Tag Archives: hiking

Forest Park – Wildwood Trail & Leif Erikson Drive Loop

Heather and I recently celebrated our 23rd anniversary with a morning hike in Portland’s Forest Park followed by dinner at Sisters Irish Bistro in Salem.

We started our hike at the Germantown Road Trailhead where the Wildwood Trail crosses the road.
Wildwood Trail at Germantown Road Trailhead

We chose this loop due to the presence of some low clouds. This section of trail didn’t offer the mountain views that some others do so we thought it was a good day for it. From the parking area we headed south on the Wildwood Trail which briefly climbed before leveling out on a hillside.
Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

We followed the Wildwood Trail for a little over four and a quarter miles through the foggy forest. Junctions were well marked along the way with maps located at several of them.
Forest Park from the Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail junction with the Waterline TrailWaterline Trail junction

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood TrailMap at the Springville Road junction.

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail junction with the Ridge TrailRidge Trail junction

Wildwood Trail

We turned off of the Wildwood Trail at Fire Lane 7A which we followed downhill less than a quarter mile to a pointer for Leif Erikson Drive.
Wildwood Trail junction with Fire Lane 7A

Fire Lane 7A

Tie trail to Leif Erikson Dr.

A short path led fairly steeply down to the closed road where we turned left.
Leif Erikson Drive

Leif Erikson Drive

After one and a quarter mile on the road we came to the remains of an old building on the left.
Remains of an old building along Leif Erikson Drive

Remains of an old building along Leif Erikson Drive

A little over three miles after turning onto Leif Erikson Drive we arrived at another small parking lot along Germantown Road.
Leif Erikson Drive Trailhead along Germantown Road

Signboard for Leif Erikson Drive at Germantown Road

From this trailhead we followed the Cannon Trail uphill for a third of a mile back to the Germantown Road Trailhead and the Wildwood Trail.
Cannon Trail

Cannon Trail

Our loop was approximately 8.4 miles long with about 500′ of total elevation gain. It had been a good day for this particular hike and although we saw quite a few other people it never felt overly crowded. Shorter (or longer) loops could be done using the numerous other trails in the area.

Dinner at Sisters Irish Bistro was a perfect way to end our anniversary celebration, the food was excellent and so was the relaxing atmosphere. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park

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Amanda’s Trail to Cape Perpetua

As we approached the final hike of our official “hiking season” (May through October) we were playing a game of cat and mouse with the weather forecast. Our original plan had been a visit to Wahtum Lake between the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood but on Wednesday the forecast for Saturday was rain there so we began to look elsewhere. Our November hike (we try and do one a hike month in our “off-season”) was going to be a visit to Cape Perpetua via Amanda’s Trail so we checked the forecast for that area and it simply called for mostly cloudy conditions. We checked again on Thursday and the forecast for these locations had basically swapped and now Wahtum Lake looked better. Another check Friday night called for rain in both areas (more at Wahtum Lake) so we decided to check again in the morning before deciding where we would end up. The forecast the next morning was still calling for rain at both locations but not starting until 11am. With less precipitation expected at Cape Perpetua and views being less of a concern there we headed to Yachats on the Oregon Coast.

At the southern end of Yachats, after crossing over the Yachats River, we turned right on Ocean View Road which leads to the Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site. The road passes along the natural site where there are several pullouts before looping back to Highway 101. We parked at a small dirt pullout near the southern end of the natural site and took our time getting going because we’d arrived a little before sunrise.
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Luckily there was a decent amount of light being provided by the Moon so it didn’t take long before we headed further south along Ocean View Road to a post marking the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT).
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We followed the posts south which brought us to the shoulder of Highway 101.
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A little under a quarter mile beyond the first OCT post the trail crossed over the highway at Windy Way Street. We then climbed a bit away from the highway before dropping back down to a driveway for a bed and breakfast.
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The first sign that this section of the OCT is Amanda’s Trail came on the far side of the B&B when the trail reentered the forest.
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The trail once again climbed away from the highway as it rounded a hillside with a few ocean views.
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Approximately a half mile from the bed and breakfast we came to a statue of two bears representing an Alsea Indian myth that bears dance when the salmon come. Norman Kittle, whose name is on the statue, along with his wife Joanne were the first private landowners to donate a trail easement in the State of Oregon.
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Beyond the bear statue the trail began a slight decent, crossing a gravel road, before arriving at the small grotto with Amanda’s Statue ( a quarter mile from the bears).
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Interpretive signs here told of the blind woman’s forced march to the reservation.
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The present statue is not the original statue as it and a nearby footbridge were washed away in a 2016 flood. The current statue is one of two others completed by the same artist and was provided by its owners when the original statue was lost. This version was placed a bit higher to avoid any subsequent floods. Other precautions to protect the statue have been taken as well.
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After visiting the statue we continued on across the replaced footbridge.
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Beyond the creek the trail climbed nearly 750′ as it turned inland up a forested ridge.
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A mile from the bridge we had left the ridge and traversed around a marshy area near the head of North Cape Creek.
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After a little additional climbing on the other side of the creek the trail began to descend along this ridge toward the ocean. A mile and a quarter from North Cape Creek we arrived at a signed junction.
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Here we stayed right following pointers for the Stone Shelter on what was now the Whispering Spruce Trail.
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We had visited the shelter in 2013 (post) on what was part of the first outing featured in this blog.

A little less than a quarter mile from the junction we arrived at the shelter.
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It was a surprisingly nice morning considering the forecast and we were happy to have a good view from the shelter.
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After a brief rest we continued on passing another viewpoint before reaching a junction with the St. Perpetua Trail.
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I mentioned that we had visited the stone shelter in 2013 but that had not been our first visit to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. In 2010 we had stopped here to visit the tide pools on the way home from a hike in the Drift Creek Wilderness (post). One thing we had not seen on either of our previous trips was the Giant Spruce, a nearly 600 year old State Heritage Tree.

With that goal in mind we took the St. Perpetua Trail downhill toward the Cape Perpetua Campground.
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Shortly after crossing Overlook Road, which leads to a trailhead along the Whispering Spruce Loop, we arrived at the campground entrance road.
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Behind the restrooms the trail continues across Cape Creek.
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On the far side of the creek we turned left on the Giant Spruce Trail.
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This trail followed the creek upstream for .8 miles to the 185′ high tree with a trunk circumference of 40′.
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We are always awestruck when we visit any of the giant old trees in person. It’s nearly impossible to capture just how huge they really are in photos. In addition to their size their age always forces us to pause and try and picture the timeline of their growth. This tree would have likely been a sapling at the same time Christopher Columbus was lost looking for a route to Asia.

After visiting the tree we returned to the junction near the footbridge at the campground. The weather was holding nicely so we decided to check out the Spouting Horn and Devil’s Churn areas. We followed the Giant Spruce Trail .2 miles to the visitors center where we picked up the Captain Cooks Trails.
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We followed this paved trail under Highway 101 to a viewpoint.
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From the viewpoint the Captain Cook Trail went left making a loop with views of the Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well while the Trail of Restless Waters was to the right leading to Devil’s Churn. We decided to visit them in the opposite order of our 2010 visit and went right first. This trail briefly followed the shoulder of the highway past a small parking area and vista before dropping toward the ocean.
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We crossed over Cape Creek and then followed the trail, keeping left at junctions, to a staircase down to Devil’s Churn.
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There was some decent wave action going on and we watched if for awhile.
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The crashing waves didn’t seem to bother a lone cormorant that was hunting for food in the churn.
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Speaking of food after we climbed back up the stairs we continued on a loop above Devil’s Churn to the Devil’s Churn Day Use Area where we wound up buying a lemon muffin from the concession stand there.
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After splitting the muffin we completed the loop and returned to the Captain Cook Trail.
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We stayed left at a fork in order to complete the loop clockwise.
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The tide had been out far enough on our previous visit that the Spouting Horn had not been spouting but today was different.
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We also hadn’t even noticed Thor’s Well that day but this time we knew what we were looking for and the Ocean was more cooperative.
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It was a bit of a zoo with people in the area though so we didn’t stay long and were soon heading back up the St. Perpetua Trail and past the shelter where the view had become much cloudier.
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The rain mostly held off as we made the two and a quarter mile horseshoe through the forest along the ridges above North Cape Creek between the shelter and Amanda’s Statue.
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By the time we reached the grotto, where we encountered a Boy Scout Troop, a steady light rain was falling. The rain continued to pick up as we made our way back to the Highway 101 crossing south of Yachats.
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Overall it had been an excellent day, the rain had held off long enough for us to get some nice views and stay relatively dry without having to put on our rain gear. We got to finish up the trails in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and had unintentionally timed it better for the Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well. Oh and we also had that delicious lemon muffin mid-hike so yeah it was a pretty good way to end our 2018 hiking season. We do plan on getting a couple more hikes in this year but from November through April we drop down to just one outing (or so) a month. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Amanda’s Trail to Cape Perpetua

Link River Nature Trail

Two weeks after a last minute hiking trip to the Klamath Falls area we had a different reason to head back down to that city, my Aunt LaVonne and Uncle Ron’s 50th wedding anniversary. The celebration wouldn’t be starting until the afternoon, so before the festivities began we took a short hike with our son Dominique along the Link River Nature Trail.

After being chauffeured to the trailhead by my parents (who did their own shorter version of the hike) we set off along the trail which was actually a closed roadbed behind a chain link gate.

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The road paralleled the river which flows between Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna.

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From the very start the trail lived up to being called a nature trail as a number of different birds could be seen in and around the water.

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At the .4 mile mark we passed the dam that created the lake behind it.

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Just beyond the dam the trail crosses a canal on bridge.

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At the half mile mark we left the roadbed at a post for Klamath Falls and made our way to the river just downstream from the small cascades.

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After visiting the falls we returned to the trail and continued to follow the river toward Lake Ewauna through a desert canyon where there were plenty more birds.

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IMG_4636Coots

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IMG_4663White pelican, coots, and a cormorant

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After one and three quarters of a mile we arrived at the southern end of this section of trail at w parking lot near a power station. Here we crossed Main Street near the Flavell Museum and then also crossed Highway 39 at a crosswalk into a small parking area for the Klamath Wingwatchers Nature Trail.

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This trail passed underneath Highway 97 and brought us to Lake Ewauna.

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The trail itself wasn’t much to write home about as it passed between the lake and the busy highway, but the number and variety of birds made up for the traffic.

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After about a quarter mile on this trail we came to a fork signed “Loop B”.

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This was the beginning of a .8 mile loop around a couple of old mill ponds. We decided to go around the ponds counter-clockwise so we stayed right. We saw birds everywhere – in the ponds, on the lake, and in the sky.

IMG_4713Mallards and other birds

IMG_4706Canada geese

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IMG_4710Great blue heron among others

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After completing the loop we headed back, recrossed the roads, and returned to the trailhead along Lakeshore Drive. We spotted several additional types of birds that we hadn’t seen earlier and many that we had.

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IMG_4746Another jay

IMG_4750Great blue heron on the rocks

IMG_4731Common merganser

IMG_4762Hooded mergansers (in the foreground)

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IMG_4759Western grebe

In addition to all the birds we did see two garter snakes slither into the grass and my parents spotted a muskrat and a deer on their hike. For a short, in town hike it had provided a lot of wildlife over the 5 mile round trip.

We spent the afternoon at the anniversary party with a whole different type of wildlife :). Happy Trails!

Flick: Link River Nature Trail

Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

One week after spending a day hiking in California at the Lava Beds National Monument (post) we visited our neighbor to the north, Washington. On our itinerary for the day were a pair of hikes north of Carson, WA. We started with a visit to Falls Creek Falls.

We parked at the trailhead at the end of Forest Road 57 where only one other car occupied the large parking area at 7:15am. The dim morning light coupled with some low clouds made it hard to capture the fall colors with the camera but our eyes had no problems appreciating them as we set off on the trail.
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We quickly passed a trail on the left which would be part of the loop we were planning on doing here and stayed straight toward the falls.
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At the .4 mile mark we arrived at a short suspension bridge over Falls Creek.
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Beyond the bridge the trail climbed gradually for a mile to a junction. Along the way there were several views of the creek.
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At the junction we stayed right and continued to gradually climb for another .3 miles to three tiered Falls Creek Falls. The first views are of the upper and middle tiers through some trees.
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The lower tier comes into view near the end of the trail at which point most of the upper tier is lost due to the angle.
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We spent a few chilly minutes admiring the falls before heading back to the junction.
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Here we veered uphill to the right climbing fairly steeply for about two tenths of a mile to the Falls Creek Trail.
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Before continuing on the loop we turned right on the Falls Creek Trail to visit a viewpoint or two above the falls. After .6 miles on this fairly level trail we spotted a side trail heading out to the first viewpoint. We started to head out this spur but then noticed a tent set up there (we found the owners of the other car) so we continued another quarter mile to the second viewpoint.
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The view from the top was just out over the valley, but a steep scramble trail led down to the top of the falls from here. We checked to see if the ground seemed muddy or slick, but it turned out to be in good shape so we made our way down to the creek just above the falls.
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From the viewpoint we returned to the loop and continued down the Falls Creek Trail 1.7 miles to another bridge over Falls Creek which we hadn’t seen since the viewpoint. Despite the creek not being visible from the trail the scenery was not lacking due to the surrounding forest and fall colors.
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At the far side of the bridge we turned left for a little over half a mile completing the loop and returning to our car, and a much fuller parking lot.
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After the 6.3 mile hike here we were ready for the second hike of the day to the Indian Heaven Wilderness and Red Mountain. We drove back toward Carson and eventually (after missing the turn the first time) turned east on Warren Gap Road (Road 405) at a pointer for the Panther Creek Campground. We followed this road for a little under two miles to Forest Road 65 where we turned left for 8 miles, passing the parking area for Panther Creek Falls (post) along the way, to a junction with FR 60. We turned right here and followed this road for two miles to the Pacific Crest Trail and a small campground.
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We followed the PCT north climbing gradually through the forest which looked quite different from the forest along Falls Creek just a few miles away.
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A little over 1.75 miles from the trailhead we passed one of the small Sheep Lakes.
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A quarter mile later we entered the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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Although there wasn’t as much fall color along this trail as there had been along the trails at Fall Creek there was some and there were also some interesting mushrooms to be seen.
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IMG_4469This may named be Green Lake

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As we hiked through a meadow we spotted the lookout tower on Red Mountain to the SW which was to be one of our stops on the hike.
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We turned left off of the PCT 1.2 miles after entering the wilderness at a sign for Indian Racetrack.
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This trail led a half mile through the forest to the large meadows at Indian Racetrack where up until 1928 tribes indeed raced horses.
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We turned left in the middle of the meadows toward a trail sign for the Indian Racetrack Trail.
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This trail climbed for .8 miles, steeply at times, to a road on the shoulder of Red Mountain. An opening just above a saddle along the way provided a nice view of Mt. Adams to the NE.
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We followed the road uphill for .3 miles to the lookout gaining views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along the way.
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IMG_4542Lemei Rock and Mt. Adams

Near the lookout Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson could be seen to the south in Oregon.
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We took a nice long break at the summit gazing at Washington’s trio of volcanoes and talking with a fellow hiker from Vancouver who had tried to reach the lookout earlier in the year but had been turned back by snow.
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IMG_4575Mt. St. Helens

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From the lookout we headed back down the road and followed it all the way back down to FR 60 a total of 3.4 miles from the tower.
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We were a half mile from the Pacfic Crest Trail so we road walked, uphill, back to our car. In hindsight it might have been nicer to do the loop in reverse in order to start with the road walks and finish the hike with a gradual descent. Either way it was a great hike, but we had been expecting it to be a 7.5 mile loop based on our guidebook, but our GPS (and our legs) put it at 9.2 miles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

Salmon Creek Falls

On Columbus Day morning we left Klamath Falls and headed home to Salem. We were planning on hiking on the way home, but we weren’t sure what hike we would be doing. If the weather was decent we were hoping to hike up The Twins near Waldo Lake and if it wasn’t we’d try the Salmon Creek Trail to Salmon Creek Falls near Oakridge.

It was dark at 5am as we headed north on Highway 97 but the stars where visible in the sky above. The stars were still out as we turned onto Highway 58 and began to head NW toward the Cascade Crest. The possibility of The Twins was still on the table, but by the time we had reached Crescent Junction the stars had been replaced by rain clouds. Salmon Creek Falls it was.

Just prior to reaching Oakridge we turned right onto Fish Hatchery Road and drove it’s length to Forest Road 24 where we turned right for .8 miles to the Flat Creek Road. Here we turned right and parked in a large gravel parking lot next to a small gazebo.
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The Salmon Creek Trail began a short distance down the road from the gazebo.
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After just a tenth of a mile we came to an unsigned junction where we turned left.
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A steady light rain was falling from the low clouds overhead as we followed this trail east past the Flat Creek Work Center and along Salmon Creek.
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It was an interesting trail in that it split in several areas only to rejoin a short distance later. A sort of pick your own adventure trail if you will. It also spent some time along the shoulder of FR 24 in areas where Salmon Creek had eroded the bank substantially.
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At other times the trail followed roadbeds.
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This led to a little confusion about the correct route, but it really didn’t matter as long as we kept heading east because the creek and FR 24 acted as rails on either side.

After a little over two and a half miles we arrived at a wide junction.
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A right turn here brought us to the site of a washed out bridge that used to connect to another trail on the south side of Salmon Creek.
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Just under a mile beyond the washed out bridge we arrived at the Salmon Creek Campground.
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We headed through an empty camp site and followed a path down to the creek and 10′ Salmon Creek Falls.
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It was a good day to visit the falls, the autumn colors were nice and there were no crowds around. After spending some time by the water we headed back keeping our eyes open for the small things that are easy to miss in the forest.
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It was a fairly easy 7.8 mile round trip hike and even though it rained almost the entire time we didn’t feel soaked. It was about as nice a hike as one could hope for on that kind of day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon Creek Falls

Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend was the only day of the four where the forecast in the Cascade Mountains looked promising so on that morning we headed west from Klamath Falls on Highway 140 to visit a pair of lakes near Mt. McLoughlin.

The skies over Klamtah were pretty much clear as was the case for most of the drive, but as we crossed over the Cascade Crest we found ourselves in a fog bank. We turned off the highway at sign for the North Fork Campground between mileposts 28 and 29. We parked at a small trailhead parking area a half mile down this road on the left.

It was a chilly morning in the fog as we set off on the Fish Lake Trail, but it wasn’t raining.
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The trail began by passing through a nice fir forest with occasional views of North Fork Little Butte Creek.
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After .6 miles we came to a signed spur trail which we followed 100 yards to the Fish Lake Dam.
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For the better part of the next mile the Fish Lake Trail veered away from the water as it curved around some private summer homes.
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When the trail did make it to the lake there wasn’t much to see due to the fog.
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The trail stuck closer to the lake shore for the next .8 miles before arriving at Doe Point and the Doe Point Campground. As we made our way around Doe Point the fog began to lift revealing some of the blue sky we had seen on our morning drive.
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A quarter mile after rounding Doe Point we arrived at the Fish Lake Campground and boat ramp where a variety of woodland animals were busy harvesting chinkapin.
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IMG_4072Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Our guidebook suggested turning around at the Fish Lake Resort, but we wound up losing the trail near the picnic shelter and decided not to try and walk through the campground to find the continuation of the trail and turned around.
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It was a different hike on the way back as the fog had entirely lifted from the lake and was breaking up overhead.
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By the time we were hiking back along the creek the sky was a beautiful blue.
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Typically having a hike only clear up near the end is a bit of a bummer, but we had another hike to go and with the clear skies we knew we should have a good view of Mt. McLoughlin from Lake of the Woods.

From the Fish Lake Trailhead we drove back east on Highway 140 to a sign for Fish Lake. We turned right at the sign and followed this road for a mile and a half to the Dead Indian Memorial Highway where we turned right again. The suggested starting point for this hike in our guidebook was at the Sunset Campground which was a mile down this highway. When we arrived at the entrance road we found it was gated so we turned around and wound up parking at the Rainbow Bay Picnic Area near the Lake of the Woods Resort after obtaining a $6 parking pass.
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From the parking lot we headed SE along the lake shore around Rainbow Bay where some ducks were enjoying the wonderful weather.
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The first mountain to come into view was Brown Mountain across the lake.
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Shortly after rounding the bay we arrived at the Sunset Campground where we did indeed have a nice view of Mt. McLoughlin. The mountain was sporting a dusting of new snow at its summit.
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We could picture the route up to the summit that we’d taken a couple of years before (post).
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Satisfied with our view we turned around and headed back toward the Rainbow Bay parking area. We weren’t done hiking though and we veered behind the parking lot on the Sunset Trail toward the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a three way junction we turned right onto the Family Trail Loop.
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The Family Trail Loop crossed the paved road we’d been on earlier after a tenth of a mile.
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Just after crossing the road the Mountain Lakes Trail split off to the right while we stayed left.
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Several interpretive signs were set up along this trail.
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We stayed left ignoring a tie trail that would have looped us back to the Mountian Lakes Trail junction and arrived at the Great Meadow .6 miles from the road crossing.
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At a junction with the High Lakes Trail at the Great Meadow we turned left skirting the meadow in the forest for .7 miles to another road crossing across from the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a junction on the other side of the road we went right keeping on the High Lakes Trail which led around Lake of the Woods to the NW. This section of trail passed some golden aspen trees and a leaf covered slough where ducks, geese, and a heron were spending their Sunday.
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We followed this trail past an old Forest Service complex and planned on turning around at the guidebooks suggested location, a small canoe launch.
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The canoe launch wasn’t much, but there was a nice view of some of the peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness (post) across the water.
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A solitary duck was swimming around in the launch and it apparently expected us to have some food because she came right up to us.
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We did our best to explain that we don’t feed the wild animals and she waddled back to the water. At that point Heather asked about something on a plank in the water that I had originally thought was another duck but then decided it was just a rock set on the wood. She had taken it for something inanimate as well but then thought she saw it move. Upon closer inspection we discovered that it was a muskrat (initially we thought nutria but it was cuter than that invasive species).
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It wasn’t particularly concerned by us but eventually it disappeared into the water. Then a dragon fly showed up and hovered over the water just below me.
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After our unique little interaction with nature it was time to start back. We returned to the Aspen Point Campground and followed paths near the lake shore back to the Lake of The Woods Resort.
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Our hike here was 6.3 miles long while the hike at Fish Lake had been 7 miles giving us a nice 13.3 mile day. After the cold, foggy start the day had turned out beautiful. We would be heading home the next morning (with a stop along the way of course) and this was a perfect way to end our time in the Klamath Falls area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Lava Beds National Monument

We spent the second day of our Klamath Falls trip in California visiting the Lava Beds National Monument. It had started raining Friday afternoon and continued overnight, but by morning the clouds were beginning to break up leaving scattered showers to make their way across the landscape. This made for some dramatic scenery on our drive from Klamath Falls to the National Monument, especially along Tule Lake. We took advantage of a couple of the numerous pullouts that are part of the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge to admire the colorful sky and numerous waterfowl on the lake.
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The fee booth (currently $20/per car) was closed at the north entrance of the Monument so we had to drive to the Visitor Center to obtain a pass which was 9.7 miles away.
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It was a little before 8am and the Visitor Center didn’t open until 9am but we were able to pay with a fee envelope. What we couldn’t do was obtain a cave permit though, which are required to visit any of the area caves. The threat of White Nose Syndrome has made screening by Park Rangers necessary. We’d need to come back for that but in the meantime we headed back north to the Black Crater Trailhead.
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From this trailhead there were two destinations, Black Crater and an overlook of the Thomas-Wright battlefield.
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Each destination shares the first tenth of a mile of trail. The overnight rain had brought out the sweet smell of sagebrush to which Heather pointed out that smell is one thing that you can’t capture in photos.
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We decided to visit Black Crater first and took the right hand fork when the trail split.
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This trail passed over a lava flow arriving at the start of a short .3 mile loop that climbed up and around part of the splatter cone. We took notice of a peak to the NW that appeared to have a cloud stuck to its summit. It turned out to be Mount Dome, and for much of the rest of the day we kept watch on this peak to see if it would ever be cloud free.
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IMG_3575Tule Lake

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Although not nearly as large, Black Crater did remind us a little of Coffee Pot Crater which we’d visited in June (post).

After completing the loop we headed for the battlefield. It was just over a mile from the fork to the viewpoint and the trail spent this time passing volcanic formations and a few lingering wildflowers.
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The Thomas-Wright battle took place on April 26, 1873 when an Army patrol was defeated by the Modocs.
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After reading up on the battle we headed back to the trailhead and drove back to the now open Visitor Center. We spent some time looking at the displays inside before obtaining our cave permit. We hung the permit in our car and headed for Mushpot Cave. After initially starting to drive Cave Loop Road we realized that Mushpot Cave was actually right next to the Visitor Center so we turned around and parked back once again at the center.

At the far end of the center we spotted the sign for the cave.
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A .2 mile paved path led to the entrance of the lava tube.
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This is the only lighted cave in the Monument and also featured a paved path lined with interpretive signs.
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The lava tube is 770′ in length and does have a spot or two where we needed to duck under the low ceiling. We exited the cave and returned to our car. Since we were only there for the day we skipped the rest of the caves along the loop (a few were closed for bat mating season). Instead we drove north, once again, from the Visitor Center to a sign for Skull Cave where we turned right. After a mile we pulled into a small trailhead parking area for Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave.
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The short trail here passes several collapsed sections of a lava tube and offers a good view of Schonchin Butte.
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We turned left at a sign for Big Painted Cave.
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The signed cave entrance was only about 100′ along the spur trail.
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More of an overhang than a cave, a path led down to the entrance.
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We honestly couldn’t make out any of the pictographs, the colored rocks made it difficult to tell what was natural and what wasn’t. It’s been a common theme for us when visiting pictograph sites.

We returned to the main trail and continued the short distance to Symbol Bridge.
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Again a short path led down to the cave entrance, but this time the pictographs were clearly evident.
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We headed back to the car happy to have finally been able to make out some drawings. After completing the two mile hike we continued driving north to a sign for Merrill Cave where we turned left for almost a mile to the shared Whitney Butte and Merrill Cave Trailhead.
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Up until this point we had been following the recommended hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” 3rd edition, but these were from Bubba Suess’s “Hiking Northern California” book.
We started with the short path to Merrill Cave. An interpretive sign at the entrance told a familiar story, warming temperatures have led to the loss of ice in this cave like many others. 😦
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We descended the metal staircase and followed a metal walkway through the cave.
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Near its end there was a metal ladder dropping down into an opening.
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The rails actually did have a little ice on them as we climbed down into the lower chamber where the path quickly ended.
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We climbed back out of the cave and then started down the Whitney Butte Trail. One exciting prospect of the Whitney Butte Trail was that it would take us into the Lava Beds Wilderness.
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This was by far the longest hike we’d tackle on the day but was still just a little under 7 miles round trip. The Whitney Butte Trail began by passing through open sagebrush then skirted around an old lava flow.
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For much of the hike out, Mount Dome lay almost straight ahead and it was still holding onto its cloud cover. The trails namesake, Whitney Butte, stayed hidden for the first mile and a half before revealing itself to the left of the trail.
IMG_3740Whitney Butte to the left and Mount Dome to the right.

Approximately 2.2 miles into the hike we passed a trail signed for Gold Digger Road.
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The clouds had actually increased a bit during the day and we were feeling occasional rain drops which weren’t a big deal, but the cloud cover did put a hamper on the views. Many lower buttes were visible but the higher peaks were hidden.
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As we passed by Whitney Butte we began scouting out a route down. Our plan was to follow a suggested off trail visit to the top of the butte described in the guidebook. The most gently sloping ridge appeared to come down the eastern side of the butte.
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We stayed on the Whitney Butte Trail until it ended at the Callahan Lava Flow.
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From the lava we turned left and headed up Whitney Butte.
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It was a relatively easy scramble which provided some nice views despite not being able to see Mt. Shasta or Mt. McLoughlin due to the cloud cover. On the other hand Mount Dome finally broke free of the last of its clouds.
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In addition to the views we spotted some wildlife.
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On top of the butte we stayed left around a pair of craters and attempted to descend on the ridge we’d picked out on the way by.
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We actually overshot it a bit but still had no problem coming down the old cinder cone and reconnecting with the Whitney Butte Trail. The clouds were now breaking up again as we headed back to the trailhead. Our next destination, Schonchin Butte, was visible for most of the hike back.
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After finishing the hike we once again drove a short distance north to a signed gravel road for Schonchin Butte. After a mile of good gravel we parked at the trailhead and started up the Schonchin Butte Trail.
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The trail was well graded and the views were great making the climb feel fairly easy.
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After .6 miles the trail split allowing for a loop around the crater and past the Schonchin Butte Lookout.
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As we made our way around the loop we got a view down to the Symbol Bridge Trail.
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The lookout tower was perched on lava rocks that looked like bricks.
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Along the deck were identifiers for the area landmarks, some visible and some not.
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After identifying the landmarks that were visible we completed the loop and returned to our car. From Schonchin Butte we drove back to the fee booth at the northern park entrance and turned right onto Rim Road for 3.2 miles to a signed pullout for Captain Jack’s Stronghold.
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Here two loops (short and long) explore the area where a small force of Modoc held out against the U.S. Army in 1872-73.
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We unfortunately did not grab a trail guide for the interpretive trail which we greatly regretted. After climbing a small hill a trail sign pointed out the shared beginning of both loops.
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The trail led through lava formations with narrow passages and small caves. Numbered signs along the way marked items that we could have read about if we had grabbed a guide.
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At the .3 mile mark the loops split with the shorter return route to the right and the longer loop to the left. We went left.
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The long loop was a mile and a half versus a half mile for the short loop option. The extra mile was well worth it even without the companion trail guide. Near the end of the loop we spotted a pair of deer munching on some leaves.
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We had one final stop planned before leaving the Monument for good so when we got back to our car we continued east on what became County Road 120 following signs for Petroglyph Point. Along the way we briefly reentered the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge where we wound up stopping again to gawk at the wildlife.
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We left County Road 120 when prompted by the signage and soon found ourselves pulling into a large parking area near the base of Petroglyph Point.
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Here we walked along a fence (to protect the thousands of petroglyphs)for .3 miles marveling at all the designs.
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The cliffs above were fairly impressive on their own.
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After spending quite a while contemplating the art we headed back to Klamath Falls. It was a full day for sure having spent over 10 hours in the Monument and logging around 16.5 miles but well worth the time and effort. Even with all of that there is still much left there to explore on our next visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lava Beds National Monument