Tag Archives: Mt. Hood

Devil’s Peak

The end of September/beginning of October brings us a pair of birthday celebrations, my Grandma on 9/30 and our Son on 10/1. We planned a joint celebration dinner in Portland but before the festivities we headed out on a hike to work up an appetite.

Due to the plans we needed a hike near Portland in the 8 to 10 mile range and hiking up the Cool Creek Trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout fit the bill perfectly. We headed out early to the Cool Creek Trailhead. Oddly our guidebook had us turn on Road 20 at the east end of Rhododendron, OR instead of west of Rohododendron on Still Creek Road which is how the Forest Service directions have you go. We followed the guidebook directions only to be turned back by a closed bridge and had to go back to Still Creek Road. After finding the open route to the trailhead we parked along the shoulder of the road and set off on the Cool Creek Trail.
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The trail started with a steep incline, a reminder that it needed to gain over 3000′ over the next 4 miles. Not far from the trailhead we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail is mostly forested with a few glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees.
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The best early view came just over a mile along the trail. For about two tenths of a mile the trail passed along an open hillside with a view across the valley to Mt. Hood.
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The trail then passed around to the other side of a ridge where it pretty much remained for the next two miles. The forest here still housed a good number of red and blue huckleberries.
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There were sections of more level trail in the forest which gave a nice break from the climbing, but also meant that the elevation would need to be made up on the sections of uphill.
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Approximately 3.25 miles from the trailhead a spur to the left led to a rocky ridge top which provided what turned out to be the best viewpoint of the day.
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IMG_3232The rocky ridge

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From this point four Cascades were visible, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
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IMG_3207Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3209Mt. Rainier

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Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (post) was also clearly visible to the NE.
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Beyond the ridge viewpoint the trail traversed the hillside on the west side of the ridge climbing for another quarter mile past one more viewpoint of Mt. Hood to its end at the Hunchback Trail.
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A spur trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout is just 500 feet after turning right onto the Hunchback Trail.
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The lookout is a little over 200 feet up this spur.
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The tower is available for use on a first come, first serve basis so there was a possibility that it was occupied but it turned out to be empty.
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Mt. Hood was visible from the lookout.
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I had gone ahead of Heather and Dominique who had joined us for the hike so I explored Devil’s Peak while I waited for them to arrive.
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IMG_3263Mt. Jefferson in some haze to the south.

IMG_3268Mt. Hood

IMG_3272Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

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IMG_3300Clouds coming up the Salmon River Valley

IMG_3339Butterflies on the lookout.

IMG_3346One of several birds foraging in the bushes near the lookout.

It turned out that I had gotten quite a bit ahead and wound up spending about an hour and a half at the tower watching the clouds break up above while they also moved in below.
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After they joined me at the lookout they took a break as well then we headed back down. At the ridge viewpoint the view of Mt. Hood was better than it had been earlier, but not for the other Cascades.
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We continued back down stopping to gather some huckleberries to take to my Grandmas house. We wound up passing beneath the clouds losing Mt. Hood for the last mile and a half.
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It was a tough 8 mile hike given the elevation gain but the views were well worth the effort. That effort was also rewarded with a nice birthday dinner and a tasty piece of cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Peak

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Salmon River Overnight

For our first overnight outing of 2018 we chose the Salmon River Trail which we had previously visited on August 30, 2015. (post) That hike included approximately 3.5 miles of the 14 mile trail from the west trailhead. This time we would start from the east trailhead with our plan being to set up camp somewhere along the trail then continue to same viewpoint where we had turned around on our previous visit to complete the trail.

Before we could start our hike though we needed to get some water since the city of Salem’s water had been testing positive for a toxin. We stopped at the Trillium Lake picnicking area on our way to the trailhead and filled our packs there. We didn’t take the time to visit the lake since we were on a mission to start hiking but we did stop again on they way home to see the lake and its view of Mt. Hood.
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After filling up on water we continued to the trailhead where we were the only vehicle. The trailhead also serves as the north trailhead for the Jackpot Meadows Trail.
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We took the signed Salmon River Trail and headed downhill.
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The trail descended in the first quarter mile to a footbridge over Mud Creek which flows from Trillium Lake.
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This was the only creek crossing with an official bridge. Over the next mile and a half the trail would cross Fir Tree Creek three separate times.
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Between the first and second crossings the trail passed a now abandoned section of trail that led up to the Dry Fir Trail.
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It also passed through some nice forest with rhododendron beginning to bloom along with a little beargrass.
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Beyond the third crossing of Fir Tree Creek we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and passed through a variety of scenery.
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The trail also crossed more creeks.
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We had passed a few possible campsites but felt they were too close to the trailhead, but after 5.5 miles we came to a junction with the Linney Creek Trail.
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We had spotted some potential campsites along the Salmon River from above just before the junction so we turned down the Linney Creek Trail to check them out.
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The remnants of an old bridge could be seen on the far side of the Salmon River where the Linney Creek Trail used to cross.
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There was a nice large established campsite here which we claimed and set up camp.
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After getting set up we switched to our day packs and climbed the short distance back up to the Salmon River Trail and continued west. For the next three miles the trial continued above the Salmon River to a junction with the Kinzel Lake Trail. We began seeing more flowers along this stretch and also saw the first of two garter snakes for the day.
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Shortly before reaching the Kinzel Lake Trail we crossed Kinzel Creek which had a small waterfall visible through trees.
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IMG_4853Kinzel Lake Trail

The flower display continued to improve beyond the Kinzel Lake junction with the rhodies now in full bloom.
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We also passed our first other person of the day when we spotted another backpacker camped near Goat Creek. A bit over a half mile beyond Goat Creek the trail entered a grassy area with the first real viewpoint of the day.
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We turned out toward the viewpoint where we found more flowers and a limited view of the Salmon River below.
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We knew from our 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon guidebook that there was a series of three viewpoints along this section of trail. The third of which (coming form the east) being the only one we had visited on our previous hike. After the first viewpoint we passed by what appeared to be a use trail and kept going for a moment before deciding to go back and make sure this wasn’t the route to the middle viewpoint. It was not, but what it turned out to be was the very steep, rugged scramble to an overlook of Frustration Falls.
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We were aware that there was a use trail to a view of these falls and originally had no intention of seeking it out. We lucked out in that the conditions were perfect on this day so the trail was not wet or muddy which could make it extra slick. It was slick enough just due to the steepness and loose rocks so we relied heavily on our poles. In all the trail lost around 350 feet in less than a quarter mile. This was definitely not a trail for everyone and anyone wishing to attempt it does so at their own risk. With that said we were happy to have accidentally stumbled on the trail and sat next to a small creek with it’s own fall for a bit admiring the thundering cataract below.
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IMG_4941Cliffs along the hillside above the Salmon River

After the break we struggled back up the scramble path.
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Shortly after being back on the Salmon River Trail we came to the actual middle viewpoint which didn’t have a view of the river at all just up and down the forested canyon.
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Another quarter mile brought us to the start of a familiar small loop around the final viewpoint area.
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This was as far as we’d come from the west end of the trail and meant that we had now covered the entire Salmon River Trail. The grassy viewpoint here was full of June flowers which would be long gone at the end of August.
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The view was quite a bit different too.
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Salmon River Canyon

We finished the .4 mile loop and started back for camp. We had run into a few more hikers since Goat Creek but by the time we got back to the campsites along that creek we had passed them all. We saw one additional hiker between Goat Creek and the Kinzel Lake Trail then not another soul on the rest of the backpacking trip.

We got back to camp a quarter to five and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I had figured that it could be a 16 mile day if we decided to camp near Linney Creek, but I hadn’t figured in the side trips to viewpoints, the scramble trail down to the Frustration Falls view, or the hike up and down the Linney Creek Trail to the campsite. At the end of the day we’d covered closer to 18 miles so we were pretty well pooped. We were however excited to try out some new pieces of gear including an Enlightened Equipment quilt that Heather had recently purchased and for me it was a Thermarest Air Head pillow.

We were both pleased with our new gear and after a good nights sleep at what turned out to be a great campsite we were up at 5am ready to hike back to the trailhead. Even though we had hiked those same 5.5 miles the previous day we managed to spot some candy sticks starting to sprout that we’d missed on our way by the first time.
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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post we stopped by Trillium Lake on the way home where we got some more water and took a look at the lake. This time we paid a $5 day use fee that attendants were collecting, apparently we were there early enough the day before that the attendants weren’t yet out. We figured we’ve paid $5 for two bottles of water before so why not.

Were looking forward to more overnight trips in the next several months and this was a great trial run for the new gear. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon River Overnight

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_1073Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

IMG_1071Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

IMG_1096The rest of Tom Dick and Harry Mt.

IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

Vista Ridge Trail to Elk Cove – Mt. Hood

August is typically one of our busier hiking months but this year things are working out differently. We’ve both had things come up at work leading us to change our vacation plans, the date of our annual family reunion changed, there are forest fires closing large areas of both the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wildernesses, and the upcoming solar eclipse essentially eliminated any realistic plans for hiking around the 21st.

We actually almost skipped our weekly hike this time around but knowing we’d later regret that decision we turned to Mt. Hood, which has thus far escaped the fire issues this year. Our plan was to take the Vista Ridge Trail up to the Timberline Trail and visit a few familiar areas – Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove.

We began at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.

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We set off through the forest which was damp from a light mist that fell for most of the day.

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It was actually really nice to hike in the cool temperatures and to see some moisture falling.

 

The trail enters an area burned by the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire near a registration box for the Mt. Hood Wilderness after a half mile.

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The Vista Ridge Trail is probably best known for its displays of avalanche lilies in the burn area during July but we discovered that August provided an amazing display of its own.

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The amount of fireweed was simply amazing.

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With all the fires currently burning it was nice to be reminded that the forests will recover eventually.

With the misty conditions views were limited but Pinnacle Ridge was visible across the Clear Branch Valley and we spied a bit of Laurence Lake as well as Bald Butte further in the distance.

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After two and a half miles we arrived at the junction with the Eden Park Loop Trail.

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A few avalanche lilies were still blooming in this area.

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We turned down the Eden Park Trail which descended through more burned forest filled with more fireweed and some small meadows with other wildflowers.

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We also crossed several small wildflower lined streams flowing down toward Ladd Creek.

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Eight tenths of a mile from the Vista Ridge Trail junction we arrived at Ladd Creek itself.

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Just beyond Ladd Creek we arrived at Eden Park.

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Beyond Eden Park the trail began to climb on its way up to the Timberline Trail at Cairn Basin.

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We turned left on the Timberline Trail and took a short snack break in Carin Basin and visited the stone shelter.

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After leaving Cairn Basin we recrossed Ladd Creek.

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It was about a mile from this upper crossing to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail. There were lots of wildflowers along this stretch as well as some lingering snow.

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Wy’East Basin lay just beyond the junction with more flower lined streams.

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We continued on from Wy’East Basin heading toward Elk Cove. Despite not being able to see the mountain, just being on the Timberline Trail gave us that alpine feeling that only the mountains can.

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We had passed several rock fields where we had listened and looked for one of our favorite animals, the pika, but had not had any luck. As we began the descent to Elk Cove though we heard the distinctive “meep” of a pika. It’s a sound that always brings a smile to our faces. We had stopped along the trail for a moment to look around and just as we started to resume hiking we spotted one sitting on the rocks ahead.

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The descent to Elk Cove when hiking clockwise on the Timberline Trail is an extremely scenic section of trail when visibility is good. The clouds and mist took a bit away from the epic views but it was still an impressive sight.

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The further down into the cove we went the better the flower display became.

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We stopped at an empty campsite near a creek and took a seat while we took in the beauty of the surrounding area.

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We could occasionally see some blue sky to the east which gave us a just a bit of hope that maybe we’d get a view of the mountain after all.

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The blue sky looked to be just on the side of the mountain though and the clouds were continuing to blow in from the west.

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After a while the combination of our damp clothes and the cool breeze became a little chilly so we decided to head back. It appeared that we were out of luck on a mountain view this time but as we were climbing out of the cove the clouds began to break even more.

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We waited and watched as the sky cleared up just enough to reveal the mountain before swallowing it up once more.

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It had lasted less than a minute and then we were back in the cloudy mist but it was the icing on the cake for what had already been a great hike. We returned to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail where we turned downhill, passing the Eden Park Trail junction in .3 miles and arriving back at our car in another two and a half miles. The total distance for the day was just over 11 miles with a little under 2000′ of elevation gain.

We were very glad we hadn’t skipped our weekly hike. Getting out on the trail was really just what we had needed. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Vista Ridge Trail

Bald Butte

I’ve already done a lot of shuffling on our hiking schedule this year due to the high amount of snow that fell over the winter/early spring that doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to melt off. We are currently in the midst of some 90+ degree days so that should help but for our latest outing the original plan to visit Lost Lake had been scrapped over a month ago and we were off to the replacement hike – Bald Butte.

Interestingly this hike was less than 15 miles (as the crow flies) from Lost Lake with the high point on Bald Butte coming in at 3770′ while the lake sits a little under 3200′. Location, location, location. In any event the snow coverage maps showed plenty of snow around the lake and none on the butte the day before our visit.

We began our hike at the Oak Ridge Trailhead. To reach the trailhead turn west on Smullen Road off of Highway 35 approximately 14.4 miles south of Hood River, OR. At a sharp right turn take a left off of Smullen Road onto a short dirt road to the parking area. The trail starts on the far side a small footbridge.
Oak Ridge Trail

The Oakridge Trail is 2.4 miles long and gains almost 2000′ as it climbs from the trailhead to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail which runs north/south for 16.4 miles. The trail was fairly level at first passing through an old clearcut with a view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Flowers blooming along this stretch included lupine, arnica and some nice hound’s tongue.
Lupine

Arnica

Hound's tongue

We began to climb after the clearcut as the trail entered the trees.
Oak Ridge Trail

Additional flowers were blooming here including a few chocolate lilies, woodland stars, silvercrown, and various white flowers.
Chocolate lily

Prairie stars

Silvercrown

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Anemone

Heather spotted a nice striped coralroot.
Coralroot

Switchbacks made the climb less strenuous than it could have been and soon we entered oak grasslands with even more flowers.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Balsamroot

Naked broomrape

Larkspur

One of the benefits of gaining elevation on a hike is that doing so typically creates more variety in the flowers seen which was certainly the case here.

The trail continued to switchback up through increasingly open grasslands allowing for some nice views.
Oak Ridge Trail

Balc Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail
Bald Butte from the Oak Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Rainier in the distance
Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Just before reentering the forest we ran into a small patch of paintbrush.
Wildflower along the Oak Ridge Trail

Paintbrush

Paintbrush

At this elevation the flowers in the forest included fairy slippers, toothwort, and trillium.
Oak Ridge Trail

Fairy slippers

Toothwort

Trillium

The trail leveled out somewhat once it was back in the forest and we soon arrived at the junction with the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Oak Ridge Trail and Surveryor's Ridge Trail junction

We turned left following a pointer for Bald Butte which was 2 miles away.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

After passing a “Leaving National Forest” sign the ridge became rocky and more open which once again provided views of Mt. Hood and now Mt. St. Helens joined the skyline.
Surveryor's Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Red flowering currant was profuse along this stretch and we also spotted a gooseberry bush.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Red flowering currant

Gooseberry

Mt. Adams also made a brief appearance.
Mt. Adams

The trail dropped slightly to a saddle where power lines and another possible trailhead sat beneath a hill.
Powerlines along the Surveryor's Ridge Trail

The trail so far had been off-limits to motorized vehicles but the final section is popular with dirt bike and ATV riders. We followed a steep dirt track under the power lines and up the hill.
Heading toward Bald Butte

There were quite a few flowers in bloom with more to come in the following weeks.
Biscuitroot

Daggerpod

Various small wildflowers

Near the crest of the hill we found one glacier lily still blooming.
Heading toward Bald Butte

Glacier Lily

After dipping into another saddle we faced the final somewhat steep climb to the summit of Bald Butte.
Bald Butte

Bald Butte

There was a nice display of wildflowers blooming along the way.
Wildflowers on Bald Butte

Balsamroot

Paintbrush

There had been a pesky line of clouds in front of Mt. Hood all morning and although it was still present it did seem to be slowly improving.
Mt. Hood and balsamroot

As we neared the summit Mt. St. Helens came into view followed by Mt. Rainier and most of Mt. Adams.
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

We had run into one dirt bike rider as we were coming up Bald Butte, he was headed slowly back down with a flat front tire. A second rider arrived as we were exploring the far end of the butte hoping for a clearer view of Mt. Adams (there wasn’t one). We were a little put off when the rider took his bike out into the wildflowers instead of leaving it in the dirt next to the road and more so when he started it back up while he was still out in the meadow. It was totally unnecessary and that’s all I have to say about that.

Mt. Hood was indeed becoming increasingly visible as we began our hike back to the trailhead.
Mt. Hood

As we were nearing the power line saddle we spotted a snake along the trail.
Snake

The snake wasn’t the only one out now that the day had gotten later. We had seen two other hikers that morning but passed a good deal more on our descent.

Back in the grassland a number of lizards scurried about.
Oak Ridge Trail

Lizard

It was nice to once again have a camera able to zoom in on the wildlife which came in handy one last time near the trailhead.
Douglas Squirrel

It was a little over 80 degrees back at the car and for the first time in a long while there was hope that summer was indeed coming. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bald Butte

The Hikes of 2016 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to recap our 2016 hiking year, and what a great year for hiking it turned out to be! I spent our off-season (Nov-Apr) putting together a 7 year plan (yes I have an issue) to help us achieve two of the goals we’ve set for ourselves. One is to hike each of the featured hikes in each of William L. Sullivan’s five “100 Hikes/Travel Guide” books and the second is to visit each of Oregon’s 45 designated wilderness areas. (There are 47 but the Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks Wilderness Areas are off-limits.) In previous years I had only put together a schedule for the upcoming year, but by looking further ahead I was able to make sure we weren’t going to miss any hikes and they were scheduled at what should be good times to visit. We also now had a handy list of options, laid out by the best times to visit, to pick from if we needed to change plans for any reason. The schedule remains a work in process but as it stands today we will finish visiting all the wilderness areas with Grassy Knob in 2022 and 460 of the 500 featured hikes in Sullivan’s books by the end of 2023. The remaining 40 hikes are too far away for day trips so they are incorporated into vacations that will need to happen further down the road.

The first draft of our 2016 hikes was completed on 12/18/15 and consisted of 57 days worth of hikes totaling 624.4 miles. History had shown that those numbers (and the hikes themselves) would change as the year played out, but it was a solid starting point. That again proved to be the case as 10 of the original hikes were swapped out for others and 4 additional hikes were added, and the total mileage rose by over 150 miles to end at 792.8. We visited 8 wilderness areas for the first time knocking 7 more off the Oregon list. They were the Oregon Badlands, Kalmiopsis, Menagerie, Eagle Cap, Mountain Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Lower White River Wildernesses in Oregon and the Marble Mountain Wilderness in California. In addition to the new areas we hiked in the Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mark O. Hatfield Wildernesses as well as the the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument.

Our travels took us on hikes further to the west (Cape Sebastian State Park), east (West Fork Wallowa Trail – Eagle Cap Wilderness), and south (Cliff Lake – Marble Mountain Wilderness) than ever before. Our trips to the Marble Mountain and Eagle Cap Wilderness areas were our first 5 day/4 night backpacking trips which proved to be just about the limit on how long we can stay out given our current gear.

The weather was exceptional for nearly all of our hikes. Early winter storms left a more normal snow pack which helped make 2016 a pretty good wildflower year and we only ran into two weather related issues. The first was a slight chance of rain for our vacation week in May during which we’d planned on visiting the desert in SE Oregon. Any precipitation in that area would have made it impossible to reach our planned trailheads so we put that vacation off and headed to the Southern Oregon Coast instead which wound up being a great plan B. The second was a July hike on Scar Ridge in the Old Cascades which was swapped for Fifteenmile Creek on the east side of the Mt. Hood National Forest due to probable thunderstorms.

Although the weather conditions were almost always great the same couldn’t be said for the condition of a few of the trails. During our May vacation we encountered a host of ticks along the Illinois River Trail. Later in the year it was blowdown that proved to be the biggest obstacle. In the Sky Lakes Wilderness a section of the Badger Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail was a mess.
Blowdown over the Badger Lake Trail

This was also the case along much of the Bowerman Lake Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
Bowerman Lake Trail

As well as the Hand Lake Trail in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.
More blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

The one consistent regardless of the location, weather, or trail conditions was the beauty and diversity that makes the Pacific Northwest so special. From west to east starting with the Oregon Coast:
Tillamook Head to the South of the Fort-To-Sea Trail
Tillamook Head from the Fort-to-Sea Trail

Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo
Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo

View from the Oregon Coast Trail near Secret Beach
View from the Oregon Coast Trail in Samuel H. Boardman State Park

Past the Klamath Mountains in Southern Oregon and Northern California:
Little Vulcan and Vulcan Lake below Vulcan Peak
Little Vulcan and Vulcan Lake below Vulcan Peak

Kalmiopsis Wilderness
Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Black Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain Wilderness

and the Coast Range to the north:
Old Growth Ridge Trail
Old Growth Ridge Trail in the Siuslaw National Forest

Sweet Creek Falls
Sweet Creek Falls

across the Willamette Valley:Trail in Minto-Brown Island Park
Minto-Brown Island Park

Bald Hill
Bald Hill

into the Old Cascade Mountains:
Coffin Mountain
Coffin Mountain from Bachelor Mountain

Rooster Rock
Rooster Rock in the Menagerie Wilderness

over the Cascade Mountains:
Mt. McLoughlin
Mt. McLoughlin

Diamond Peak from the Pacific Crest Trail
Diamond Peak

The Three Sisters from a meaow along the Rebel Rock Trail
The Three Sisters

Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington

Three Fingered Jack beyond the Eight Lakes Basin
Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park
Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Hood and the Eliot Glacier
Mt. Hood

Coldwater Peak and Snow Lake
Coldwater Peak and Snow Lake – Mt. Margaret Backcountry, Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument

into the High Desert of Central Oregon:
Badlands Rock
Badlands Rock – Oregon Badlands Wilderness

Deschutes River
Deschutes River

Painted HIlls
Painted Hills – John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

NE to the Wallowa Mountains:
Ice Lake
Ice Lake and the Matterhorn

Glacier Lake
Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap from Glacier Lake

Eagle Cap Wilderness
Eagle Cap Wilderness

Here is a look at the locations of our hikes. The hiker symbols are the trailheads and the yellow house icon denotes the approximate location of our campsites.
2016 Hikes
An interactive version can been accessed here and includes all of our previous hikes.

In addition to the spectacular views the areas provided a wonderful variety of wildlife and vegetation.

Elk
Elk

Nutria
Nutria

Bald eagle
Bald Eagle

Chukars
Chukar

Coyote
Coyote

Pronghorn
Pronghorn

Deer
Deer

Rabbits
Rabbit

Snowshoe hare

Mountain Goats
Mountain goat along the Lakes Trail

Mountain goat along the Boundary Trail

Bear
Black bear in a wildflower meadow

Grouse
Sooty grouse

Sooty Grouse

Grouse

Dragonflies
Dragonfly

Dragon Fly

Dragon fly

We encountered a number of flowers for the first time this year.
Sea fig
Sea fig

Cows clover
Cows clover

Bigelow's sneezeweed
Bigelow’s Sneezeweed

Cut-leaf anemone
Cut-leaf anemone

Western blue clematis
Western blue clematis

Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine

Pretty Face
Pretty Face

Farewell-to-Spring
Farewell-to-Spring

Mountain coyote mint
Mountain coyote mint

Yellow coralroot
Yellow coralroot

Sea fig
Sea fig

California Lady Slippers
California Lady Slippers

California Yerba Santa
California Yerba Santa

Grass widows
Grass widows

sticky monkey-flower
sticky monkey-flower

Catchfly
Some sort of catchfly

Sea thrift
Sea thrift

beach morning-glory
beach morning-glory

Yellow sand-verbena
Yellow sand-verbena

California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica)
California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica)

Scarlet pimpernel
Scarlet pimpernel

Dutchman's breech
Dutchman’s breech

Hedgehog cactus
Hedgehog cactus

Golden Bee Plant
Golden Bee Plant

White mariposa lily
White mariposa lily

Siskiyou lewisia
Siskiyou lewisia

kalmiopsis leachiana
kalmiopsis leachiana

Muhlenberg's centaury
Muhlenberg’s centaury

Bridges' brodiaea
Bridge’s brodiaea

There were just too many sights to fit into a year end wrap up so to see a sample from each of our hikes this album contains a few photos from each hike which attempt to show the beauty of each trail. There are a lot of photos (793 – One for each mile hiked) but then again there is a lot of beauty in God’s creation.

Happy Trails in 2017 and beyond!

Wyeth Trail To North, Rainy, and Black Lakes

This past Veterans Day we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a hike. Heather had spent the first part of the week in Las Vegas attending a convention for her work so we were looking to spend some quality time together and what better way than out on the trail away from distractions.

Our hike on the schedule for this month was to be a lollipop loop starting at Wyeth Campground in the Columbia Gorge and passing North, Rainy, and Black Lakes before returning via Green Point Ridge. I had originally estimated this hike to be a little over 16 miles with around 4000′ of elevation gain. Both of these figures turned out to be low. The total elevation gain was closer to 5000′ and the GPS read 21.5 miles when all was said and done.

The Wyeth Trail begins at Wyeth Campground which was gated closed for the season so we parked near the gate on the side of the Wyeth Road (Exit 51 off of I-84) and walked through the empty campground.
Sunrise from Wyeth Campground

Wyeth Campground

The campground is the eastern terminus for the Gorge Trail #400 which we followed briefly to a signed junction near a footbridge over Gorton Creek.
Footbridge over Gorton Creek

Wyeth Trail junction with the Gorge Trail

We turned left following the pointer for the Wyeth Trail passing under a set of power lines before the bridge-less crossing of Harphan Creek.
Creek crossing

Not long after crossing Harphan Creek the Wyeth Trail began its climb. The trail gained approximately 3500 over the next 4.8 miles. This mostly forested section used numerous switchbacks to keep from ever being too steep.
Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

There were a couple of open areas which offered small views across the Columbia River toward Mt. St. Helens. Although the mountain was free of clouds the gray skies above and behind it provided a good camouflage from the camera.
Columbia River from the Wyeth Trail

The trail leveled off at a saddle where it began following the ridge south to the Green Point Ridge Trail junction.
Wyeth Trail juntion with the Green Point Ridge Trail

Green Point Ridge Trail

The Green Point Ridge Trail was our return route so we stayed left and continued 1.4 miles to North Lake. Along the way there was a nice view of Mt. Defiance from a rock field.
Mt. Defiance from the Wyeth Trail

To see North Lake we followed an unsigned trail to the right at a junction where signs pointed back to the Wyeth Campground and ahead to the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

North Lake
North Lake

After sitting for a bit on some rocks along North Lake we continued along it’s shore back to the the Wyeth Trail at a junction with the North Lake Trail.
North Lake Trail

We took the North Lake Trail following it for a mile past a small pond to another trail junction.
Pond along the North Lake Trail

North Lake Trail junction with the Rainy Lake Trail

We headed to the left onto the Rainy Lake Trail.
Rainy Lake Trail

A quick .4 miles brought us to Rainy Lake with a view of Green Point Mountain on the far side.
Rainy Lake

Green Point Mountain from Rainy Lake

Green Point Mountain

A tenth of a mile beyond the lake the trail left the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and ended at the Rainy Lake Campground, which can be driven to. Directions

Mark O. Hatfiled Wilderness boundary near the Rainy Lake Campground

We walked through the campground passing the unique outhouse to the Rainy-Wahtum Trail.
Outhouse at the Rainy Lake Campground

Rainy Lake Trail

The Rainy-Wahtum Trail would lead us up to a junction with the Gorton Creek Trail where we would begin our return to the Wyeth Campground but before we did that we had wanted to visit nearby Black Lake. Both the North Lake Trail map available on the Mt. Hood Forest Service website and Google showed a trail descending to Black Lake from the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We were keeping our eyes out for this trail and just when we began to think we had missed it we spotted a path near a small cairn.
We thought this was marking the trail to Black Lake

We turned left onto this faint path passing the remnants of an old sign that could no longer be read. All traces of the path soon disappeared and we looked around for old blazes or any other sign of the correct route. With nothing to be seen we pulled out the Forest Service map and compared it the map shown on the Garmin. The GPS didn’t show the trail but we could compare the topography of the two maps to get a good idea of where the trail should be. We bushwacked downhill using the topographic maps in an attempt to pick up some sort of trail but weren’t having any luck so we finally decided to follow a decommissioned logging road down to its junction with Dead Point Road which went by Black Lake after passing the Rainy Lake Campground.
Road to Black Lake

We found a few flowers along the road before arriving at the Black Lake Campground.
Thistle

Black Lake Campground

Black Lake

Black Lake

We took a break at one of the picnic tables which we shared with a caterpillar.
Caterpillar

We followed the road back to the Rainy Lake Campground and set off once again on the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We watched again for any signs of a different trail to Black Lake both before and after the one we’d turned down but never saw anything.

The Rainy-Wahtum Trail followed what was once Wahtum Road up to a 4-way trail junction.
Rainy-Wahtum Trail

The junction is the meeting point of the Rainy-Wahtum, Gorton Creek, and Herman Creek Cutoff Trails.
Rainy-Wahtum Trail junction with the Gorton Creek, and Herman Creek Cutoff Trails

Gorton Creek Trail

WWII signal Hut

Our route was to follow the Gorton Creek Trail but first we took a very short detour on the Herman Creek Cutoff Trail to check out a WWII signal hut which seemed fitting on Veterans Day.
WWII signal Hut

We started down the Gorton Creek Trail reentering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and gradually climbing Green Point Ridge.
Wilderness sign along the Gorton Creek Trail

As we approached Green Point Mountain, which is really just the highest point on the ridge, the first view to open up was of Rainy Lake and Mt. Defiance beyond.
Mt. Defiance and Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake

The Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry for  Green Point Mountain mentions views of Mt. Defiance, Rainy Lake, and Mt. Adams but we quickly found that there were more views than that. Before we were able to see Mt. Adams to the north a glance behind us to the south revealed Mt. Hood rising above the tress.
Mt. Hood

A viewpoint near the summit offered the Mt. Adams, Mt. Defiance, and Rainy Lake view.
Mt. Adams, Mt. Defiance and Rainy Lake

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

The view of Mt. Hood was especially nice with a layer of clouds in the valley below it and an opening of blue sky in the clouds above.
Mt. Hood from Green Point Mountain

When we reached the summit we were a bit surprised to see Mt. Rainier join the view to the north and Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Mt. Rainier from Green Point Mountain

Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Butte
Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson from Green Point Mountain

Mt. Hood & Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Green Point Mountain

In addition the Goat Rocks were also visible between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.
Goat Rocks from Green Point Mountain

After enjoying the surprisingly good view we began our descent. It was nearly 2pm and we’d been hiking for almost 7 hours already. I was beginning to suspect that the hike was going to be longer than what I had estimated. We tend to average right around 2mph so a 16 mile hike should take us 8 hours. We hadn’t taken any extended breaks and it didn’t feel like we’d been going particularly slowly on the climb up so extra distance was the only explanation for the time. We picked up the pace on the way down not wanting to have to rely on using lights to finish the hike in the dark.

A quarter mile from the summit we left the Gorton Creek Trail at a three-way junction. The Gorton Creek Trail headed downhill to the left and on the right the North Lake Trail came up from the lake. We stayed straight on the Green Point Ridge Trail.
Green Point Ridge Trail

We followed the wooded ridge another 2.5 miles ignoring the Plateau Cutoff Trail to the left after 1.5 miles.
Green Point Ridge Trail

The steepest section of trail we’d been on all day was the final descent down to the Wyeth Trail.
Green Point Ridge Trail descending to the Wyeth Trail junction

Once we were back on the Wyeth Trail we retraced our steps down to the power lines. Mt. St. Helens was a little more visible on our way down in the afternoon light.
Mt. St. Helens in the distance

Mt. St. Helens from the Wyeth Trail

That morning we had noticed a trail coming up from the Wyeth Campground at the power lines which appeared to be a shorter route than what we had done so when we spotted it on the way down we followed it into the campground arriving back at our car ten minutes before 5pm.

We had hiked from dawn to dusk (nearly 10 hours) without seeing anyone else on the trails. The views had been much better than expected and the lakes were all nice. One of the things that held our interest was the amazing variety of mushrooms along the way. The various colors, shapes, and sizes were impressive. Here is a small sample of that variety.
Mushrooms along the Wyeth Trail

Mushrooms

Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushroom

Green mushrooms

Mushroom

Red mushroom

Another mushroom

Orange mushroom

Yellow mushrooms

Mushroom on a log

Mushroom groud near Black Lake

Mushrooms along the Wyeth Trail

Despite the hike turning out to be a lot longer than planned it was a great way to spend our anniversary. Happy Trails!