Tag Archives: Mt. Washington

Mount Washington Meadows

One week after returning from our Northern California trip we found ourselves headed to Bend to drop off some furniture to our Son who had recently moved.  It wasn’t going to be a long visit due to his having to work so after a quick tour of his new apartment we were back on our way home.

Our plan was to stop for a hike on the way home along the Pacific Crest Trail near Santiam Pass south to Mount Washington Meadows. We had left Salem at 5am so it would still be fairly early when we hiked. Just after 8:30 we pulled into the PCT trailhead near Big Lake.

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We headed south on the PCT which quickly entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness amid trees burned in the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire.

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The first two or so miles passed through the burn where despite most of the trees being dead, there was plenty of green and other colors present.

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The lack of living trees did allow for some views of both Mt. Washington ahead and Three Fingered Jack to the north beyond Big Lake, the Hoodoo Ski Area and the flat topped Hayrick Butte.

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We could also see two small buttes just to the SW of Big Lake which we had hiked around in 2012 when we visited the Patjens Lakes.

That hike was also done during the first week of August, but less than a year removed from the Shadow Lake Fire. It was interesting to see how the forest was recovering with the passing of several more years.

Patjens Lake TrailPatjens Lake Trail – August 2012

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A wider variety of plants including various berries were present now.

We left the burn area where we were able to see what the forest will look like again eventually.

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We passed several small meadows and lots of wildflowers as we went.

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We had been gradually climbing and when a break in the trees allowed us a view to the north where we spotted Mt. Jefferson over the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack.

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It was a bittersweet view as it reminded us that the Whitewater Fire was burning on the west side of Mt. Jefferson and had already burned over portions of several trails leading to Jefferson Park.

There was no real visible smoke but we knew that it was there and those trails would look a lot like what we’d passed through earlier in the Shadow Fire area.

When the PCT began to curve around a ridge to the left the Spire of Mt. Washington came into view.

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An open hillside then opened up views to the south were several other familiar peaks were visible.

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These included the North and Middle Sister, Belknap Crater, the Husband, Diamond Peak, and Scott Mountain.

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As we continued we passed through some increasingly impressive meadows until reaching a large lupine filled meadow below Mt. Washington.

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Mt. Washington rose above the meadow where we were able to get a great look at the eroded volcano.

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Lupine wasn’t the only thing in abundance in the meadow. There was also a large number of tortoiseshell butterflies who seemed to be overly attracted to me.

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We continued through the meadow where we found a nice display of cat’s ear lilies still in bloom amid the lupine.

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At this point we’d gone a little over 5.5 miles, but the level grade of the PCT and the great scenery so far enticed us to continue a little further to see what else the area had to offer. We decided to follow the PCT until it began to lose elevation as it crossed a valley between Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater. We soon found ourselves in another area affected by fire.

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We ended our hike as the PCT bent around a ridge end where it would begin the 400′ elevation loss before climbing up to the shoulder of Belknap Crater which was visible across the valley.

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From this vantage point we could also make out Little Belknap Crater.

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After a short break we headed back through the meadows and returned to our car.

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The 12.4 mile round trip had proved to be a lot more entertaining than we’d expected. We hadn’t really known what to expect having selected the hike from the back of our guidebook in the additional hikes section, but it had been a thoroughly enjoyable outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Washington Meadows

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Blue Lake

On Father’s Day we were joined by our Son, Dominique, on a jaunt to Blue Lake before heading home. Blue Lake is located south of Highway 20, just east of Santiam Pass. Much of the lake is privately owned but the Elliott Corbett Memorial State Park occupies the western end of the lake.

This area burned in the 2003 B & B Complex Fire and we began our hike at a fire interpretive kiosk in a large paved sno-park lot.
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Starting here meant a road walk of 2.5 miles before reaching an actual trail but the description in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Reagion” (we highly recommend this guidebook) called the final stretch of road “narrow, brushy, steep, rocky and subject to occasional washouts that turn the road into a series of deep gullies”. Given that the hike would still only be between 7 and 8 miles (and an extra 700′ of elevation gain) by starting here we felt it was worth avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend.

We walked through the parking area, which had a nice view of Mt. Washington, to FR 2076.
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We followed this road downhill. It was a beautiful morning and the view of Mt. Washington was spectacular.
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The summits of the North and Middle Sister also made a brief appearance.
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After .7 miles we came to a junction with Road 200 which had a sign warning it wasn’t suitable for trailers. We got ourselves confused here due to not re-reading Matt’s description but instead looking at the topographic image in the entry that showed the lake and trail but not the entire road walk. We should have taken Road 200 here but where the map picked up in the book the track was no longer on Road 200 so we mistakenly thought we needed to stay on FR 2076.

FR 2076 was in fairly good shape and was certainly not steep. It was traversing a hillside south toward Mt. Washington.
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After almost a half mile we knew something was amiss. Looking at the GPS showed we were indeed heading for a lake but it was Island Lake dead ahead not Blue Lake. We pulled the book out and read the directions and realized our mistake. We backtracked to Road 200 and once again headed downhill.

Road 200 was not great, and maybe the previous days short but horrific section of Forest Road 2630 in the Ochocos unduly influenced us, but most high clearance vehicles would probably be fine. Although, meeting a vehicle going the other way would be tricky as there weren’t many wide spots.

Walking the road had its advantages though. In addition to the mountain views were wildflowers including a surprising group of rhododendron.
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The rhododendron were upstaged by a nice buck with velvet antlers which Dominique spotted.
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We took our second wrong turn 1.5 miles down Road 200 when we forked right on Road 200 when we should have stayed straight at what appeared to be a pile of rocks. We’d only gone a tenth of a mile when we caught this one and headed back to the rocks to find a road continuing on the other side. Another .4 miles brought us to a parking turnaround. Here we ignored an obvious trail straight up a hill and took a faint path to the left.
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This path began to climb up a ridge to a sign announcing the end of the Blue Lake Nordic Trail.
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Once we gained the ridge we had a view of Blue Lake below and Suttle Lake a little further to the east.
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Blue Lake fills a collapsed cladera to a depth over 300 feet. The trail followed the ridge along the western end of the lake. We followed it around to a knoll described in the guidebook as the start of private land.
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Opposite the lake, on the other side of the ridge, lay a meadow with Mt. Washington looming behind.
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In addition, the seasonal Cache Falls could be seen flowing down the hillside below hidden Cache Lake.
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After visiting the knoll we backtracked a tenth of a mile along the ridge then headed downhill on a faint path heading toward what appeared to be an old road bed. There was a bit of maneuvering around blowdown to get to the road bed where we discovered a clearer path coming down from a point further along the ridge. Here was also the memorial plaque for the Elliott R. Corbett II Memorial State Park.
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The trail led into and through the meadow before arriving back at the turnaround at the end of the road walk.
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On the way back up we spotted a toad and a frog along the roads.
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As we neared the sno-park Three Fingered Jack came into view through the trees.
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Remember my comment earlier about avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend? Well Google got us again. We had originally planned on visiting the nearby Skylight Cave after the hike. In June between the hours of 9 and 11 am sunbeams come through an opening in the roof a short lava tube. The driving directions in our “Bend, Overall” guidebook were from Highway 242 but a look at Google Maps had shown what appeared to be a pretty straight forward 5 mile(ish) drive from Highway 20. We had written directions for that route but about 4 miles into our attempt we came to a 4-way junction with no road signs. Our written directions indicated we should go straight but we were on a gravel road crossing a gravel road and the road ahead was a narrow dirt track. We tried using the Garmin to figure out where we were, but the Garmin showed far more roads than Google had and it seemed to agree that the dirt road was the one we were looking for. After some indecision Heather decided to give it a go. It was quickly obvious that that was a bad choice as the road was narrow, overgrown, and rocky in places. When we spotted a wide enough spot to turn around we did so retreating once again to the 4-way junction. It was after 10am and now we had no confidence that we were even where we had meant to be. So we threw up the white flag and decided to try again some other time when we can follow the guidebook directions.

When we got home we looked again on Google and discovered that the dirt track had been the correct route and we’d only been about 3/4 of a mile from the cave. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Lake

Throwback Thursday – Patjens Lakes

On 8/2/2012, a day after our mosquito filled visit to Miller & Maidu Lakes, we were heading home. I had injured my right knee running down the trail to Miller Lake in an attempt to thwart the mosquitoes and it was feeling a little off, but I wanted to give a hike a try on the way over Santiam Pass.

We decided to try Patjens Lakes due to it being relatively short, right around 6 miles, with only 400′ of cumulative elevation gain. The trailhead is located on the NW side of Big Lake off of Forest Road 2690 which is also the entrance road to the Hoodoo Ski Area.
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We stayed right at a fork near the trailhead planning on doing a counter-clockwise loop. A 2011 wildfire had burnt much of the forest along the loop but signs of life were already returning.
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Goldenrod, penstemon and aster

Pearly everlasting

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Mt. Washington and Big Lake were visible along the first portion of the trail.
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The trail looped around a small butte passing a series of meadows and view to the NW of the Sand Mountain Lookout.
Meadow along the Patjens Lake Trail

Lupine

Sand Mountain Lookout

Shortly after passing a horse trail joining on the right the we entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness and began the only real significant climb of the hike.
Wt. Washington Wilderness sign

The trail climbed to a saddle between the butte and a small hill. At the saddle the Three Sisters were visible to the south.
Forest along the Patjens Lake Trail
Small hill from the saddle.

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The Three Sisters

As the trail descended from the saddle it entered forest that had been spared by the fire.
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We passed through a series of meadows full of ferns and scarlet gilia.
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Tall cascade lilies rose above the ferns.
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Cascade lilies

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As we were passing through one of these meadows we encountered a foul reek. There was obviously some sort of rotting carcass out in the brush but we couldn’t see anything. We were a little concerned that it might have been a mountain lion kill or that a bear might be feeding on it so when we heard a ruckus off to our right we were on high alert. The noise turned out to be a pair of turkey vultures who had apparently located the dead animal.
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Turkey vulture

We left well enough alone and continued on our way paying extra attention for any large predators that might have been attracted by the smell. Around a mile from the saddle we came to a small body of water on the right side of the trail.
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The first Patjens Lake was approximately .7 miles from the pond on our left.
A Patjens Lake

The trail then passed a large meadow reentering the burn area before reaching the second Patjens Lake.
Meadow along the Patjens Lake Trail

Patjens Lake #2

The third lake was just beyond the second and it looked like they were probably connected for a brief times during high water. We left the trail and began to loop around the third lake in a clockwise direction.
A Patjens Lake

A number of ducks could be seen in the reeds.
Ducks on a Patjens Lake

From the north end of the lake there was a nice view of Mt. Washington rising over the forest to the south.
Mt. Washington from a Patjens Lake

We took a break here watching the ducks and admiring the mountain then continued around the lake back to the trail. A mile and a half from the last lake we came to a junction near Big Lake where we turned left following the lake shore back toward the trailhead. Flat Hayrick Butte and round Hoodoo Butte rose above the blue waters of Big Lake.
Hoodoo and Hayrick Buttes from Big Lake

Hoodoo Butte
Hoodoo Ski Area

Looking back over our shoulders provided big views of Mt. Washington.
Mt. Washington and Big Lake

A mile from the junction at Big Lake we were back at the trailhead. Despite a little discomfort going downhill my knee had held up which was encouraging. The hike had been a good choice for it and it had been a really nice hike even with the burned forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Patjens Lakes

Scott Mountain Loop Day 2 – Mt. Washington Wilderness

We had set our alarms for 5:30am hoping to get a jump on the day and be ready to start hiking as soon as there was enough light. The forecast had called for increasing chances of rain as the day went on and we had watched an increase number of clouds fill the sky the night before including some low clouds descending to the tree tops around the Tenas Lakes. When we stuck our heads out of the tent we were pleasantly surprised to see a sky filled with stars overhead. We turned our MPOWERED Luci inflatable solar lantern on and began packing up. As we cooked breakfast and finished packing the sky filled with color.
Sunrise from our campsite

Sunrise from our campsite with North Sister peaking through the trees

Sunrise from the little lake near our campsite

Sunrise from the little lake near our campsite

We began hiking shortly after 7am returning to the Benson Trail where we headed north .2 miles to the Scott Mountain Trail. Scott Mountain was already catching the morning sunlight as we approached.
Scott Mountain

We momentarily considered heading back up to the summit, but neither of us really felt like hauling our full backpacks up the steep trail. We settled for the few views along the trail below Scott Mountain where the Three Sisters appeared cloud free through the trees.
North Sister
North Sister

Middle Sister
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Middle Sister

After a mile on the Scott Mountain Trail we took the Scotty Way Trail and began descending toward the Hand Lake Trail.
Scotty Way Trail junction with the Scott Mountain Trail

Scotty Way Trail

We followed this trail approximately 1.7 miles to its end at the Hand Lake Trail where we turned left.
Hand Lake Trail junction with the Scotty Way Trail

As usual I had checked the Forest Service websites for the trails that we would be using a couple of days before our trip to make sure there were no closures or alerts we needed to be aware of. The Willamette National Forest page for the Hand Lake Trail listed the current conditions for the Hand Lake Trail as ” open and cleared” as of 7/22/2016.
What part of this picture is “cleared”?
Blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

For the next two and a half miles the trail (when there was one) passed through burnt forest with faint tread and a good deal of blowdown. For awhile we were able to follow tracks left by a horse; that helped keep us on the right course.
Hand Lake Trail

More blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

When we weren’t searching for the trail there were some decent views.
Black Crater and North & Middle Sister
Black Crater and the North & Middle Sisters from the Hand Lake Trail

Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington from the Hand Lake Trail

Mt. Washington from the Hand Lake Trail

After approximately 1.75 miles we lost the hoof prints and were forced to make a wide arc to the south away from where the map showed the trail should have been. We were coming up on a steep drop down into a basin where the map showed the trail descending in a series of six switchbacks so using the Garmin we worked our way back toward the location where the switchbacks began on the map.
Looking west from the Hand Lake Trail

With no obvious trail visible we searched around a bit and found what may have been part of the original trail but now it appeared to be a simple game trail from the amount of deer and elk sign we were seeing.
Following a game trail down into a basin

In any event it was the only trail in sight so we followed it steeply downhill reaching the basin where we were able to relocate the actual trail near an unnamed lake.
Unnamed lake along the Hand Lake Trail

Unnamed lake along the Hand Lake Trail

After another quarter mile of faint trail and blowdown we entered unburnt forest on a much clearer trail.
Hand Lake Trail

Hand Lake Trail

A mile and a half on this nicer trail brought us back to the junction with the Deer Butte Trail we had passed the day before.
Hand Lake Trail junction with the Deer Butte Trail

We followed the Deer Butte Trail just over two and a quarter miles back to the Robinson Lake Trailhead ending our final backpacking trip of the year.
Deer Butte Trail

The distance from Tenas Lakes back to the Robinson Lake Trailhead came to 8.9 miles according to the GPS which was almost a mile further than we had expected, but we hadn’t planned on wandering back and forth trying to keep on the Hand Lake Trail. Had we known what a mess that 2.5 mile section was we wouldn’t have even tried it, but we made it and it was another chance to put our navigational skills to the test. Happy (blowdown free) Trails!

Flickr (both days): https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674905089576

Belknap Crater

We had originally planned on backpacking around Mt. Hood on the Timberline Trail on our recent vacation but the weather had a different idea. The forecast called for rain and snow showers for most of the week so we started searching for a Plan B. Between active fires and less than encouraging weather forecasts we decided that a backpacking trip wasn’t in the cards. My parents provided a solution though and we were able to pay them a visit in Central Oregon and do some day hikes from there. We stopped on our way over to Bend to take our first hike visiting Little Belknap and Belknap Crater in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

The hike started off at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing of the McKenzie Pass Highway.
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We followed the PCT through a forest on a small hill surrounded by a lava flow produced by Little Belknap.
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Black Crater rose above the lava flow to the NE.
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The trail left the forested hill and briefly entered the lava flow before reaching a second forested hill.
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Belknap Crater and Little Belknap were visible ahead while the North and Middle Sister loomed on the horizon behind.
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The closer we got to Little Belknap the more detail we could make out of the colors and textures of this geologic feature.
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The lava flow offered many interesting features and it was interesting to see the few plants that had managed to find a foothold in the rocky landscape.
Lichen on the lava
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Turtle
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Little tree
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Ewok waving
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Rock hill
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Just under 2.5 miles from the highway we reached the Little Belknap Trail with a view of Mt. Washington and distant Mt. Jefferson.
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The Little Belknap Trail climbed to the summit of Little Belknap.
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Along the way the trail passes three caves.

Lower cave
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Middle & Upper caves
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Middle cave
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Upper cave (beware it drops about 40′ right near the opening.
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The final pitch to the summit is on a dark red cinder path.
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The 360 degree view includes several Cascade Mountains as well as some lower peaks.
Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson
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Belknap Crater
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North and Middle Sister
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Broken Top
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Diamond Peak
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Black Butte & Black Crater
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The Husband
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Scott Mountain
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After visiting Little Belknap we continued on the PCT until it left the lava flow. Shortly thereafter the trail split at an unsigned junction.
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The PCT continued straight but we forked left on the unofficial trail toward Belknap Crater. The trail climbed gradually through a sparse forest to the base of the crater. The views here were great. The blue sky was dotted with white clouds high above the summit.
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We were surprised by the various colors and different features on Belknap Crater now that we had gotten close.
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The trail skirted up around the north side of the crater before launching more steeply up toward the summit.
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The views were excellent from the long summit ridge, especially of Mt. Washington.
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There was a large crater on the SE side of the summit which consisted of various colored rocks.
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After checking out the summit and crater we began descending down the west side of Belknap Crater toward a smaller crater on the NW flank.
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This crater wasn’t as colorful as it was made up of darker lava rocks. At the bottom we could see lots of tracks in the sand.
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There was an interesting line going up along the east side of Belknap Crater. We couldn’t tell if it was a game trail or just some odd feature but it didn’t appear to be a trail used by people.
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We took a final break on a downed tree near the PCT junction with a great view of Belknap Crater.
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The sky was becoming increasingly cloudy as we headed back to the car. It was a sign of things to come. On this day though the weather had been nearly perfect, and we were looking forward to the rest of the weeks hikes.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658844385675

Crescent Mountain

Our wildflower adventure in the Old Cascades continued on our way home from Bend on July 6th. The hike we’d chosen was Crescent Mountain which is less than five miles from Iron Mountain as the crow flies. A 4.5 mile trail climbs up the SE ridge of this crescent shaped mountain through a series of meadows to another former lookout site.

The first 2.5 miles climbed through a nice forest with a crossing of Maude Creek at the 1.3 mile mark.
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The trail then entered the first meadow which was full of bracken fern and some wildflowers.
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The ferns gave way to more wildflowers as the trail continued to climb. Then we spotted a field of beargrass ahead. It turned out to be the most densely packed we’d ever seen.
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Butterflies and birds could be seen flying about in all directions. Behind us a view of Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters opened up across the open hillside.
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There was a nice variety of flowers in bloom.
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The meadows lasted for about a mile before the trail reentered the forest and climbed a ridge to a trail junction. Taking the uphill fork to the right we quickly popped out on the rocky summit where the former lookout had stood. The view here was better than Iron Mountain with Three Fingered Jack unobstructed and Crescent Lake below nestled in the curve of the mountain.
Mt. Jefferson
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Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters
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Three Fingered Jack and Black Butte
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Hood & Mt. Adams
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Crescent Lake
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There were more flowers, butterflies and birds up at the summit and despite a brief encounter with mosquitoes when we left the meadows we were left alone to enjoy the scenery.
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Hummingbird enjoying the paint
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Coming down we ran into a pair of hikers passing through the meadow who were equally impressed with the flowers. We agreed that we’d probably timed it as well as could be hoped. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645550800815/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204403365071385.1073741892.1448521051&type=1

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Beargrass
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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