Tag Archives: Mt. Hood

Vista Ridge and Owl Point – 6/22/2019

In 2017 we hiked the Vista Ridge Trail to Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove in the Mt. Hood Wilderness (post). It had been a cloudy August day which deprived us of any views of the mountain save for a brief glimpse from Elk Cove. The lack of views was enough to put the trail back on our to do list, but there were a couple of other reasons we had wanted to get back to this trail. First was the side trip to Owl Point along a segment of the Old Vista Ridge Trail which was reclaimed by volunteers in 2007. The second was a desire to see the avalanche lilies that bloom profusely on Vista Ridge in the fire scar left by the 2011 Dollar Fire.

We had been following reports on the avalanche lilies from fellow hikers and after seeing that they were blooming we checked the weather forecast for a clear day and headed up to the Vista Ridge Trailhead.
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The view of Mt. Hood had been clear on our drive so we decided to head out to Owl Point first and then up Vista Ridge for the lilies. We followed the Vista Ridge Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Old Vista Ridge Trail at the edge of the 2011 fire scar.
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We turned left onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and headed toward Owl Point. The trail, which relies on volunteers to keep it maintained, was in good shape.
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As we made our way north along though we began to run into some fog.
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We had gone a little over half a mile from the junction and decided to turn back and save the viewpoint for later not wanting to risk missing out on a view. We backtracked to the junction, filled out a wilderness entry permit and headed up a fog free Vista Ridge.
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Unlike our last visit this time we could see Mt. Hood through the snags as we climbed.
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Looking back over our shoulders we could see the cloud that had caused us to turn back was not actually over Owl Point.
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IMG_9690 Mt. Adams beyond Owl Point

Most of the avalanche lilies were already past until shortly after entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness a mile up the Vista Ridge Trail.
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At first the lilies were sparse but then small patches appeared followed by increasingly large fields of white.
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As we gained elevation we left the heavy bloom behind and began seeing flowers that had yet to open.
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We hit snow about two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
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It was patchy and navigable without needing our microspikes and we continued uphill for another quarter mile passing a nice view of Mt. Adams and the Eden Park Trail along the way.
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IMG_9749Eden Park Trail

We ended our climb at a snowfield where the Vista Ridge Trail headed left of the ridge toward its junction with the Timberline Trail.
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The trail looked passable with the microspikes but we had a nice view from where we were and didn’t see a point in continuing on given we still wanted to get out to Owl Point and we were planning on hiking for the next three days straight.
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Near our turn around we spotted some other early bloomers – western pasque flowers aka hippies on a stick.
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IMG_9774western pasque flowers already going to seed

Paintbrush and cinquefoil was also present.
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After an extended break enjoying the view of Mt. Hood we headed back down to the Old Vista Ridge Trail junction stopping along the way to once again admire the avalanche lilies and also to share a moment with a friendly yellow-rumped warbler.
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We turned back onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and repeated the first section which seemed to climb more this second time. (At least our legs felt like it did.) This time there was no fog though and we soon found ourselves at a viewpoint looking at Owl Point.
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There was also a decent view of Mt. Hood.
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After the initial climb the trail leveled out some along the ridge top where a few patches of snow remained.
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That meant more avalanche lilies, although nowhere near the numbers that Vista Ridge was home to.
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After climbing to a saddle we came to a sign for The Rockpile viewpoint.
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The short spur trail led out to a nice view of Mt. Hood but we had startled a dog that was with some backpackers and it wouldn’t stop barking so we quickly took our leave heading for quieter surroundings.
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The spur trail to Owl Point was just a tenth of a mile from the trail to the Rockpile.
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We followed this spur to it’s end at a register at Owl Point.
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Laurance Lake lay below to the east with Surveryors Ridge beyond.
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Mt. Hood was the main attraction though.
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We sat for awhile admiring the mountain and studying Vista Ridge where we could see the trail cutting across the snow beyond where we had turned around.
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We also spent some time looking for pikas but never saw (or heard) any. We did however have a butterfly join us briefly.
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When we had returned to the Old Vista Ridge Trail we continued north for another tenth of a mile to visit Alki Point.
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This viewpoint looked north and on a cleared day would have offered views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. We settled for a glimpse of Rainier’s summit above some clouds (that’s Mt. Defiance in the foreground) and a semi-obstructed view of Mt. Adams.
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IMG_9939Mt. Rainier (sort of)

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We headed back to the trailhead completing a 10.8 mile hike that would have been under 10 had we not had the false start on the Old Vista Ridge Trail in the morning. The avalanche lilies had not disappointed, it was a great way to start a four day stretch of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Owl Point and Vista Ridge

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Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

After striking out on a view of Mt. Hood during our previous hike on the Boulder Ridge Trail (post) we planned on trying again during our next outing by visiting Lost Lake. The hikes around Lost Lake and up Lost Lake Butte had been on our schedule in both of the previous years but changes in those plans had bumped it back to this year.

A featured hike in Sullivan’s NW Oregon book (hike #74 in the 4th edition) it presented an issue with our rule to not have our driving time be longer than our hiking time. At a little under 8 miles for both trails we figured the hike would wind up taking us around 4 hours based on our typical pace leaving us an hour short of the 5 hour round trip driving time. Our solution was to add a pair of stops along the way where we could do a couple of short hikes which would bring the times closer in line with each other.

Our route to Lost Lake would be via Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River so for our first stop of the day we chose the less than a mile and a half round trip to Gorton Creek Falls. This hike began at the same trailhead (at Wyeth Campground) that we had used in 2016 for the Wyeth Trail (post) which REMAINS CLOSED after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Wyeth Trailhead

In fact with closures still in place over numerous parts of the gorge we stopped to consult the closure map both at the trailhead and then at the fence erected blocking access to the Wyeth Trail at its junction with the Gorge Trail.
Eagle Creek Fire closure map

With Gorton Creek outside of the closure area and no visible signs of closure we followed the unofficial trail along Gorton Creek from the junction.
Trail along Gorton Creek

A nice path follows the creek for about a half mile where it ends near Emerald Falls, a small 10′ cascade.
Emerald Falls

Emerald Falls

The much taller Gorton Creek Falls is another 100 yards up the creek and requires a bit of scrambling along the left side of the creek over boulders and through trees.
Gorton Creek

Gorton CreekLooking down the scramble route.

Obstacles along Gorton CreekSome of the obstacles

Gorton Creek below Gorton FallsFirst sight of Gorton Creek Falls through the trees.

Gorton Falls

It is a nice two tiered waterfall but the upper tier is only visible from certain angles.
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Gorton Falls

After admiring the falls we headed back down to the trailhead completing the very nice 1.3 mile hike. We then continued driving east on I-84 to Hood River where we took exit 62 and followed our GPS to the Punchbowl Falls Park Trailhead. Not to be confused with the more famous Punch Bowl Falls which is located on Eagle Creek (also CLOSED due to the Eagle Creek Fire) this Punchbowl Falls is located on the West Fork Hood River in a county park established in 2016 after the land was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy. Trailkeepers of Oregon have since constructed trails (with a new one set to open this year) allowing for a short loop hike through oak woodlands and past a pair of waterfalls.

The trail starts at a gated service road.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Just beyond the gate are a signs for the park and trails.
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Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

We took the West Fork Trail which led to an open hillside with a few lingering ookow in bloom overlooking the West Fork Hood River.
West Fork Hood River

Ookow

The path followed the river gorge through the oak woodland where there had been a nice lupine display by the looks of it.
West Fork Trail

Lupine

As we neared Punchbowl Falls we could see the crumbling remains of a staircase that had led down to a fish ladder along the river.
Old staircase to a fish ladder

Old staircase to a fish ladder

A very short side trail led to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and the wide bowl at the base.
Punchbowl Falls

Pool below Punchbowl Falls

We could also see the top of Mt. Hood rising up above the trees up river. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen near the mountain which was a great sign for our hike up Lost Lake Butte later.
Mt. Hood above the trees

Mt. Hood

From the viewpoint we continued on the West Fork Trail toward Dead Point Falls.
Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

Another viewpoint along the way looked back up river to Punchbowl Falls and Mt. Hood as well as across the gorge to Dead Point Falls.
Punchbowl Falls

Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Just a little further along was a signed spur trail to another viewpoint of Dead Point Falls and the confluence of Dead Point Creek and the West Fork Hood River.
Sign for Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Beyond the Dead Point Falls viewpoint we came to a junction with the Dogwood Trail which could be used to make a short loop back to the trailhead. We stuck to the West Fork Trail which descended slightly to another viewpoint, this time of the confluence of the West and East Forks of Hood River.
Trail junction in Punchbowl Falls Park

Punchbowl Falls Park

The East Fork Hood River was noticeably siltier having the clouded color indicitive of glacier runoff.
Confluence of the West and East Fork Hood Rivers

At a junction just beyond the viewpoint we turned right at a point for the East Fork Trail opting not to continue down to the river which was only a tenth of a mile or two away but we didn’t really feel like climbing back up.
East Fork Trail sign

By the end of this year the East Fork Trail will extend out along the East Fork Hood River but for now this path brought us to the gated serviced road which we turned right onto and followed back toward the trailhead.
Punchbowl Falls Park

After about 150 yards we came to the Dogwood Trail as it crossed the road where we turned uphill to the left.
Dogwood Trail

A lone pink pyrola was blooming along this trail which we followed through the wood for two tenths of a mile to signboards and completing a .9 mile loop.
Pink pyrola

Dogwood Trail

From Punchbowl Falls Park we drove back the way we’d come a mile to Lost Lake Road were we took a right and followed a car with Florida license plates nearly the entire 13.5 paved miles to the entrance to the Lost Lake Campground. I bring this up to ask that if people aren’t comfortable driving on the narrow curvy forest roads that’s fine but when you have cars following you and are going 20 mph below the speed limit and have multiple chances to pull over, please do it (end mini-rant).
Lost Lake Campground entrance

There is currently a $9 day-use fee charged to enter the Lost Lake area but the OregonHkers Field Guide mentioned a possible starting point along gated Jones Creek Road just before the campground entrance. We parked at a small pullout here (room for a couple of cars).
Pullout near Lost Lake Campground

The precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Skyline Trail (now the Old Skyline Trail) could be accessed here and followed up to the Lost Lake Butte Trail. The only problem was we didn’t read the field guide closely enough. It states that there is a sign for the Old Skyline Trail at the road junction, but the GPS map showed the trail leaving the road a little beyond the gate. Having missed that detail we headed up the road watching for the trail which didn’t materialize. Just under a quarter mile from the gate the road forked and we followed the left hand fork which led toward the location of the trail on the map. Approximately 100 yards later we found the unsigned Old Skyline Trail crossing the road.
Old Skyline Trail

We turned right onto the trail and followed it through the forest looking for a four way junction where we would turn onto the Lost Lake Butte Trail. That trail was also not where the map on the Garmin indicated it would be. The junction was about a tenth of a mile further south than shown on the map but it was obvious and well signed.
Lost Lake Butte and Old Skyline Trail junction

Old Skyline Trail junction with the Lost Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we took the Lost Lake Butte Trail and began the 1000 plus foot climb to the summit. A Forest Service Crew had just come through the weekend before to do maintenance, so it was in great shape.
Lost Lake Butte Trail

Lost Lake Butte Trail

The forested route offered no views to speak of and there was as an unusual lack of flowers along the route but it wasn’t a bad climb and in 45 minutes we were passing the remains of the Lost Lake Butte lookout tower.
Foundation from the old lookout on Lost Lake Butte

Although much of the former 360 degree view is now blocked by trees the view south to Mt. Hood remains and is spectacular.
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

To the right of Mt. Hood we also had a pretty good view of the upper portion of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

It was also possible to look north across the Columbia River and see Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

After spending some time enjoying the view and talking with a couple form Astoria who were staying at the Lost Lake Lodge we headed down. When we arrived back at the four way junction we crossed over the Old Skyline Trail and followed the trail down to a paved road crossing.
Trail crossing of the Lost Lake Camground road

Google has this marked as the Old Growth Trailhead but the sign here called this the Rhododendron Trail which led to the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail to the Old Growth Trail

Rhododendron Trail

We followed this trail through the forest to a junction where we turned left onto the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail

Trail sign at Lost Lake

The Old Growth Trail is an interpretive trail with a number of informational signboards along the way. It joined the Shrader Old Growth Trail (post) as one of our favorite interpretive trails. Much of the trail was boardwalk and there were a few pullouts with benches where one could sit and enjoy the forest.
Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Bench along the Old Gowth Trailone of the pullouts

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

The Old Growth Trail ended at another paved road crossing (it was a mile one-way in between the two roads).
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

We crossed the road and followed a pointer for the Lakeshore Trail.
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

The Lakeshore Trail, as it’s name suggests, loops around the shore of Lost Lake. We turned left when we reached the trail and started our way clockwise around the lake.
Lost Lake

We passed the Huckleberry Mountain Trail which connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail on the ridge above Lost Lake. We had passed the upper end of the trail on our visit to Buck Peak in 2016. (post)

Lakeshore Trail junction with the Huckleberry Mountain Trail

The trail looped around to the west side of Lost Lake where the hillside was much steeper than that of the opposite side where Lost Lake Butte rose up from the forest.
Forest along Lost Lake

Lost Lake Butte from Lost Lake

There was one short section where the trail was under water and a brief but steep detour led up the hillside and back down. Other than that the trail was in good shape. Flowers including rhododendron, anemones, bleeding heart and wild bugbane were in bloom.
Lakeshore Trail

Rhododendron blossoms

Anemone

Bleeding heart

Wild bugbane

The trail briefly becomes a boardwalk as it passes over the lake’s inlet creeks where small fish and rough skinned newts could be seen swimming.
Lakeshore Trail

There were some little fish swimming here

Rough skinned newt

As we made our way around the lake Mt. Hood finally began to come into view.
Mt. Hood across Lost Lake

Numerous side trails led down to the shore between the boardwalk and the Lost Lake Resort providing excellent views of Mt. Hood and lots of newts to watch in the clear water.
Mt. Hood from the Lakeshore Trail

Rough skinned newts

Rough skinned newt

Bench along the Lakeshore Trail

Mt. Hood from the bench

Things were pretty hectic as we neared the day-use area and only got busier as we neared the lodge.
Sign for the Lost Lake General Store

We left the Lakeshore Trail near the lodge and cut up through the resort toward the entrance road in hopes of following it back to our car. We had just popped out of some trees onto that road when a pickup passed us and we heard someone call out my name. We turned to look as the truck stopped and realized it was my cousin Lance and his family. They were visiting the lake for the first time too and were planning on doing some kayaking. It was quite the random encounter. After saying hi we went our separate ways and returned to our car and headed home. We wound up taking Highway 35 to Highway 26 around Mt. Hood instead of returning via I-84 after pulling up Google traffic and seeing that there were at least two accidents holding up traffic on the Interstates.

Our route on the trails at Lost Lake added up to 7.7 miles giving us 9.9 miles combined. It turned out to be a nice combination of hikes with varying scenery and different types of trails and best of all we got to see Mt. Hood this time around. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

Dog River Trail

A bit of potentially wet weather had us looking for a hike that had the potential to be dry and not too dependent on having a view.  We, of course, also preferred it to be a new hike.  We turned to Matt Reeder’s 2nd edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” for inspiration.  A recent addition to our collection of guidebooks, “Off the Beaten Trail” features 50 hikes plus 5 bonus hikes within a two and half hour drive of downtown Portland.  While a number of the hikes are also mentioned in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks (our usual go-to source) they are typically additional hikes from the back of the books so they lack in-depth detail.  There are also several hikes that don’t appear in Sullivan’s books.

We chose the Dog River Trail (Reeder’s Hike #30) due to its location and a favorable looking forecast. According to NOAA there was a 30% chance of showers after 11am and being located on the east side of Mt. Hood often meant less cloud cover. After driving through a few showers in the Columbia Gorge we did indeed find some blue sky near Hood River and the views of Mt. Hood were perfect as we drove south on Highway 35.

The Dog River Trail
begins at the Dog River Trailhead along the eastern shoulder of Highway 35 18.2 miles south of Hood River (20 miles north of the junction with Highway 26).
Dog River Trailhead

The most common users of this trail are mountain bikers, a group of which have adopted the trail.
Plaque at the Dog River Trailhead

The trail starts off at an elevation just over 2100′ and climbs steadily nearly 5.5 miles to its end at a three way junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails.

Just beyond the gate at the trailhead the trail passes very close to the Dog River.
Dog River

We quickly lost sight of the river as we climbed along a hillside to a footbridge over Puppy Creek.
Dog River Trail

Puppy Creek

The next 1.8 miles was a gradual climb past a variety of wildflowers before dropping slightly to the Dog River.
Chocolate LilyChocolate lily

Vanilla leaf along the Dog River TrailVanilla leaf

AnemoneColumbia windflower (anemone)

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

Ball-head waterleafBall-head waterleaf

Dogwood and a crab spiderDogwood (and a crab spider)

ArnicaArnica

LupineLupine

Lupine starting to budLupine yet to bloom

Woodland starsWoodland stars

Larkspur and biscuitrootLarkspur with biscuitroot in the background

Fairy slippersFairy slippers

PaintbrushIndian paintbrush

Popcorn flowerPopcorn flower

SandwortSandwort

sticky blue-eyed marySticky blue-eyed mary

Fairy bellsHooker’s fairy bells

Solomon's sealSolomon’s seal

One of the reasons for the variety of flowers was the variety of forest types along this stretch.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

Another footbridge led us across the Dog River.
Dog River Trail

Dog River

Beyond the Dog River the trail climbed to a saddle and crossed over a ridge.
Dog River Trail

Dog River Trail

We were now on the west facing side of the ridge and had our first looks at Mt. Hood. Initially the mountain is only visible through the trees but 1.3 miles from the Dog River crossing we came to a rocky viewpoint. From the time we had last seen the mountain driving to the trailhead a line of clouds had begun to make there way in between.
Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail

Mt. Hood

Considering we had started the day thinking we would be lucky to see even part of the mountain this was a pretty nice treat, but after having an unobstructed view during the drive the clouds were a minor disappointment. While the view was impressive it would have been spectacular minus the clouds in front.

In addition to the view there were a couple of other types of flowers to be seen at the viewpoint.
PenstemonPenstemon

PhloxPhlox

Reeder has this viewpoint be the turn around point in the guidebook making for a 6.6 mile out and back. He also describe a couple of options to extend the hike which of course interested us (okay mostly me). We continued on from the viewpoint promptly crossing over the ridge again. From this side we could now see Mt. Adams through the trees to the north. A bonus volcano sighting.
Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

A series of switchbacks brought us back over the west facing side of the ridge and up a short, steep, rocky section of trail.
Dog River Trail

We began watching for any signs of an old road bed on top the ridge above the trail. The plan we had settled on to extend the hike was to hopefully use a forest road shown on the map to make the hike a lollipop by taking the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail to the forest service road. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the switchbacks we spotted a promising looking unmarked spur trail heading uphill to our left.
Dog River Trail on the right with a spur to FR 620 on the left

We marked that spot on our GPS and continued on the Dog River Trail which had leveled out a bit passing another viewpoint that Reeder has marked on his map as “Ponderosa Point”. The view here would have also been impressive but we arrived in conjunction with enough clouds to cover the upper 3/4ths of the mountain. A talus slope nearby was more impressive at that point and we wondered if any pika lived there.
Talus field along the Dog River Trail

We didn’t see or hear any and continued on. The trail began to descend slightly passing through some nice forest. We kept our eyes out for flowers and any other interesting sights.
Dog River Trail

ManzanitaManzanita

CurrantA currant

Jacob's ladderJacob’s ladder

Something has been busyPopular tree

There were a few openings toward Mt. Hood but the clouds were keeping most of it covered. We did get a nice look at Polallie Creek Falls though.
Polallie Creek Falls

We had been watching for wildlife too but aside from a few birds and a couple of millipedes all we saw was a slug on one of several small bridges over wet spots.
Slug on a footbridge

Slug

When we arrived at the junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails we noticed a fourth trail signed “Viewpoint”.
Viewpoint at the Dog River Trail and Zig Zag Trail jct

This short trail led briefly downhill to a view north of Highway 35 and the East Fork Hood River (Mt. Hood was still hiding).
Highay 35 and the East Fork Hood River

After checking out the viewpoint we returned to the junction and turned onto the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Surveyor's Ridge Trail sign

The Surveryor’s Ridge Trail climbed gently through the forest for nearly a mile before arriving at Forest Road 620 and Dufur Mill Road (Forest Road 44).
Surveyor's Ridge Trail

Trillium

Jacob's ladderThere was quite a bit of Jacob’s ladder along this stretch of trail.

Oregon anemoneOregon anemone

Forest Road 620Forest Road 620.

There was a single truck parked here and an outhouse. Along the shoulder of Dufur Mill Road there was also a small patch of snow. We had wondered if there was any remaining at this elevation (4240′). We turned left and headed north along FR 620 where we soon found a few more patches of lingering snow.
Snow along Forest Road 620

Forest Road 620

It was a pleasant but uneventful road walk. We followed the road downhill ignoring two forks to the left followed by an overgrown fork to the right.
Forest Road 620

After entering an area that had been clearcut sometime in the past Heather spotted a sign post off to our right (approximately 1.75mi along FR 620). I went to investigate.
Wy'East Middle School sign amid trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class

Just in case anyone from the Wy’East Middle School 1994 8th grade class is wondering here are the trees that were near the sign.
Trees planted by the 1994 8th grade class of Wy'East Middle School

Shortly after finding the sign the road finished bending to the west and we began heading toward the Dog River Trail. The road then turned northward again along the ridge above the Dog River Trail. There were a couple of viewpoints along this stretch including one at the top of the talus slope we had scanned for pikas earlier that day.
Mt. Hood behind some cloudsA still cloudy Mt. Hood

Dog River Trail below the talus slopeLooking down the talus slope with the Dog River Trail visible between the trees to the right.

The road bed had been steadily narrowing the further we went.
Forest Road 620

After a little over 2.5 miles on the road we passed a promising view of Mt. Adams if not for the clouds that had now overtaken it as well. We settled for a nice view of Bald Mountain which we had hiked in 2017 (post) and is accessible via the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Bald Butte in the distance

Bald Butte

Not far from that viewpoint the old roadbed ended and we found ourselves on a short section of trail connecting us back to the Dog River Trail.
Trail connecting Forest Road 620 to the Dog River Trail

We had indeed come out via the spur trail we had marked that morning. The stretch between the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and Dog River Trail was 2.75 miles and we were now just over 3.5 miles from the Dog River Trailhead. We had seen the first other people of the day from the viewpoint atop the talus slope when a pair of trail runners went by down on the Dog River Trail. Now that it was later we encountered a few mountain bikers on our way back but it was far from busy. We stopped at the first viewpoint again to say goodbye to the mountain. The clouds had changed again and now they were just covering the very top portion.
Mt. Hood behind some clouds

This gave us a nice look at Barrett Spur.
Barrett Spur

We also had a good view of the Eliot Glacier.
Elliot Glacier on Mt. Hood

Our lollipop came in at 13.3 miles with approximately 2500′ of cumulative elevation gain. The showers never developed and we got to see a lot more of the mountains than we had honestly expected. The variety of wildflowers was good and there looked to be plenty more getting ready to bloom in the next week or two. It certainly felt off the beaten trail but it was definitely worth the visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dog River Trail

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

IMG_3210Mt. Adams

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

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