Tag Archives: Lower Twin Lake

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

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

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

IMG_0575Rock Creek Butte to the south

IMG_0560Looking east toward the Wallowas

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

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 2

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

IMG_0218Close-up of the doe

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

IMG_0310Rock Creek Butte is still a little ways away.

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

IMG_0330Nearing the saddle.

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

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

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

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

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

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 2

Lower White River Wilderness and Twin Lakes Loop

We took advantage of a favorable weather forecast and ended our “hiking season” with a pair of hikes south of Mt. Hood in two separate wilderness areas. Our first hike was in the Lower White River Wilderness.

Designated a wilderness area in 2009, the 4 square mile Lower White River Wilderness has no official trails. The narrow wilderness SE of Mt. Hood covers a portion of the White River and it’s canyon on either side from Keeps Mill Forest Camp for approximately 7.5 miles. A use trail from the forest camp follows the river a short distance and this was our planned route into the wilderness.
Lower White River Wilderness Sign

Keeps Mill Forest Camp is located at the end of Road 2120 which is accessed from Highway 216. The narrow dirt road is poorly maintained along the final mile and a half making it suitable only for high clearance vehicles. Instead of driving all the way down to the camp we parked at a pullout near the Camas Trail which crosses Road 2120 on it’s way from Camas Prairie to Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Camas Trail sign along Road 2010

We followed the Camas Trail down to the campground. It was still pretty dark and also fairly foggy when we arrived back on Road 2120 near the entrance of Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Keep's Mill Forest Camp

The campground is located near the confluence of Clear Creek and the White River.
Clear Creek
Clear Creek

White River
White River

We found the use trail along the river and followed it for about half a mile where it appeared to become fairly brushy.

Lower White River Wilderness

White River

Lower White River Wilderness

The trail had been traveling between the river and a talus slope where the remains of an old flume could be seen amid the rocks.
Talus slope with the remains of an old flume

Old flume remains in the Lower White River Wilderness

We turned around here having accomplished our goal of hiking into the wilderness and seeing some of the flume remains and headed back to the campground and up the Camas Trail.
Camas Trail

Fog and a little blue sky over the talus slope along the Camas Trail

When we got back to where we’d parked Heather spotted a doe that quickly fled into the forest. The hike had been just under 2 miles with approximately 250′ of elevation gain climbing up the Camas Trail.

We hopped back into the car and headed toward Mt. Hood turning off Highway 26 at the Frog Lake Sno-Park for our next hike.
Frog Lake Sno-Park sign

Our planned hike here was a loop visiting Palmateer Point, the Twin Lakes, Frog Lake Butte, and Frog Lake. We began by heading north from the large parking lot on a short connector trail that brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Frog Lake Sno-Park

We turned right on the PCT at a sign for Barlow Pass.
Trail sign for Barlow Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

After 1.4 miles we arrived a trail junction with the Twin Lakes Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Mt. Hood Wilderness boundary

Turning right on the Twin Lakes Trail would have led past Lower then Upper Twin Lake before returning to the PCT 1.4 miles to the north after traveling a total of 3.1 miles. We had a longer loop planned so we stuck to the PCT and entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Pacific Crest Trail entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness

There were no views along this section of the PCT but it was a pleasant forest walk and we kept busy spotting all the different mushrooms along the trail.
Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Pacific Crest Trail

We passed the other end of the Twin Lakes Trail sticking to the PCT for another 3/4 miles to the Palmateer Trail.
Twin Lakes Trail

Palmeteer Trail

We turned onto the Palmateer Trail and followed it for nearly a mile passing a junction with the Devil’s Half Acre Trail along the way.
Palmateer Trail

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

We forked left at a post after .9 miles.
Spur trail to Palmateer Point

This .3 mile spur trail led up to Palmateer Point.
Heading to Palmateer Point

View along the spur trail to Palmateer Point

We were hoping for a close up view of Mt. Hood but found that a jumble of clouds were preventing that.
Mt. Hood behind clouds from Palamteer Point

We took a break on the point watching a pair of hawks soaring nearby and admiring the golden larches in the valley below.
One of two hawks flying around Palmateer Point

Hawk on Palmateer Point

Larches

Larches

This was our first good look at the larches, the only deciduous conifers, sporting their fall colors.

After getting a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood’s summit we headed back down to continue our loop.
Mt. Hood hiding behind clouds from Palmateer Point

We passed in and out of small patches of fog for the next .6 miles to a junction with a .2 mile tie-trail that would have led to the Twin Lakes Trail.
Sunrays in the Mt. Hood Wilderness

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

This was the route equestrians would need to take, but we stuck to the Palmateer Trail heading for another viewpoint.
Palmateer Trail

Mt. Hood was still mostly hidden when we arrived at the small rocky viewpoint so it was once again the larches that were the highlight.
Mt. Hood from the Palmateer Trail

Larches in the valley below the Palmateer Trail

Larches

We followed the Palmateer Trail to it’s end at the Twin Lakes Trail along Upper Twin Lake.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood was starting to reveal more of itself as the day went on.
Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

We followed trails counter-clockwise around the lake getting an even better view of the mountain’s snowy summit from the lake’s southern end.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

When we arrived back at the Twin Lakes Trail we headed south down to Lower Twin Lake which was .7 miles away.
Trail junction near Upper Twin Lake

The lower lake is just off the Twin Lakes Trail and is accessed from the direction we were coming from by the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail sign near Lower Twin Lake

Lower Twin Lake

Again we did a counter-clockwise loop around the lake.
Lower Twin Lake

The quickest way back to the sno-park would have been to return to the Twin Lakes Trail and follow it back to the Pacific Crest Trail for a 9.1 mile loop (not counting the loops around the lakes). By being willing to do an extra 4 miles though we could visit one more viewpoint and another lake by taking the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail led 1.3 miles to a junction on a saddle with the Frog Lake Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we turned uphill toward Frog Lake Butte climbing steeply for .7 miles to the summit.
Cell tower on Frog Lake Butte

The final portion of the trail followed Frog Lake Butte Road past a communications tower to a viewpoint where Mt. Hood was now mostly visible.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

We stayed at the viewpoint for awhile watching as the clouds slowly passed by.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

When we were satisfied that we’d gotten about as good a view as we were going to get we headed back down to the Frog Lake Trail and continued downhill on it.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail crossed Frog Lake Butte Road before entering what appeared to be an old clear cut where we had a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

After 1.3 miles we arrived at the Frog Lake Campground where we detoured briefly to get a look at Frog Lake.
Frog Lake

Frog Lake

A .7 mile walk along Frog Lake Butte Road brought us back to the sno-park and our waiting car.
Frog Lake Butte Road

The loop came to 14.1 miles which was nicely broken up into shorter sections by the various sights and trail junctions. It was a very enjoyable hike on a great weather day and a perfect end to our 2016 hiking season. We’ll try and get out on a trail at least once a month until next year’s season starts. For now – Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672250482753

Twin Lakes & Battle Ax Mountain – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

As we transition into Fall our hiking destinations begin to shift away from alpine views and wildflowers in favor of lower elevation viewpoints and lakes. It is a great time for these hikes since the mosquitoes that plague many of the lakes have thinned out and the vine maple and huckleberry leaves have begun to change color. Our most recent hike combined both of these features.

We made our first trip to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for a 15.4 mile hike visiting Twin Lakes and the summit of Battle Ax Mountain. Before we could set off on the hike though we had to make the drive to Elk Lake which meant enduring five and a half miles of awful gravel roads. We parked at the Elk Lake Campground and once I managed to pry my hands from the steering wheel we made a quick trip down to the lake to have a look.
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From the campground we had to walk back up the entrance road .4 miles and then continue another .4 miles on road 4697 to the start of the Bagby Trail #544.
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The Bagby Trail wound beneath Battle Ax Mountain passing several ponds and crossing a number of rock fields in the first two miles.
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Battle Ax Mountain

At the two mile mark the Battle Ax Mountain Trail joined from the left (our return route). Views of Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters began to materialize as we continued along the Bagby Trail.
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We traveled on a ridge for another 1.5 miles to a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail 573. The Bagby Trail was closed here due to a small fire smoldering in the wilderness between Bagby Hot Springs and this junction. We were headed toward Twin Lakes though so we turned down trail 573 and began the 1.9 mile section to Upper Twin Lake.
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The colors and reflections of Upper Twin Lake were impressive.
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Upper Twin Lake

We passed around the lake and headed toward the former trail 573A that used to go to Lower Twin Lake. The trail was overrun by the Mother Lode Fire in 2011 and was subsequently left unmaintained by the Forest Service. We located the old trail and began following it the best we could. As we approached the lake the fireweed was profuse and although most of it was finished blooming it still made for an interesting sight.
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Although the side of the lake we were on had burned in the fire the far side had been spared.
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Lower Twin Lake

We noticed some flagging tape when we were ready to leave and hoped it would lead us to a better path back to trail 573. Instead we found an old toilet.
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We then came to a dry creek bed which the map showed leading back to almost the same point we left trail 573 so we decided to try following it back up to the trail.
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As we made our way up the creek bed we began to encounter some water and some of the local residents.
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The water increased just as the creek was squeezing between two hillsides which forced us to abandon that route and head cross country up the hill on our left. We managed to relocate the abandoned trail and follow it back to 573. We then headed back the way we’d come until we reached the Battle Ax Mountain Trail. At that point we forked up hill to the right and began the fairly steep climb to the former lookout site.
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One of the reasons we saved Battle Ax for the return trip was to allow the Sun to move overhead which would hopefully give us better views of the mountains to our east. That plan paid off and as we climbed we added more and more mountains to the view.
Mt. Jefferson:
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Mt. Hood behind the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods:
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Mt. Rainier behind Silver King Mountain:
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Mt. Adams behind Pansy Mountain and South Dicky Peak:
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Eventually we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood with the Washington Cascades in the background.
Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier from Battle Ax Mountain

To the SE was Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack.
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The ridge began to flatten out as we neared the summit with views all around. From below it hadn’t looked as long and flat on top.
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Working our way south along the ridge Elk Lake became visible far below.
View from Battle Ax Mountain

Finally Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack in the view to the South.
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We could also see smoke from the 36 Pit fire near Estacada, OR but the wind was blowing it to the East and there hadn’t been much of a plume until a little after 1:00 when it suddenly picked up.

Smoke from the 36 Pit fire prior to 1pm:
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Plume around 1:30:
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Smoke plume from the 36 Pit fire and Mt. Hood

We learned later that the fire had jumped across the South Fork Clackamas River due to the strong winds.

After a nice rest at the old lookout site we began our descent down the South side of the mountain.
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The trail switchbacked down through open, rocky terrain, with plenty of views of Mt.Jefferson.
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Mt. Jefferson

After a mile and a half descent we arrived at Beachie Saddle.
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From the saddle trails lead to Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek Wilderness, Mt. Beachie and French Creek Ridge in that same wilderness, and back to Elk Lake on an abandoned road which is the path we took.
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Back at the campground it was hard to imagine the long summit ridge looking back up at Battle Ax Mountain.
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It was a good early start to our Fall hiking season and it put us over 500 miles for the year. Now we just had to make it back out over the horrible gravel roads. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157647848590435/
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