before resuming along the river.
Middle Fork Trail popping onto FR 21 for a bit

Middle Fork Trail leaving FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River

This was short lived though as we quickly found ourselves back on FR 21 near its junction with FR 2127.
Middle Fork Trail at FR 2127

Here the trail crossed the river on the bridge.
FR 2127 crossing the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

Common merganserCommon merganser on the river below the bridge.

The bridge crossing marked the start of what Sullivan’s map showed to be a 5.2 mile section along the western side of the Middle Fork Willamette River before recrossing on bridge at FR 2134 (our Adventure Maps, Inc. Oakridge Oregon Trial Map showed the section as 5.4 miles).
Middle Fork Trail Sign at the Road 2127 Trailhead.

With FR 21 now on the opposite side of the river this section was a little quieter and more scenic. There was still occasional poison oak to keep an eye out for and somewhere along this stretch a tick hitched a momentary ride on my pant leg before being flicked off.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork TrailMossy stump along the trail.

Middle Fork TrailLots of grass along portions of the trail, one of these areas was probably where the tick hopped on.

A highlight of the section was a series of rocky seeps long the river where patches of wildflowers were blooming.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Ookow along the Middle Fork TrailThe ookow wasn’t quite blooming yet.

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

MonkeyflowerMonkeyflower and tomcat clover

StonecropStonecrop

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed MaryPlectritis and giant blue-eyed Mary

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Western buttercupsButtercups

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

The trail reentered the forest where we spotted a couple of different coralroots.
Middle Fork Trail

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot (with a caterpillar)

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Two miles into this section we came to our first real obstacle of our trip. I had watched a series of Youtube videos from Hike Oregon of the trail including this section (video and in her video from a few years ago there was a footbridge over Indian Creek. No such bridge existed now. The water was flowing pretty quickly and although it looked doable it didn’t look like the easiest ford we’d done. We went ahead and gave it a go.
Fording Indian Creek

We managed to get across and continued on to find a second ford a short distance later. This one was just through some very slow moving water though.
Water covering the Middle Fork Trail

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next two miles but then we came to a sign announcing a trail closure and reroute.
Middle Fork Trail

Clear water along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Chocolate liliesChocolate lilies

Sign for a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail

The reroute sent us away from the river to FR 201 where we crossed Coal Creek on a bridge to FR 2133. The Forest Service map for the reroute showed that the trail will eventually continue on the other side of FR 2133 extending to FR 2134 but for now the reroute followed FR 2133 for one and a quarter miles to FR 2134.
Middle Fork TrailCompleted section of the reroute.

Signage for the Middle Fork TrailMore signs at FR 201

Sign for the Middle Fork TrailFR 201 crossing Coal Creek.

Coal CreekCoal Creek

FR 2133Road walking on FR 2133

Once we made it to FR 2134 we were back on the original route of the Middle Fork Trail as it once again crossed the river, this time using FR 2134’s bridge.
Bridge over the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River

The reroute had added a mile to our hike for the day and we weren’t done yet. The next section of trail between FR 2134 and Sacandaga Campground was listed as just under 5 miles and we were hoping to find a camp site close to the middle of the section.

The trail picked up at the north end of the bridge (the river had turned and was now flowing east to west as opposed to the first section when it was flowing to the north).
Middle Fork Trail

Simpson CreekSimpson Creek

Northern phloxNorthern phlox

Folded fungusDon’t know what type of fungus this is but it looked neat.

We were once again between the river and FR 21 and crossed several primitive forest roads.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Trail

After 2 miles it began to veer away from the road a bit to what appeared on the topographical map as a wide relatively flat area where we were hoping to find our camp site. We hadn’t passed many established (or even semi-established sites). We had seen one near Indian Creek and we had also seen one tent set up on an rocky island separated from the trail by a small channel of the river.

We passed up a couple of possible sites along decommissioned road beds hoping to be a bit closer to the river than they had been so when we did get back along the river we started looking.
Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Willamette River

There wasn’t much, the trees and underbrush was thick enough that there weren’t many areas with enough room for a tent. Heather spotted a more open area in the trees about 2.8 miles from FR 2134 that looked promising but I stubbornly continued for another quarter of a mile before turning back because her spot appeared to be the best choice. We set up camp amid the trees on the opposite side of the trail from the river.
Campsite along the Middle Fork Trail

There was a nice little opening along the river nearby where we were able to cook our meals and watch the river flow by.
Middle Fork Willamette River from our dinner/breakfast spot

Our plan for a 13 mile first day turned into 14.5 miles due to the extra mile added by the reroute and my continuing past our eventual campsite a quarter mile and having to come back to it. The lower portions of the trail had been a bit of a mixed bag. We hadn’t expected as much poison oak as we’d seen along the way and the reroute had been a bit of a bummer since road walking, even if it’s dirt/gravel is a lot harder on us than a nice trail. The scenery was nice and there had been quite a few wildflowers but being so close to paved FR 21 for much of the hike and having a large number of other road crossings where car campers were present didn’t allow for much of a remote feeling. The middle section (prior to the reroute) was probably the nicest, but having to ford Indian Creek probably isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side we only encountered one other hiker on the trail and our campsite turned out to be pretty comfortable with a nice thick layer of cushy duff to sleep on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Middle Fork Trail Day 1

Little Luckiamute River and Valley of the Giants – 05/16/2020

As we continue to navigate this COVID-19 reality we decided to finally make an attempt at visiting the Valley of the Giants, a stand of old growth forest in the Coastal Range. Even though the Valley of the Giants is a featured hike in Williams L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” and we would need to complete this hike someday if we were ever going to complete our goal of hiking all 500 of the featured hikes (post) we had thus far avoided this hike for a two reasons. The first reason was that at only 1.5 miles long this hike violated our made up rule of not spending more time driving than hiking on a day trip. Despite only being 31 miles, as the crow flies, from our house  the drive to the trailhead would be around an hour and forty-five minutes.

The second reason was that we’d heard it was sometimes difficult to reach the trailhead if you could even find it at all. The area (and much of the Coast Range) is a checkerboard of public and private land with most of the private land being owned by timber companies and heavily logged. From time to time the timber companies close the roads used to reach the trailhead due to logging activity. The logging activity also means that there are often new roads or changes to existing roads that are not on maps making them unreliable.

With social distancing in mind we thought now was as good as a time as ever to finally give this hike a go. First we needed to make sure that the hike was indeed open so during the week I contacted the Northwest Oregon District Office of the BLM via email to confirm. They responded that same day saying that it was open and also attached two pdfs. One was a brochure for the trail as well as detailed driving directions and the second contained phone numbers for the timber companies to check on any potential closures they might have in place. We didn’t wind up calling the timber companies opting to just take the chance that the roads would be open.

With the hike being only 1.5 miles we also looked for some other options along the way and in the back of Sullivan’s book was an additional hike just outside of Falls City, which we would be driving through, along the Little Luckiamute River. He described the hike as an “easy mile and an additional 1.5 faint miles to a brushy clearcut”. The guidebook had us park at a locked gate at a bridge over the Little Luckiamute River along Blackrock Road.
Blackrock Road

IMG_3715Little Luckiamute River from the bridge.

The book then mentions crossing the bridge on foot and continuing up the road 200 yards to the trail on the left and shows the BLM as the land manager. When we walked up to the gate though we were met with posted signs from Weyerhaeuser stating that permits were required for all recreation beyond that point. We did walk up the road a bit to see if we could find the start of the trail to see if maybe the it was in fact on BLM land and it was only the road and possibly the land on the right hand side that was Weyehaeuser owned. Our Garmin appeared to show the location of the trail but we walked a little past where it was showing and never saw any signs of one so we quickly returned to our car. Heather had noticed another gated road just before the spot where we parked heading in the same direction that the trail on the opposite side of the river would have taken us so we walked over to it to check it out. There were signs here too but it wasn’t Weyerhaeuser land it was owned by Hancock Forest Management and they didn’t require permits for recreational use.
Informational signs at a gated logging road

We decided to hike up this road instead. We wanted to kill some time before heading to the Valley of the Giants because the Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry for the hike mentioned visiting between 8am and 5pm to avoid gates that might be opened and closed daily. It was a little before 6am when we’d discovered that our plan A was a no go so to kill enough time we set a 45 minute goal for hiking out along this road before turning around.
Logging road along the Little Luckiamute River

A quarter mile up the road we followed a well developed use trail down to the river.
Trail down to the Little Luckiamute River

Little Luckiamute River

Little Luckiamute River

SalmonberrySalmonberry blossoms along the river.

After checking out the river we continued up the road until we arrived at a 1.5 mile marker spray painted in orange on a stump. We were at almost 43 minutes and in the middle of an uphill climb so we decided that the marker was a good definitive turnaround spot.
Mile marker along the logging roadOur turnaround spot.

We returned the way we’d come arriving back at the car close to 7:20. Even though it wasn’t the trail that we’d planned on hiking this was a pleasant little hike and probably very similar to what we would have seen on the trail itself. There were a number of different flowers, slugs, a snail, a millipede, and a rough skinned newt along the way not to mention the sounds of the river and lots of signing birds.
Logging road along the Little Luckiamute River

Cinquefoil and youth-on-ageCinquefoil and youth-on-age

Snail

Small creekOne of several little creeks along the road.

IrisIris

FairybellsFairybells

Forest along the Little Luckiamute RiverForest along the road.

Bleeding heartBleeding heart

Rough skinned newtRough skinned newt escaping into the grass.

LupineLupine

ColumbineColumbine

We drove back into Falls City and stopped at a viewpoint along Parry St. to check out the Falls City Falls.
Falls City Falls viewpoint

Unfortunately you can’t get a good look at the waterfall from this side of the river and it wasn’t any apparent access on the opposite side where a clearer view could have been had.
Little Luckiamute RiverLittle Luckiamute above the falls.

Falls City FallsFalls City Falls

Falls City FallsLower end of Falls City Falls.

That quick stop killed a little more time before we began our quest for the Valley of the Giants. The entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide for the trailhed begins with “Here follows one of the most convoluted approaches to a trailhead you will ever endure:”. We were primarily using the BLM directions with Sullivan’s being secondary. (All three provided similar directions although they were worded differently.) The trailhead was 31.5 miles from the Falls City Post Office with all but the first .6 on gravel roads. As crazy as the directions appeared the drive turned out to be fairly straight forward. The directions were spot on and we found that at many of the intersections the BLM had pointers for VOG.
BLM pointer for the Valley of the Giants

We weren’t expecting to see these pointers and aren’t sure how new they might be (or how long they will last given some peoples penchant for causing mischief) but they proved to be very helpful.

The roads had a few potholes but were in relatively good shape and passable for lower clearance vehicles. The scenery alternated between the bleak landscapes of clearcuts and beautifully green forests surrounding the South and later North Forks of the Siletz River.
South Fork Siletz RiverSouth Fork Siletz River along Valsetz Road.

Confluence of the North and South Fork Siletz RiversConfluence of the North and South Forks of the Siletz River.

North Fork Siletz RiverNorth Fork Siletz River.

The route also took us past the historical site of Valsetz, an unincorporated community and timber company town. In 1983 the timber company announced the halting of operations there and in 1984 all structures were removed leaving just some foundations. We drove by the foundations but didn’t stop due to some sort of gathering occurring (which we were pretty sure wasn’t within the current COVID-19 guidelines).

An hour and fifteen minutes after passing the Post Office in Falls City we arrived at the Valley of the Giants Trailhead.
Valley of the Giants Trailhead

A signboard at the trailhead provided a brief history and a map of the 51 acre area.
Interpretive sign at Valley of the Giants

We followed the trail downhill to a footbridge over the North Fork Siletz River.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Bleeding heartBleeding heart

FairybellsFairybells

Star-flowered slomonseal and false lily of the valley getting ready to blossomStar flowered solomonseal and false lily of the valley getting ready to bloom.

Footbridge over the North Fork Siletz River

North Fork Siletz River

North Fork Siletz River

At the far end of the footbridge was a lone picnic table.
Picnic table at the Valley of the Giants

The trail climbed a bit to the start of a .7 mile loop which itself climbed approximately 160′ to the “Big Guy”, a huge Douglas Fir that fell in a 1981 storm. At that time the tree is believed to have been 230′ tall and approximatley 600 years old.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Valley of the GiantsOld growth giants.

Valley of the GiantsAnother huge Douglas fir.

Valley of the GiantsStanding among the giants.

FernsUnfurling ferns.

“Big Guy”

Standing in between a cut in “Big Guy”. For reference I am a little under 5’9″.

Bench at “Big Guy”

Beyond “Big Guy” the trail descended back down to the start of the loop.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Oregon grapeOregon grape

Old growth at Valley of the Giants

TrilliumThe only trillium we saw all day that still had any petals.

Old growth at Valley of the Giants

Valley of the Giants

We returned to the trailhead to find a second car there now and the only other hikers we’d seen that day. We chatted with them for a bit (from over 6 feet away). His grandfather had been working at Valsetz when it was shut down so he had spent time there as a child and all around the area.

Driving back past the clear-cuts after having just visited the pocket of old growth just reinforced how important it is to us to protect any wild areas lucky enough to have yet been spared from development or resource extraction. There are not that many of them left and those that aren’t yet protected deserve to be. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little Luckiamute River and Valley of the Giants

North Fork and Buffalo Rock – 05/09/2020

As we continue to deal with the ever changing situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic we are looking for ways to hike responsibly. That means doing our best to follow social distancing guidelines and honoring any closures in place. The situation with closures has been especially confusing requiring a fair amount of digging to get a clear picture of just what is allowed and what isn’t. With these things in mind we have been looking for hikes that are open and lightly used to limit our interaction with other people.

After looking through our to-do hike list we decided that the best option for an acceptable outing at this point was a pair of hikes along the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River. In regards to closures, the Willamatte National Forest (as of this writing) has closed all developed recreation sites. Reviewing the March 27, 2020 announcement on their website goes on to say that those sites include “campgrounds, day-use sites, trailheads with bathrooms, Sno-parks, snow shelters, fire lookouts, hot springs, boat launch facilities, and OHV trailhead facilities.” Trails themselves are not on the list and remain open assuming proper social distancing and group size/make up is within acceptable limits.

Our first stop was to hike Segment 1 of the North Fork Trail. Since trailheads with bathrooms are part of the temporary closure the traditional trailhead for this hike was out. Our plan was to park at a small pullout along Forest Road 1910 three miles NE of Westfir along Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Scenic Byway). A decommissioned road just after crossing the river provided the perfect spot to park and happened to be right where the North Fork Trail crossed FR 1910.
North Fork Trail at FR 1910

We headed SW into the forest where a number of different wildflowers were currently blooming.
North Fork Trail

Star-flowered solomonsealStar-flowered solomonseal

AnemoneAnemone

TrilliumTrillium

Oregon grapeOregon grape

StarflowerStarflower

Yellowleaf irisYellowleaf iris

After .2 miles we followed a path down to the riverbank.
North Fork Willamette RiverLooking back at FR 1910’s bridge over the River.

North Fork Willamette River

A few steps after returning to the trail we left the trail again and crossed the decommissioned FR 685 near Short Creek to check out a small slide.
Short Creek

We followed the relatively level trail for another 3 miles turning around at an old road about a tenth of a mile from the parking area of the closed trailhead. Like most river trails the North Fork trail spent some time along the river, above the river, and others back in the forest. There were a few changes to the scenery along the way and plenty of flowers (along with a fair amount of poison oak). Three miles from FR 1910 we passed the concrete remains of a 1930s mill pond.
North Fork Trail

ValerianValerian

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot

Inside-out flowerInside-out flower

North Fork Trail

Hookedspur violetHookedspur violet

Fairy slipperFairy slipper

Dogwood blossomDogwood blossom

Buck Brush - redstem ceanothusBuck brush

Yellow leaf iris along the North Fork Trail

North Fork Willamette River

Shed skin from a Cicada on a yellow leaf irisShed cicada skin

Wood roseWood rose

FairybellsFairy bells

Showy phloxNorthern phlox

Snail on the North Fork TrailTrail snail

North Fork Trail

HoneysuckleHoneysuckle

ColumbineColumbine

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Lupine along the North Fork TrailLupine

Youth-on-ageYouth-on-age

North Fork Willamette RiverRock ledge along the river.

North Fork Willamette RiverView from the rock ledge.

Monkey flowerMonkey flower

CamasCamas

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Dam site along the North Fork TrailConcrete tower

North Fork Trail

Pale flaxPale flax

North Fork TrailheadRoadbed near the trailhead.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes open for anything we missed on our first pass, and of course there were a couple of flowers that we missed.
Vanilla leafVanilla leaf

Wild gingerWild ginger

A garter snake provided a bit of excitment when Heather noticed it coming towards her onto the trail. It eventually slithered to a fern on the other side but not before getting her to jump.
Garter snake

Garter snake

We wound up only encountering 4 people along the trail, a lone hiker and a group of three mountain bikers so this first stop had worked out well from a socially distancing standpoint.

After making it back to our car we returned to FR 19 and turned left (NE) for 18.1 miles to Forest Road 1939 (1.1 miles beyond Kiahania Campground). We turned left onto FR 1939 for 1.2 miles to a hiker symbol on the left marking the start of another segment of the North Fork Trail.
North Fork Trailhead at FR 1939

As best as I can tell from research this 4.5 mile segment of the North Fork Trail appears to have been completed in 2011 or possibly 2010. There is very little information online about it even though it has appeared as a featured hike (along with Segment 1) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” books since his 4th edition was published in 2012. I was unable to find any reference to it all on the Willamette National Forest’s website despite the Forest Service hoping to one day connect all the segements of the North Fork Trail from Westfir to Waldo Lake. In any event there is no parking area for this trailhead and there is just enough room for a couple of cars to park off the road on the shoulder nearby.

From the outset it was obvious that this was a much lighter traveled segment than the Segment 1 as the tread was narrower and there was some large trees across the trail.
North Fork Trail

North Fork Trail

There were some similarities though as we saw many wildflowers (some the same as during our earlier stop and some new for the day) and this trail also provided a few access points to the river.
Trillium

Candy flowerCandy flower growing out of a mossy tree trunk.

Western meadowrueWestern meadowrue

Largeleaf sandwortLargeleaf sandwort

North Fork Willamette River

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

There were several creeks to cross, the first was too wide at the trail to hop across requiring a slight detour downstream. The rest all had rocks allowing us to cross dry footed.
North Fork TrailThe second creek crossing.

The trail turned away from the river to drop to the third substantial creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

Creek along the North Fork Trail

It was at this third creek that we realized we’d missed a 10 foot waterfall marked on Sullivan’s map at the 1.1 mile mark. A quick re-reading of the hike description told us it was 150 feet offtrail which explained why we hadn’t seen it. We made a mental note to look for it on the way back.

At the 2.3 mile mark the trail passed close to the river and a cobblestone beach from which the basalt outcrop of Buffalo Rock was visible.
North Fork Willamette River

Buaffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette River

As the trail began to pass under Buffalo Rock it became even wilder than it had been beginning with a large tree blocking the trail just on the other side of a creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

After ducking under the tree the trail passed through a small hillside meadow.
North Fork Willamette River

Coastal manrootCoastal manroot

Sticky cinquefoilSticky cinquefoil

Popcorn flowerPopcorn

Western yellow oxalisWestern yellow oxalis

The dry, rocky hillside below Buffalo Rock provided for some different types of flowers and plants and was the only spot along this trail that we noticed any poison oak.
North Fork Trail

Buffalo Rock

Collomia heterophylla - Variable CollomiaVariable collomia

Western fence lizardWestern fence lizard

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

LarkspurLarkspur

This segment of the trail had originally extended another 2 miles from beneath Buffalo Rock with the next marker on Sullivan’s map being a “mossy pool” a mile from the end of the trail. As we continued on from Buffalo Rock though we found that the trail was quickly deteriorating. It was evident that what little maintenance this segment saw, had all been focused on the section between FR 1939 and Buffalo Rock.
North Fork TrailHad to climb over this on the left side by the standing tree.

North Fork Trail under some blowdownThe only choice here was to use this tree as the trail.

North Fork TrailMinor debris on the trail.

North Fork TrailCuts most likely from the original establishment of the trail.

North Fork TrailThis one required a detour to the right around the end of the tree.

North Fork TrailForest reclaiming the trail tread.

Given the conditions we were experiencing and the distance we were facing for the day we decided to shoot for the mossy pool and turn around there instead of trying to reach the end of the trail. Sullivan himself had suggested turning around at Buffalo Rock and other than noting the pool on his map made no mention of it so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The trail turned away from the river to descend to the creek crossing where we expected to find the mossy pool.
North Fork Trail

The creek had done a good job of erroding the trail which provided one final tricky obstacle to reach the little pool.
Creek along the North Fork Trail

We were pleasantly surprised by how nice this little creek and the pool were. There was a small cascade creating the pool.
Mossy pool

Small cascade

Mossy pool

It was the perfect spot for a nice break. It was the warmest day of the year thus far with temperatures expected in the mid to upper 80s and it felt every bit that hot, but here by the creek the air was cool and refreshing. Between that and the calming sound of the water we both could have easily taken a nap but alas we needed to head back.
North Fork Trail from the mossy pool

We headed back before we had time to stiffen up with a mission to find the off-trail waterfall. From Sullivan’s map it appeared that there was no creek at the trail to follow up to the waterfall and his description said to listen for the sound of water and follow it. When we thought we were in the right general area we started listening. We took one wrong turn up a small stream that we thought was too soon but didn’t want to accidently miss it again. After following this little stream a short distance we determined that there was no sound of a waterfall of any kind so we returned to the trail and continued on. After descending a series of switchbacks we were in another promising area and this time we could hear water on the opposite side of the trail from the river. We bushwacked uphill to find the little waterfall.
Small off-trail waterfall

Small off-trail waterfall

After seeing the waterfall we returned to the car and headed home. We did see one other couple on our way back to the car making it a half-dozen between the two stops for the day. The two hikes totaled 13.9 miles, 6.4 on Segment 1 and 7.5 at Buffalo Rock.

We will continue to look for responsible options to allow us to keep hiking during these unprecedented times. Please be smart and safe and as always Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork and Buffalo Rock

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 05/03/2020

Our “hiking season” has typically coincided with the start of May. This has been a unique year and the current situation with COVID-19 meant that if we were going to stick with our normal starting date we needed to scrap our plans (at least for the first part of our season) and find hikes that are open, nearby, and allow us to recreate responsibly. For our April outing that had meant a long walk around Salem to visit various parks (post). To officially kick off our 2020 season though we opted for a more traditional hike.

Despite living nearby, it had been nearly 10 years since we had done our one and only hike at Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge. The previous visit was our second hike in July of 2010 which is the year in which we started to get serious about hiking. To change things up from our first visit we chose to start our hike from the Smithfield Road Trailhead (we had started our 2010 from the Baskett Butte Trailhead). Please note that the Smithfield Road Trailhead is closed from October 1 – March 31 to protect wintering wildlife.
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We set off straight ahead from the trailhead and soon were passing Morgan Lake. A couple of heavy rain showers had passed over between 5 and 6:30am but there was some encouraging blue sky overhead as we passed the lake.
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There wasn’t a lot of activity on the lake this morning, just a few mallards, but there were plenty of other birds singing and flying between the trees along the lake, most of which wouldn’t sit still long enough to be photographed.
IMG_2909Mallards

IMG_2905Crow

IMG_2914Sparrow

IMG_2916Guessing some sort of warbler

IMG_2919California quail scattering

After passing Moran Lake the trail headed toward a saddle between two hills. Heather noticed something up on the hillside to our left.
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The camera confirmed it to be a pair of elk.
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She had actually pointed out an area in some grass just a bit earlier that appeared to have been used as beds but we weren’t really expecting to see elk on this hike.

The grassy path that we were on seemed to be a popular breakfast spot for the wildlife. We spotted a couple of rabbits, several quail, and many small birds.
IMG_2941Rabbit with sparrows behind.

IMG_2945Rabbit with a quail behind.

Golden-crowned sparrowsGolden-crowned sparrows

IMG_2955Most of the rabbits we see run off right away but this little guy was pretty brave.

A little before reaching the saddle (a little over 1 1/4 miles from the trailhead) the trail made a nearly 180 degree turn turning from the grassy track to a dirt path that climbed along a wooded hillside. Near the turn we started seeing a few wildflowers.
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Meadow checker-mallowMeadow checker-mallow

IMG_2961Tough-leaved iris

IMG_2969Columbine

IMG_2974Morgan Lake from the trail.

IMG_2975Heading into the woods.

We met another trail user in the woods when we spotted a rough skinned newt.
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IMG_2981Spotted towhee

I had just mentioned to Heather to be on the lookout for Tolmie’s mariposa lilies when we noticed a patch of them on the hillside.
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They were a little watered down but still pretty.
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We came to a signed junction 1.6 miles from the trailhead. A right turn here would keep us on the 3 mile Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop while a left turn would lead us .2 miles to the start of another loop and eventually a viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. We went left and headed uphill to a meadow in a saddle.
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In the meadow were a few more types of flowers including lupine and plectritis.
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We were busy looking at the flowers and nearly missed a pair of deer passing through the meadow ahead of us.
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At the far end of the meadow the trail split. Here we turned right and entered a denser wood with lots of underbrush and a few more newts.
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IMG_3041Old tree trunk

IMG_3042Ferns

IMG_3033Woodland stars

Thin-leaf peaThin-leaf pea (and a spider behind the blossoms)

IMG_3043Fringecup

IMG_3030Given their size we believe this was proper social distancing for rough-skinned newts.

The trail left the woods after four tenths of a mile and entered another meadow.
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We spotted several additional types of wildflowers in this meadow all while being serenaded by a western meadowlark.
IMG_3053Western meadowlark

Tomcat cloverTomcat clover

IMG_3056Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_3057A checker-mallow surrounded by pale flax

IMG_3059Camas

A tenth of a mile later we arrived at a junction near a signboard.
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The loop continued to the left but we headed right to visit the viewpoint on Baskett Butte and to enjoy the display of wildflowers that lined this stretch of trail.
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IMG_3065Plectritis

Castilleja levisecta - Golden PaintbrushCastilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush which historically occurred in the grasslands and prairies of the Willamette Valley. The species had been extirpated from the valley with the last sighting in Oregon occurring in Linn County in 1938. It was reintroduced to various areas starting in 2010 including here at Baskett Slough. In the wetter areas it failed to take but the plant has managed to take hold on Baskett Butte.

There appeared to be at least a couple of different flowers from the mallow family present.
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IMG_3079Larkspur

IMG_3089Biscuitroot

IMG_3083The white patch in the foreground is coastal manroot while the red patch uphill is columbine.

IMG_3091Some of the mass of columbine.

IMG_3104Tolmie’s mariposa lilies

We took a break at the viewpoint listening to ducks and geese in the wetland below.
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Before heading back to the loop we followed a small path east (left) from the viewpoint. The path appeared to go all the way down to one of the refuge roads but it would have taken us out of the way (and left us with even more of a climb back up) so after about 450 feet we turned around. In that little distance though we spotted two more flower types that we hadn’t noticed yet.
IMG_3118Meadow death camas

IMG_3120Oregon sunshine

There was also another nice patch of columbine mixed with some cow parsnip.
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We headed down from Baskett Butte to the junction where we found a swallow sitting on the signboard.
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We turned right back onto the loop and descended for a tenth of a mile to another junction spotting yet another couple of different flowers along the way.

Hairy vetchHairy vetch

IMG_3153Purple sanicle

There was another signboard at this junction where we turned left (the right hand trail led down to the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
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We followed this path three tenths of a mile to the junction where we had started the loop and turned right passing back through the meadow where we’d seen the deer.
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IMG_3162Yarrow starting to bloom.

We didn’t see the deer this time but we did spot the red head of a house finch.
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After passing back through the meadow we came to the signed junction for the Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop and veered left down a grassy track.
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There were a few nice flowers along here, nothing that we hadn’t seen already during the hike though. We did however spot some new widlife.
IMG_3175A pair of American goldfinches

IMG_3184Silvery blue butterfly

IMG_3194Common yellowthroat

The grass gave way to gravel as we approached Moffiti Marsh. This time of year the marsh has a pretty good amount of water and judging by the number of ducks, swallows and other birds in the area is much preferred over Morgan Lake by those with feathers. There was also a loud chorus of frogs signing along this path.
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IMG_3197Moffiti Marsh

IMG_3200Great blue heron flying over

IMG_3214Ducks on the water and swallows in the air.

IMG_3215Northern shoveler on the left.

IMG_3219A couple different types of ducks.

The gravel path ended at a gate along Smithfield Road where we turned right on another grassy track.
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It was just a little under a quarter mile back to the trailhead which gave us plenty of time to spot more flowers and wildlife.
IMG_3222Western bluebird

IMG_3229Female western bluebird gathering items for a nest.

IMG_3230Wild rose

IMG_3235Canada geese flying over.

IMG_3236Two pairs of American goldfinches.

IMG_3242Cinnamon teal

IMG_3248Bald eagle flying overhead

IMG_3250Red-winged blackbird

Our route on this day covered a similar area as that of our first visit although we started at a different trailhead and wound up being just a tad under 5 miles. That is where the similarities ended. Our photo album from 2010 consists of a total of 10 photos. There are a few deer, a dragon fly, and a couple of photos from the viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. The album for this hike ended up having 208 photos. The number of different flowers and types of wildlife that we were lucky enough to see exceeded our expectations. We were also lucky enough to escape all but a brief sprinkle of rain.

One caution for the area is that there is a decent amount of poison oak off trail which at this time of year was also looking rather nice even though we wanted nothing to do with it.
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Even though we were only doing this hike due to COVID-19 it wound up being a wonderful morning and a great start to what looks to be a really different hiking season.
IMG_3243Moffiti Marsh

Happy (socially distanced) Trails!

Flickr: Baskett Slough

Salem Parks – 4/26/2020

With COVID-19 still affecting every day life we decided to get a little creative with our April hike. We wanted to get outside and do our best to see some of the typical Spring sights that we have been missing while still following responsible stay-at-home guidelines. Our solution was to set off on an urban hike from our house to visit a number of area parks and natural areas. We grabbed our smallest day packs and some face masks (just in case) and headed out our front door.
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Living in the hills of West Salem we are often greeted with blue sky when the city below is shrouded in fog and this was one of those mornings.
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In addition to a few less mornings of fog, living up in the hills also provides us views of several Cascade mountains from various spots in the neighborhood. At one intersection we always look for Mt. Jefferson (Jeffry as we refer to the mountain). It’s become a kind of running joke that even if it’s pouring rain one of us will ask if Jeffry is visible. We were lucky enough this morning to be able to make out the mountain through a thin layer of fog.
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Our hope for the outing was to spot some wildlife and enjoy some flowers. Being an urban hike through neighborhoods there were plenty of flowers to see in different yards but what we were really looking for were the ones growing wild.

The first park that we passed was 5.5 acre Eola Ridge Park. The neighborhood park is thin on development other than some picnic tables and short paved path between Eola Dr. and Dan Ave NW. Wetlands on the western end of the park attract birds and other wildlife.
IMG_2631Wetlands near Eola Ridge Park

IMG_2633Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2635Madrone in Eola Ridge Park

Continuing east on Eola Dr the next natural area we came to was the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. This seven acre reserve has a few trails and interpretive signs.
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We drive by the reserve daily and often see volunteers working on the area and their dedication showed as we made our way through the area.
IMG_2643Bleeding heart and miners lettuce around a small bench.

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IMG_2650Possibly forget-me-nots.

IMG_2653Fringecup

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IMG_2655Giant white wakerobbin

IMG_2657Coastal manroot and annual honesty

IMG_2659Blue-bells

IMG_2661Plummed solomon’s seal

IMG_2664I think this is a checker-mallow but I’m never sure between the checker-mallows and checkerblooms.

After leaving the Audubon Nature Reserve we made our way down to Edgwater Street where we turned left eventually passing the old West Salem City Hall.
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From 1913 to 1949, when it merged with the city of Salem, West Salem was it’s own incorporated city. The old city hall building was opened in 1935 and functioned as city hall until the merger.

We could have followed Edgwater east to Wallace Road (Highway 221) and from that intersection crossed the Willamette River on the Center Street Bridge, but that is a noisy walk along the busy Highway 22 so instead we opted for a slightly longer route to the bicycle and pedestrian only Union Street Bridge. To reach the Union Street Bridge we wound through some neighborhoods eventually making our way to Wallace Road on Taggert Drive and then heading south along Wallace to the now paved former rail line leading to the bridge.
IMG_2672 The city has put up a number of these direction pointers all over Salem which are actually really helpful.

We’d heard a lot of birds in the nature reserve but couldn’t see most of them in the woods there but in the neighborhoods they were easier to spot.
IMG_2667Scrub jay

IMG_2668Starlings

IMG_2673Spotted Towhee

The morning fog was burning off quickly save for a little lingering over the Willamette here and there as we approached the bridge.
IMG_2674Path leading to the Union Street Bridge

This bridge showed up in one of our other hikes back in 2018 when we toured Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks (post). The bridge connects Wallace Marine and Riverfront Parks by spanning the Willamette River and is always a good place from which to spot ducks and geese.
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IMG_2676Family of geese

IMG_2682A very light colored mallard

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As we reached the eastern end of the bridge near Riverfront Park we started to see a lot of squirrels.
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IMG_2687Two squirrels on a tree.

IMG_2693This squirrels was vigoursly attacking this bush.

As we neared the Willamette Queen Heather spotted a rabbit in the grass.
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There were a few people out and about, some of which were wearing masks.
IMG_2692 (We hope this mask was no longer usable because we’d hate to see them wasted, but it did make us chuckle.)

Since we covered Riverfront Park during our 2018 hike we walked through the park and crossed into downtown at State and Front Streets. We then walked a block down State Street to Commercial Street where we turned right (south) and passed the Salem Convention Center on the way to The Mirror Pond in front of the Salem City Hall.
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IMG_2698Pringle Creek from Commercial Street with City Hall in the distance.

IMG_2699The Mirror Pond

We’d seen blue herons in the water here (in addition to the statute of one that is in the pond) but as we neared the pond today it was two sets of eyes that caught my attention. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until one set disappeared and then I realized they were frogs.
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IMG_2705The heron statue

IMG_2707Mallards

We passed The Mirror Pond and followed a path beneath Liberty Street and over Pringle Creek.
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We then made our way to High Street crossing it in front of the SAIF building where another small green space and water feature tends to attract ducks.
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We passed through the green space and then turned right on Church Street (south again). We crossed over Pringle Creek again and took a quick detour down to the George Arthur Powell Meditation Garden.
IMG_2718Pringle Creek at Church Street.

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The small garden had a small bench and lots of flowers.
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On the opposite side of Church Street is Pringle Park and the Pringle Community Hall. When we both worked near the hospital we would often walk through this park during lunches.
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We skipped Pringle Park today though and continued south on Church Street toward Bush’s Pasture Park.
IMG_2725 Passing the Let’s All Play Park. part of the Salem Hospital Campus on Church Street.

IMG_2726Sign at Bush Park

IMG_2728Bush House Museum

At 90.5 acres Bush’s Pasture Park is one of the larger parks in Salem and may provide the most diverse set of activites. Along with the Bush House Musuem and Rose Garden there are picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, ball fields, woods, and open swaths of grass. There is also a soap box derby track and some of Willamette University’s sports fields.
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Our main motivation for getting to Bush Park though was to check out the camas bloom. For years I’d been wanting to see the camas bloom at Bush Park up close instead of from the car while driving by on Mission Street. COVID-19 had at least provided the right situation to prompt us to finally get here. We made our way to the NE end of the park and turned into the woods at the interpretive signs for the camas.
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IMG_2774A white camas

While camas was the predominate flower there were a few others present.
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IMG_2776Western buttercups

IMG_2765Buscuitroot

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We emerged from the woods near the SE end of the park at a large open field.
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IMG_2778Ground squirrel

We headed SW along the field to a newer flower garden along a hillside.
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After climbing the hill we passed through a grassy picnic area (the tables weren’t out due to COVID-19) and exited the park at its SW corner.
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Our plan from here was not very well thought out. The rough plan was to make our way up to Fairmount Park in the foothills of South Salem. We hadn’t laid out a route though so after recrossing Liberty and Commercial Streets we simply zigzaged our way through neighborhoods up to the park. On on occassion we had to back track when the street we had chosen had no outlets.
IMG_2792Neat old carraige in a yard.

IMG_2794Stellars Jay

After wandering for a little over a mile we finally arrived at Fairmount Park.
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This neighborhood park is just under 17 acres with a picnic shelter, playground, a half-court basketball hoop and is next to the Fairmount Reservoir.
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Our reason for coming here though was the Fairmount Park Trail which we could theoretically follow down to the River Road entrance to Minto-Brown Island Park.
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I said we could theoretically follow the trail down becuase we knew from other people that it was possible, but we had never tried it and we quickly discovered that there were a number of spur trails, none of which were marked to let us know if we were following the correct one. The muddy sufrace and presence of poison oak along the trail made it a bit more of an adventure than anywhere else we’d been in the morning.
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We had been behind a couple and their dog but lost them when we stopped for a quick break at one of the unmarked intersections. We decided that we would simply choose downhill trails to the right whenever possible knowing that River Road was in that general direction. This worked fine for the first three tenths of a mile or so but just after spotting River Road the trail we were on began deteriorating quickly on the steep hillside.
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We weren’t all that high up, but the poison oak had become much more abundant so we didn’t want to get off the trail at all. Some fancy footwork and a lot of luck at the bottom got us onto the shoulder of River Road less than a quarter mile NE of the entrance to Minto-Brown. As we arrived at the entrance we spotted the couple that we had briefly followed on the Fairmount Trail approaching form the opposite direction. Clearly they had known a safer route down than we had and must have kept left at one of the junctions where we had gone right.
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At this point we were approximately 8.5 miles into our hike and given that most of it had been paved our feet were starting to feel it so we took the most direct route through Minto-Brown to the Peter Courtney Bridge which brought us back to Riverfront Park. We did of course stop for birds and flowers along the way.
IMG_2805Another scrub jay

IMG_2806We risked the caution for mud and high water since this was the shortest way to the bridge.

IMG_2808Tree blossoms

IMG_2812The high water wasn’t an issue, but it was really muddy around that puddle.

IMG_2817Sparrow

IMG_2820I mistook this small bird for a hummingbird but after looking at the photo it might just be a baby?

IMG_2823We tried to take our first sit down break of the day here but the bench was still wet from the morning. On to Riverfront it is.

IMG_2824Riverfront Park and the Peter Courtney Bridge in the distance. (We had found a dry bench by this time, thank you Gallagher Fitness Resources)

IMG_2825Looking across a field to West Salem and its green water tower in the hills.

IMG_2827California poppy

IMG_2830Red flowering currant

IMG_2831Sparrow

IMG_2834Western service berry

IMG_2835Crossing the Peter Courtney Bridge.

We then headed back through Riverfront Park to the Union Street Bridge and took a slightly modified route back to the Audubon Nature Reserve.
IMG_2836Willamette River from the Union Street Bridge

IMG_2839More geese

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Having taken the Hillside Trail that morning we followed the Upper Trail uphill through the reserve.
IMG_2849Perriwinkle

IMG_2850Pacific waterleaf

IMG_2857Camas

IMG_2860Another checker-mallow(or checkerbloom)

IMG_2861California poppy

IMG_2863Haven’t figured this one out yet.

One of the things that we look forward to every year is the return of osprey to a nesting platform at the reserve. The platform had been replaced earlier this year and Heather had noticed some new sticks showing up recently. We hadn’t noticed any activity earlier when we passed by but now there were osprey flying around overhead.
IMG_2864

We watched as one landed with another stick for the nest. It was soon followed by a second.
IMG_2868

IMG_2871

IMG_2872

Hopefully there will be young osprey to watch later this year.

After watching the osprey we trudged uphill (and down and back up) past Eola Ridge Park and back into our neighborhood. By this point we were both dealing with blisters and generally sore feet. Jeffry was still visible, although the positioning of the Sun made it difficult to see. In addition we were able to see both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams briefly as we limped our way back to our house.
IMG_2878Mt. Hood beyond the green water tower.

IMG_2882Mt. Adams through a little haze.

I had used Google to map out a potential route a week before our outing and it had led me to believe that it would be around 13 miles to hit these different parks. Our Garmin 62s and watch had us in the 15 mile range though which made us feel a little better about how we were feeling at the end.

As long as things stay locked down we’re planning on heading out from home to check out what’s close by (definitely not 15 miles worth though). Hopefully everyone reading this has stayed healthy and things will start getting back to normal sooner rather than later. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salem Parks Tour

Miller Woods & Trappist Abbey – 3/15/2020

We had decided to make 3/15 (Sunday) the day for our March hike to take advantage of a clear, albeit cold, forecast and to get it in before COVID-19 becomes any larger an issue. We started our day by visiting Miller Woods, a conservation area maintained by the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District. The 130 acre property was donated to the district in 2004 and is open from dawn to dusk for hiking (no pets). Although there is no fee, donations are welcome and can be made online (the option we used). These donations appear to be put to good use based on the amount of obvious work that has been put into the area.

As hard as it may be to believe we were the first car in the parking lot. After stopping at the information kiosk (laminated maps were available) we set off on the Outer Loop Trail planning on going counter-clockwise around the approximately 4.5 mile loop.
Miller Woods Trailhead

Miller Woods

Miller Woods trail map

Morning at Miller Woods

Part of the work being done at Miller Woods is Oak Savanna restoration, which is what most of the Willamette Valley was made up of prior to development.
Interpretive sign at Miller Woods

Miller Woods

After passing some of the restoration work the trail entered a forest of Douglas firs.
Perimiter trail at Miller Woods

Miller Woods

We had our first covering of snow at our house when we awoke on Saturday and the near freezing temperatures had our hands stinging by the time we had made it to the trees but in the forest we were reminded that Spring is on the way as we began to notice several of the early wildflower varieties.
ToothwortSlender toothwort

Trillium at Miller WoodsTrillium

Violet at Miller WoodsViolets

The trail wound around a hillside above Berry Creek before looping back toward the old farm fields.
Miller Woods

Berry CreekBerry Creek

Nest along the trail at Miller WoodsBird’s nest that Heather spotted along the trail.

Miller Woods

After briefly passing through the edge of the field the trail reentered the forest after crossing an outlet stream from a pond.
Trail at Miller Woods

Creek at Miller Woods

A shorter loop was possible here by taking the green Discovery Loop back to the parking area.
Trail sign at Miller Woods

We stuck to the Outer Loop though and began a gradual climb to the loop’s high point at the 600′ K.T. Summit. As we were climbing we spotted what we thought was a pair of deer (it turned out to be three).
Deer up on the hillside at Miller WoodsThe first deer we spotted (up near the top of the hill at center).

Deer at Miller WoodsZoomed in shot of the second deer at upper left.

Deer at Miller WoodsFirst deer again.

The trail zigzagged up the hill and wound up taking us right past the deer who seemed less than worried about us.
Deer at Miller WoodsFirst deer crossing the trail ahead of us.

Deer at Miller WoodsThe second and third deer watching us pass.

After passing the deer we also passed a memorial to the Miller’s who had donated the property.
Memorial at Miller Woods

Memorial plaques at MIller Woods

Perimiter trail at Miller Woods

The summit was marked by a sign and a bench but lacked a view.
K.T. Summit sign at Miller Woods

Beyond the summit the trail began to descend back down to the fields. The forest here was a little more mature and we spotted another early wildflower getting ready for Spring when we noticed a fairy slipper emerging from some green moss.
Perimeter trail at Miller Woods

Fairy slipper staring to open at MIller Woods

We also noticed a little dusting of snow left on a few leaves and stumps.
A slight dusting of snow left on a stump at Miller Woods

The trail wound down to a crossing of the pond’s inlet creek where some skunk cabbage was putting on a nice display.
Trail at Miller Woods

Creek at Miller Woods

Skunk cabbage

We emerged from the forest and followed the trail to the pond where the trail split. We went left passing the pond on our right and made our way back to the trailhead.
Pond at MIller Woods

Miller Woods

Blackbird at MIller WoodsThe area around the pond was popular with the birds.

Robin at Miller WoodsThere were quite a few robins about.

From Miller Woods it was just a 15-20 minute drive to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

Book binding, a bakery, a wine warehouse and forestry all occur at here and a gift shop sells fruitcakes and honey. Given that “social distancing” is a thing right now we opted not to enter the gift shop or any of the other buildings on this visit and walked through the courtyard to a gravel path leading between two ponds.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

Pond at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist AbbeyLarger of the two ponds

Footbridge by the pondLittle footbridge by the large pond

Pond at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist AbbeySmaller pond

Beyond the ponds we turned uphill on an old roadbed.
Trail at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

We followed the road as it climbed up a tree thined hillside gaining views to the west of the snow covered coastal range.
Monk's Trail junctionWe ignored the signed trails sticking to the road which was also signed as the “Guadalupe Loop”

More snow on the Coast Range

View from the Guadalupe Loop

There were quite a few birds in the remaing trees. We watched a pair of acorn woodpeckers for a bit and a spotted towhee was busy picking through some grass while stellars jays could be heard but seldom seen.
Acorn woodpeckerAcorn woodpecker

Acorn woodpeckerSecond acorn woodpecker

Spotted towheeSpotted towhee

We soon left the thinned area and entered a forest where we spotted more toothwort and some sort of blooming tree.
Guadalupe Loop

Toothwort

Blossoms along the Guadalupe Loop

After about a mile we came to a fork in the road where the left side was gated (and posted no hiking beyond the gate). We forked right continuing uphill for a half mile to another fork. This time we went left which led a short distance to a viewpoint overlooking vineyards and Mt. Hood in the distance. (We should have taken a fork right shortly after taking the left but missed it and ended up having to backtrack a bit.)
Mt. Hood from a viewpiont at Trappist Abbey

Mt. Hood from a viewpiont at Trappist Abbey

We returned to the fork and went straight on what was still the Guadalupe Loop for just over a quarter mile to a sign for a shrine.
Snow along the Guadalupe LoopSnow along the Guadalupe Loop

Shrine at Trappist Abbey

A short spur led to the shrine and a viewpoint of the Coast Range.
Shrine at Trappist Abbey

Snowy Coast Range

Snow in the Coast Range

Snowy peak in the Coast Range

Our guidebook said to turn back here and return the way we’d come. We toyed with the idea of continuing on the Guadalupe Loop and started to do just that, but we weren’t certain if it was really in fact a loop or how long it might be. We decided not to tempt fate but then instead of going back the way we’d come we turned left at a sign for St. Juan Diego Pass and followed a grassy track downhill.
Trail at Trappist Abbey

A patch of purple caught our eyes on the hillside and it turned out to be an iris that was weighted down a bit with water.
Iris

ChipmunkThis chipmunk also caught our attention.

We followed the path for a little over half a mile before popping back out on the Guadalupe Loop near the fork with the gated road where we turned left and hiked the mile back down to the parking area.
Trappist Abbey

It turned out to be a beautiful day (once we thawed out from the initial frozen hands at Miller Woods) with a total of 8.2 miles of hiking (4.4 at Miller Woods and 3.8 at Trappist Abbey). There were very few folks out, we saw two trail runners at Miller Woods and passed a handful of groups at Trappist Abbey, had some wildlife encounters, and spotted a few Spring flowers along the way. Hopefully things will settle down sooner rather than later with the corona virus but until then stay safe and Happy Trails!

Flickr: Miller Woods and Trappist Abbey