Tag Archives: mt. thielsen

Thielsen Creek and Cottonwood Creek Falls Overnight – 08/08 & 09/2020

For the second weekend in a row we were off to a wilderness area for an overnight trip. The goal this time was an off-trail waterfall in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness which was inspired by a 2016 trip report posted by Bruce at Boots on the Trail. Not only would this trip take us to Cottonwood Creek Falls but it also allowed us to check off one of Sullivan’s featured hikes, Thielsen Creek, from his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook.

As an added bonus we were joined by a couple of Heather’s running buddies, Nan and Peggy, who we apparently had not scared off earlier in the year when they joined us for a pair of hikes to Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park back in June (post).

We began our adventure from the Howlock Mountain Trailhead near Diamond Lake.
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IMG_3247Little bee landing on fireweed at the trailhead.

The trail began at a fork. Following the guidebook we took the left hand fork which arrived at a tunnel passing under Highway 138 after .2 miles.
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There had been a number of logs down along the section and when we saw that the right hand fork also led to the tunnel we decided that we would try that on the way back but for now we hiked through the tunnel.
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The trail was wide and dusty from horse use as we climbed gradually for 1.1 miles, ignoring horse trails to the left, to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail on the right.
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We remained on the Howlock Mountain Trail which was increasingly littered with blowdown. None of it was particularly difficult to navigate but it makes for more work than necessary. A short distance beyond the Spruce Ridge junction we paused to make some adjustments and I took my leave of the group temporarily. Sullivan’s offers two options in the guidebook, an 11.4 mile out and back to Thielsen Meadow or a 15.7 mile “lollipop” loop visiting Howlock Meadows. Since we were backpacking those distances would be less, but the hike to visit Cottonwood Creek Falls promised to add 3 or 4 miles to the days total. I figured that visiting Howlock Meadows would put the day in the 13-15 mile range which I felt up for, but that was pushing it for others. I hiked on passing over, under and around downed logs until I arrived at Thielsen Creek, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
IMG_3288Sample of the blowdown.

Along the way the trail spent some time above Timothy Meadows which Thielsen Creek flowed through and it entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.
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IMG_3304Fittingly a downed log welcomed us to the wilderness.

IMG_3315Thielsen Creek at the head of Timothy Meadows

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20200808_103506flower at Timothy Meadows

20200808_103846Musk monkeyflower?

On the other side of the creek was a fork. The Howlock Mountain Trail continued on the left with the Thielsen Creek Trail on the right following (at a distance) the creek up to Thielsen Meadow.
IMG_3320Thielsen Creek Trail

IMG_3323Howlock Mountain Trail

I kept on the Howlock Mountain Trail which climbed for 3.5 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail near Howlock Meadows, a pumice barren that had more character than I had expected. Oddly after a few early obstacles this stretch of the trail was virtually clear of downed trees which made for some easy hiking.
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IMG_3339Pinesap

IMG_3350As the trail climbed around a ridge end the forest thinned enough to get some views of both Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey (post)

IMG_3351Mt. Bailey

IMG_3359Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3368After rounding the ridge the trail remained mostly in the trees until it neared Howlock Meadows and then Howlock Mountain started to come into view.

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IMG_3377Orange agoseris

As I mentioned the pumice barren of Howlock Meadows had quite a bit of character. There was more green than I had expected and gentle rolling hills gave it a nice aesthetic. The view of both Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen was also pretty darn nice.
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I turned right (south) on the Pacific Crest Trail following a pointer for the North Crater Trailhead.
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IMG_3408Butterfly on pumice

As is usually the case the PCT was in good shape as it contoured along the hillside in a series of ups and downs.
IMG_3419PCT leaving Howlock Meadows.

IMG_3422Mt. Bailey from the PCT.

IMG_3429Talus slope above the PCT.

IMG_3431Lots of rocks along the hillside.

The trail popped out of the trees after rounding a ridge end where there was a nice view of both Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.
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After 3 miles on the PCT I arrived at the junction with the Thielsen Creek Trail.
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When I had left the group we decided that they would set up camp in the area and I would attempt to find them and if that didn’t work we would meet at the junction at 2:30pm. I was almost 2 hours early, I had given myself a little extra time in case I got slowed down but instead the gradual grade of the climb and the good condition of the trails had allowed me to make excellent time. I walked beyond the junction a few hundred feet to Thielsen Creek.
IMG_3475PCT crossing Thielsen Creek

While there were a couple of tents set up nearby neither was ours. Two use trails led up along the creek on either side and I chose to try the trail on the right (south) side of the creek.
IMG_3478Use trails on the left and right hand side of Thielsen Creek.

This trail led me to a snow patch in a boulder field.
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I continued on though hoping to reach a high point where I could see across the creek. When I finally managed that I could see where my group was so I dropped down and crossed the dry creek bed above where Thielsen Creek began.
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IMG_3487Found our tent.

There was a large area with a number of suitable tent sites on the little hill here. There were several other tents set up off in the trees but no one was really very close to anyone else. After getting my stuff set up in the tent I joined the others in a relaxing break looking across the boulder field at Mt. Thielsen.
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IMG_3488I was also looking at the saddle between Mt. Thielsen and Sawtooth Ridge which we needed to climb over in order to reach the falls.

When it was time to make our attempt at Cottonwood Creek Falls Peggy opted to enjoy the relaxing sound of the creek and great views of the mountain and Heather, Nan, and I set off.
I was doing my best to try and remember which side of the creek Bruce had gone up on his hike but couldn’t exactly recall so we opted to go down to the creek and try the trail that I had started up when I was looking for camp. Whether it was the way Bruce had gone or not didn’t really matter and this way provided a great view over our shoulders of Diamond Peak and an up close look at Mt. Thielsen.
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The drawback to boulders is that the going can be slow, but on the plus side sometimes they hide some pretty surprises.
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With all the flowers we had seen the week before in the Mt. Adams Wilderness (post) the one that we had looked for and not seen had been pink monkey flowers. There hadn’t been much in the way of flowers so far on this trip but the profusion of pink monkey flowers among the boulders was spectacular.
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IMG_3535Pink and white blossoms

IMG_3537Some yellow monkeyflower too.

As we got higher into the boulder field we could see a clear use trail on the opposite hillside heading up to the saddle so we crossed over and picked it up.
IMG_3543Maybe “clear” use trail isn’t exactly the correct term.

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IMG_3551It’s clearer here.

From the saddle we could see the patch of open space in the trees below where camp was and on the horizon were Diamond Peak, Sawtooth Mountain (post), and Cowhorn Mountian (post).
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IMG_3561Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3566Sawtooth Ridge

IMG_3559East side of Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3567Cottonwood Falls was on the far side of the pumice plain.

IMG_3578Paintbrush, penstemon, and buckwheat near the saddle.

Now Bruce had said in his report that the slope was steep but I think the concept of “steep” is a lot like “spicy” food, it is somewhat subjective. His route down had been to traverse northerly along the slope bending down toward the tree line toward the end of a boulder field that lined part of the pumice plain. A use trail (or game trail, it’s hard to say) headed more directly down from the saddle though. I opted to try the northerly traverse while Heather and Nan opted for the faint trail.
IMG_3581I had to drop below this neat rock feature which I got too close to and had a difficult time finding my footing to get around.

IMG_3582Looking up the hillside.

IMG_3584Looking back at the rock formation.

For us this was a really tough descent. The hillside didn’t have a lot of give to it and the loose pumice made it feel like you could easily slip. My route had taken me quite a bit away from Heather and Nan but I am sure I could hear them calling me names. I finally made it down to a tree where I felt like I could take a break.
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I could see Heather and Nan working their way along the tree line now and I headed in their direction before heading steeply downhill through the trees.
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Game trails and elk beds were all over in the trees and I followed these when I could using them to get down to a flatter area. That flatter area was the edge of the boulder field that we had not managed to make it around.
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IMG_3590Impressively large cave on the face of Mt. Thielsen.

We didn’t mind the boulders, at least the ground was relatively level.
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IMG_3598Penstemon

IMG_3606The saddle doesn’t look too bad from this angle.

We crossed the boulder field and walked out onto the pumice plain.
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We then dropped into a dry channel by a large boulder.
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We followed this channel to the spring feeding Cottonwood Creek.
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We were a bit surprised to find a memorial plaque near the spring.
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We followed the creek downstream a few hundred feet to the top of Cottonwood Creek Falls.
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We scrambled down the north side of the falls to get a look at them.
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After taking the in the falls we went back to the spring and refilled our water supply before heading back to camp. On the way back we avoided the boulder field then climbed up through the trees to our earlier route. From there we launched uphill as best we could aiming for the saddle which was now in Mt. Thielsen’s shadow.
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IMG_3712We got onto the use/game trail as soon as we could going back up.

IMG_3713The “trail” leading up to the saddle.

I spotted this spider when I got to the saddle. I think it may be a wolf spider carrying babies?
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The wind was howling now at the saddle but we needed a bit of a breather plus the views were just so good.
IMG_3721Mt. Thielsen with the Sun behind.

IMG_3733Howlock Mountain

IMG_3749Unfortunately the lighting wasn’t all that great due to the position of the Sun so we never really could capture all the colorful rocks on the mountain.

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To get back to camp we avoided the boulders and stuck to the south side of the creek bed which was easier going for the most part.
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Nan who is an experienced rock climber said that the hike over the saddle and back may have been the sketchiest thing she’d ever done. It was right up there for us too and not something that we will probably repeat, but it was beautiful and we were glad to have experienced it. Back at camp we had dinner and just stared at Mt. Thielsen as the Sun went down.
IMG_3785Junco near camp.

20200808_194340Mt. Thielsen

The light turned a crazy purple shade just before dark which we hadn’t remembers experiencing before.
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I woke up the next morning just after 5am and sat out watching Mt. Thielsen as the Sun rose.
IMG_3817Anyone know what the celestial body to the right of the Moon is?

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We had been hearing the distinctive “MEEPS” of pikas the night before and I was hearing them again in the rocks on the other side of the creek while I sat there so after breakfast and packing up I set off to see if I couldn’t locate one. It didn’t take long.
IMG_3839_stitchSearching for pikas in the rocks.

IMG_3850Jackpot

I sat down by the creek until the rest of the group was ready to set off.
IMG_3875Mountain heather

IMG_3868Monkeyflower

IMG_3878Partridge foot

IMG_3883Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_3885Lupine

IMG_3890Merten’s rush

When it was time to go we took the PCT to the Thielsen Creek Trail and followed it 2.2 miles to Timothy Meadows having to go around a massive tree fall along the way.
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IMG_3904Another angle of the tree fall.

It was a fairly unremarkable hike back along the Howlock Mountain Trail. There were a few butterflies out and I missed a picture of a good sized buck near the Spurce Ridge Trail junction.
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IMG_3913Just picture a good sized buck in the trees, I snapped this hoping to get lucky but I don’t see him at all.

After passing through the tunnel we took the other fork back to the trailhead. It was slightly shorter and there were no trees down but it was the horse route so it was dusty, deep, and full of road (trail?) apples. Not sure it was a good trade. Regardless we all made it back in (relatively) one piece. There were a few blisters, some mosquito bites, and perhaps even a little blood shed but we had all survived. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Thielsen Creek Overnight

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Thielsen

For this week’s throwback we’re going back to September 22, 2012 for our visit to Mt. Thielsen. When we had summited Mt. Bailey a little over a month before when we had been on the opposite side of Diamond Lake. These two mountains couldn’t look much different. The summit of Mt. Bailey was a walk up, albeit a steep one while the pointy summit of Mt. Thielsen is only accessible via a final 80′ vertical class 4 scramble. We weren’t planning on even attempting the summit, we just wanted to go as far as possible which would be a higher elevation than we had been at on Mt. Bailey.

We parked at the Mt. Thielsen Trailhead off of Highway 138 and set off toward the old volcano.

Mt. Thielsen Trailhead

The trail climbed through a forest filled with blowdown for 1.4 miles to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Junction with the Spurce Ridge Trail

Mt. Thielsen was hidden from view along this section but looking back across the highway we had a decent view of Mt. Bailey in the morning sunlight.

Mt. Bailey

We continued past the Spruce Ridge Trail gaining a view of Diamond Peak to the north.

Diamond Peak

Soon the spire of Mt. Thielsen came into view through the trees ahead.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

The trail then entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and a section of forest that had been struck by massive blowdown.

Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

After passing through the blowdown the trail followed a ridge with increasingly better views to the Pacific Crest Trail 3.8 miles from the Trailhead.

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak along the rim of Crater Lake

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake

Howlock Mountain

Howlock Mountain

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

The official trail ends at the PCT but a clear climbers trail continued on the other side and we followed that further up along the ridge. The first part of the path led along the ridge with views of west face of the mountain revealing it’s swirling volcanic rock.

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

The path then bent slightly SE away from the sheer drop of the north side of the ridge and up a very steep slope of increasingly slippery scree.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

To the south the entire rim of Crater Lake was visible including Mt. Scott.

Crater Lake's Rim

Mt. Scott

Braided trails crisscrossed up through the loose rock and every step seemed to come with a complimentary slide backward. Although the hike to Mt. Bailey had been steep it hadn’t been this steep nor slick and the drop offs along the way not nearly as daunting.

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Looking down from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen

We were the first hikers up the trail that morning and at an elevation of a little over 8700′ I came to, what looked to me, to be an impassable wall of rock.

Where we stopped climbing

As I waited for Heather and Dominique I searched for signs of where to go from there. I was unsure of the correct route and the longer I stood in the same spot the more I took inventory of my surroundings. The view was quite impressive having now climbed high enough that Mt. McLoughlin was visible to the south of Crater Lake.

Mt. McLoughlin and Llao Rock

It wasn’t long before I started to feel just how high up we were and how steep the mountain was. At that point the nerves kicked in and butterflies filled my stomach. Apparently Heather and Dominique had begun feeling the same thing and when they were close enough to talk to we made a unanimous decision to turn back.

Shortly after starting back down a lone female hiker passed us going up. We stopped to watch her as she made her way to the point where I had turned around. We were curious to see how she would navigate the section. She didn’t miss a beat and was quickly above the spot and continuing on. We were only about a hundred yards down and I had to fight the urge not to go back and try again after she’d made it look so easy but I was apparently the only one fighting that urge so reason won the day and we continued our descent.

On the way down Dominique and I wound up too far to the north on the ridge and found ourselves near the edge of a vertical shaft

Patch of snow on Mt. Thielsen

Not liking how close we were to the edge we veered back to the south having to cross a very loos section of scree where Dominique slipped and scratched himself up pretty good. That was the only incident though and we made it back to the trailhead in relatively good shape.

At the time it was the most nerve wracking hike we’d done. Not making it as far up as we’d hoped was a bit of a disappointment but it was a good reminder that knowing when to turn around (and being willing to do so)is important. After all if you keep yourself safe there’s always next time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632958248940

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Bailey and The Watchman

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike took place on 8/11/2012 and featured our first summit of one of the Cascade Mountains – Mt. Bailey. The 8368′ summit would also mark the highest elevation we’d reached surpassing that of Paulina Peak.

Mt. Bailey is located north of Crater Lake National Park on the west side of Diamond Lake across from the taller, pointier Mt. Thielsen.
Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Bailey to the left of Diamond Lake with Mt. Thielsen on the right as seen from Mount Scott, Crater Lake National Park

There are two trailheads to choose from. From Diamond Lake’s South Shore Picnic Area turn onto Road 4795 and drive just past Silent Creek to Road 300 and turn left. The lower trailhead is just .4 miles further and suitable for passenger vehicles. The road to the upper trailhead was reportedly rough and although starting there would cut 4.4 miles off the hike it would still be under 10 miles round trip from the lower starting point so we parked there and set off.
Mt. Bailey Trailhead

The trail climbed through a somewhat sparse forest, typical for this part of the Cascades due to the presence of a thick layer of ash and pumice which covered the area following the eruption of Mt. Mazama.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Forest along the Mt. Bailey Trail

As we neared the 1.5 mile mark a somewhat hazy view of Hillman Peak and The Watchman on the west side of Crater Lake’s rim opened up.
Hillman Peak and The Watchman

A couple of hundred yards later we came to a viewpoint of Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielsen.
Diamond Lake with Tipsoo Butte, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Scott was also visible to the south on the east side of Crater Lake, but the view wasn’t great due to smoke from forest fires.
Mt. Scott

We also had a good look at our ultimate goal, the summit of Mt. Bailey.
Mt. Bailey

The trail had climbed approximately 750′ from the trailhead to the viewpoint but beyond the viewpoint it leveled off for the next .5 plus miles before reaching the upper trailhead. Along the way we kept watch for the Hemlock Butte Shelter which was off-trail on our left. When we spotted it we headed cross country to check it out.
Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

After signing the register in the shelter we made our way to the upper trailhead where the Mt. Bailey Trail began to climb again. At first the trail remained in the hemlock forest but before long we’d reached a ridge crest where the trees thinned and views opened up.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Thielsen

View from the Mt. Bailey Trail

Small meadows along the trail were homes to a few wildflowers.
Paintbrush

Penstemon

Bleeding Heart

The trail followed the ridge uphill which curved to the NW around a large glacier carved valley on the mountain’s east side. The angle of ridge provided excellent views of the mountain ahead.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey

Small patches of snow lingered along the trail at higher elevations and the views opened up even more as we climbed. Unfortunately the smoke was also getting worse further limiting the visibility.
Snow along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake, Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

The trail passed a viewpoint down into the glacial-valley and up to a window in a rock wall along the mountain’s summit ridge which we would pass later.
View from the Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey

Beyond this viewpoint the trail passed by a 300′ snowy crater as it turned northward nearing the southern summit of the mountain.
Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

From the lower southern summit the actual summit was a half mile away and another 220′ up.
Mt. Bailey Trail

The trail crossed a cinder saddle which wasn’t too narrow but not too wide either. Then we passed along the left side of the rock wall pausing to peep through the window we’d seen from below. The smoke had gotten so bad that Mt. Thielsen was nearly hidden on the other side of Diamond Lake now.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Rock window along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake and a faint Mt. Thielsen

The rock wall was also home to some flowers.
Western Pasque Flower

Arnica and partridge foot

The trail passed over the rock wall on the far end at a low point which did require the us of our hands.
Mt. Bailey Trail

A final steep climb brought us to the bare, rocky summit of Mt. Bailey.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

The smoke wasn’t too bad where we were, but with fires burning to both the north and south there was little view to speak of.
Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Lake from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

We explored the broad summit which sported some wildflowers and a snowfield.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

Summit of Mt. Bailey

Snowmelt on the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

Partridge foot

After resting atop the mountain for a bit we returned the way we’d come. When we’d gotten back to the car we decided to drive down to Crater Lake since it was only 15 minutes away. Neither of us had been there for years so why not take advantage of being so close. We parked at a large parking area 2.2 miles after turning right onto Rim Drive from the North Entrance Road.

From here a .8 mile climb led to a lookout tower on The Watchman.
Interpretive sign

We had really been looking forward to seeing Crater Lake again but the smoke was thick over the water leaving us with a very limited view. At least we could see Wizard Island, a cinder cone that formed after the eruption of Mt. Mazama creating Crater Lake.
Crater Lake

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

The Watchman Trail led right along Rim Drive for .4 miles to a junction where we turned left and began the steep climb to the lookout.
Lookout at the summit of The Watchman

From the lookout Hillman Peak and Wizard Island were about the only landmarks visible. Interpretive signs at the summit showed us what we were missing.
Hillman Peak and Llao Rock

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Interpretive sign on The Watchman

Sign near the lookout tower on The Watchman

Despite the smoke it was well worth the stop but we did feel bad for the many tourists that might not get another chance to see this amazing place. We knew we’d be back and hopefully the conditions would be better the next time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632957911480

Grizzly Peak and Beaver Dam Trail

Friday it was time to head home and we had originally planned a shorter hike up Grizzly Peak. The Grizzly Peak Trailhead is located off of Dead Indian Memorial Highway. From the Green Springs Inn where were staying we could take Hyatt Prarie Rd. between Hwy 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Hwy avoiding the windy drive back down into Ashland. We noticed the 2.1 mile Beaver Dam Trail was close to where we would come out on Dead Indian Memorial Highway from Hyatt Prarie Rd. so we decided to start our final day with that hike prior to Grizzly Peak. The trail started at the Daley Creek Campground which we surprisingly found gated closed. We could see a trail sign just on the other side of the gate so we parked on the shoulder and headed down.
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The first part of the trail clearly hadn’t been maintained for some time and it took a bit of searching at times to keep on it.
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After recrossing the creek, where a bridge had obviously been, the trail was in a little better shape. Then we came to a sign post that was set against a tree at a trail junction.
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The trail supposedly traveled .6 miles to the start of a .9 mile loop. The directions that this sign was giving made no sense. It indicated that the start of the loop was in the direction we’d just come. We disregarded the sign and took the path that seemed correct. We chose wisely and arrived at the signed start of the loop.
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Here we tried taking the left fork toward the creek which brought us to a creek crossing with another missing bridge.
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Neither of us were in the mood for a fording and we weren’t sure what the trail would be like on the far side so we turned around and headed back to the confusing sign. When we got back to the sign post we took a moment to attempt to figure out where the sign should have been placed and when we did we noticed the pointer for Daley Creek CG was not pointing in the direction we had come from early but toward a different path. We decided to follow it to see where it took us and ended up at a different trailhead further down the closed campground road where we had parked. Here were additional signs including a notice that parts of the trail were closed due to missing bridges.
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Later I checked the Forest Service website but it hadn’t been updated since 2013 regarding the trail and said that the campground would be reopening in May 2015. We should have checked the website before visiting, but in this case that wouldn’t have made much of a difference. After returning to our car we headed for Grizzly Peak arriving at the empty trailhead under the first virtually cloud free skies we’d had on the trip.
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The first portion of the trail offered nice views to the NE of Mt. McLoughlin, Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.

Mt. McLoughlin
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Union Peak, Mt. Scott, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.
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Mt. Bailey
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Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, and Mt. Thielsen
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Crater Lakes rim and Mt. Scott
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From the trailhead the trial travels 1.2 miles through open forest with wildflowers to the start of a 3 mile loop.
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We took the loop counter-clockwise passing by the viewless summit first.
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Then the trail passed a broad meadow.
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As the loop continued around the peak we came to another meadow with a view to the north.
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Here we could see the city of Medford and the Table Rocks.

Upper Table Rock
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Flowers here included camas
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and ookow which was very popular with a swallowtail butterfly.
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As we continued on the views shifted to the SW. Here Mt. Ashland and Wagner Butte which we had climbed the day before were visible.
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Mt. Ashland
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Wagner Butte
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We had entered an area burned in 2002 where the fire left open views and plenty of sunlight for wildflowers.
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Further along the views included Mt. Shasta, Black Butte, Pilot Rock, and Mt. Eddy.
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Mt. Shasta
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Black Butte and Pilot Rock
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Mt. Eddy
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and the distant Trinty Alps
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Just like all our other hikes in the area there were lots of birds happily singing along the way and here in the burnt trees they were easier to spot.
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Hummingbird going for the paintbrush
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We completed our loop and headed back down to the now packed trailhead. This was the first trail besides Lithia Park where we saw more than 5 other hikers on the trail but with views like this packed into only 5.4 miles we could see why it was a popular hike. Our first hiking trip to Southern Oregon had turned out well. We got to see new flowers, plenty of wildlife, and nice views along with a wonderful play. That’s the recipe for Happy Trails!

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Wagner Butte

We continued our exploration of the trails around Ashland on the fourth day of our trip. Our destination this time was the former lookout site atop 7140′ Wagner Butte. This trail sometimes does not open until mid-June due to snow but this year that wasn’t an issue. What could have been an issue was a forecast that called for a slight chance of thunderstorms. We checked the forecast once more before leaving in the morning and the possibility of thunder storms had been removed although it still called for mostly cloudy skies. The drive to the trailhead was indeed through thick fog and once again we were setting of on a trail in the clouds.
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The trail climbed for almost a mile along an old road before leveling out through a series of meadows.
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The largest meadow having been created in 1983 by the Sheep Creek Slide when 400,000 tons of debris slid down from high up on Wagner Butte.
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There weren’t many flowers yet in the meadow but we could easily see how it would be an impressive show once the bloom began.
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Beyond the Sheep Creek Slide the trail continued to pass through meadows where an increasing amount of sagebrush was present. We also began to get glimpses of blue sky above which we began to think might mean there was a chance that we would be above the clouds once we reached the summit.
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We had seen several rabbits on the drive in and one on the trail near the slid meadow. I had not been able to get a picture of that one but we wound up spotting another one that was too busy eating to worry about my picture taking.
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At the 2.4 mile mark the trail began to switchback up through sagebrush filled meadows where there was more evidence of the clouds breaking up.
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We climbed for almost a mile before reaching a sign announcing Wagner Glade Gap.
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From the gap the trail turned left for the final 1.9 mile climb to the summit. We passed through trees and meadows, some in the fog and some in the sun.
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This portion of the climb was never very steep and when we arrived on the ridgecrest for the final scramble we were indeed greeted with blue skies.
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To reach the former lookout site requires a bit of rock scrambling. The trail seems to end at a pile of boulders below a railing where the lookout once stood.
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A faint path around to the right led to a fairly easy scramble up the rocks to the top of the rocks and spectacular views.

Mt. McLoughlin along with Brown Mt. to the right and Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Baily to the left.
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Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Ashland and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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We couldn’t see much to the SW which was still mostly covered by a layer of clouds.
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We stayed at the summit for awhile watching the clouds continue to break up.
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When we noticed another batch of clouds moving toward our position on the summit we decided to head back down. The meadows and forest was now mostly fog free allowing for better views.
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As we passed back through the meadows we noticed several types of flowers we had somehow missed on the way up including the very interesting elkweed or monument plant. A large stalk several feet tall full of pretty blossoms which we have no idea how we managed not to notice it earlier.
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We also spotted some peony
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Lewis flax
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and Fritillaria
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We eventually made it back down into the cloud bank, but the lower meadows were far less foggy revealing some additional flowers and views as well.
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For the fourth straight day we had somehow managed to sneak in some views despite the cloudy/foggy conditions. Southern Oregon was not disappointing with its hikes and we had one day left. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157654117259261

Mt. Scott (Crater Lake National Park) & Tipsoo Peak (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness)

After a semi-rest day (Sparks Lake) we headed to Crater Lake National Park for our third visit hoping this time to actually be able to see the lake. In 2012 smoke had made it nearly invisible and earlier this year clouds had completely blocked the view. This time we were not disappointed.

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October 2014
Crater Lake in the morning

Our plan was to hike to the former lookout tower on Mt. Scott, the highest point in the park at 8938′ and then head north on Hwy 138 to the Tipsoo Peak Trail and also summit that 8034′ peak. The two hikes combined would be just over 11 miles with a combined 3000′ of elevation gain making them very doable in a single day.

The Mt. Scott Trail sets off along a broad plain at the base of the mountain giving a clear view of the entire peak as well as the lookout tower on it’s northern end.
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The trail climbs around to the south side of the mountain and then up to the long ridge along Mt. Scotts summit. Not only were the skies clear above Crater Lake but we were able to see mountain peaks from Mt. Shasta in the south to Mt. Jefferson up north along the way. The views started early along the trail and just improved was we climbed.

Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin, and Union Peak to the south.
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Crater Lake
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Crater Lake from Mt. Scott

Mt. Bailey
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Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Peak
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack
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While we were traversing the ridge over to the lookout tower we spotted a hawk soaring high above the park.
Hawk soaring over Crater Lake National Park

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After checking out the tower we headed back down to the car to start the drive to the Tipsoo Peak Trail. We had to make a couple of stops just to take in the beauty of Crater Lake.
Crater Lake

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We left the park and drove up to the Tipsoo Trail where we were surprised to find a much nicer forest than we had expected. Our previous trips in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness had been through lodgepole pine forests which are not exactly eye candy.
Tipsoo Peak Trailhead

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We were also surprised by the number of mushrooms we spotted.
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The climb was very gradual making it fairly easy going as we approached the summit. Near the top the trail passed by the edge of pumice filled Howlock Meadows where Howlock Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey were visible.
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Red cinder covered the top of Tipsoo Peak and the 360 degree view revealed several mountains and lakes.
View from Tipsoo Peak

Red Cone
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Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen
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Diamond Peak
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The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor
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Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake
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Lemolo Lake
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Miller Lake
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Madieu Lake
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Lucille Lake
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These were a couple of really nice hikes if you are looking for big views without a long or steep hike. Both hikes were on the shorter end (4.6 & 6.5 miles) and both trails climbed very gradually making them very nice options. The access road for the Tipsoo Peak trail was a bit rough and would probably require a high clearance vehicle though. Happy Trails!

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Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
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By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
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We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
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Scarlet Gilia
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Lewis Flax
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Prairie Star
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Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
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Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
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and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
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We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
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We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
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It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
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It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
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Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
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Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
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From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
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Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
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Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
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Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
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Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
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And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
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We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
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By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
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We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
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Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
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Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
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A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
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To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
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It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

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Fuji Mountain

After a (well timed) scheduled week off we were back on the trails this past weekend. A highly unusual storm had rolled through as September gave way to October. Not only had this storm brought record amounts of precipitation but some of that precipitation fell as snow as low as 4000′. The hike we had planned, Fuji Mountain, topped out at 7144′ so we weren’t sure if it was going to be doable but some warmer weather moved in and we decided to give it a go. If we managed to make it up to the summit we knew the views should be great, and worst case scenario we could just choose a different lower trail in the area.

Fuji Mountain is located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Highway 58. A pair of trail heads lead to the summit. From the SW a 1.5 mile option starts on road 5883 making for a nice short hike. We chose to start from road 5897 (Waldo Lake road) to lengthen the hike a bit and visit some of the areas many lakes.

The trail begins just below 5000′ and started out snow free, but that didn’t last for long. We quickly began seeing snow along the trail and then on the trail itself. We followed a single set of hikers prints as we climbed up toward the first of the lakes.
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They weren’t the only set of prints in the snow. 🙂

Black bear print
Black bear print

It wasn’t long before there was more snow covered trail than not but the snow wasn’t very deep, only on occasion measuring 6″. The trail climbed for about a mile then gently rolled along a plateau dotted with ponds and lakes for another 2.5 miles. Many of these were at least partly frozen making for some pretty scenery.

Half frozen pond
Half frozen pond
Mushrooms under ice
Mushrooms under ice
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake

Shortly after crossing the South Waldo Trail the Fuji Mountain Trail began climbing again. In another mile we met up with the trail coming from road 5883 and began the final 1.2 mile climb to the summit. Here there were more hiker tracks in the snow but we only saw one other couple who were on their way down after spending the night on the summit.

As we climbed we began to have views of snowy Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen to the south, but these views paled in comparison to what awaited at the summit. When we arrived at the summit a 360 degree view awaited with Waldo Lake and a string of snowy peaks to the north and more mountains to the south. To the east lay Wickiup Reservoir and Odell Lake with distant Paulina Peak and nearby Maiden Peak in between. To the west were the foothills leading to the Willamette Valley.

Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain

It was a beautiful day at the summit, sunny and warm with no wind. We took our time eating lunch and enjoying the tranquility before heading back down. On the way out Heather and I decided to take a brief side trip along the South Waldo Trail to the Island Lakes. It was around half a mile to Lower Island Lake with it’s green water and tiny rock island. Just up and across the trail from Lower Island Lake was Upper Island Lake which also had a small rocky island.

Lower Island Lake's island
Lower Island Lake’s island
Lower Island Lake
Lower Island Lake
Upper Island Lake
Upper Island Lake

The warm weather made the return trip pretty slushy as the snow was melting fairly quickly. When we arrived back at the half frozen pond the scene had changed quite a bit.

The no longer half frozen pond
The no longer half frozen pond

We all really enjoyed being able to take a hike through the snow and it made for a nice change of pace. I don’t know if the early snow is a sign of things to come or just a fluke but it was enjoyable. Happy Trails!

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