Tag Archives: Oregon

Salem Parks – Wallace Marine to Minto-Brown Island

With an influx of visitors expected in Oregon for the eclipse we decided to do something a little different for our most recent hike.  Heeding warnings of possible traffic issues (which never seemed to have materialized) we stayed close to home opting for a urban hike through three city parks in Salem.

We had gotten the idea for this urban hike when the opening of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Brdige on June 5th, 2017 made it possible to walk or bike through Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks without having to use any streets. Given the unknowns associated with the eclipse this seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

We began our hike at West Salem’s Wallace Marine Park.
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After entering the 114 acre park we turned left (north) and headed for the softball complex which consists of 5 fields that host several tournaments each year.
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We looped around the fields which were empty this early it morning. No games meant no crowds but that didn’t mean there was a lack of noise. Osprey use the light poles for nests and they were making their presence known from their high perches.
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After looping around the fields we headed south past the parks entrance road and several soccer fields.
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Shortly before reaching the Union Street Railroad Pedestrian Bridge we turned left down a paved path to the Willamette River.
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After visiting the river we headed for the pedestrian bridge.
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Originally constructed in 1912-13 for the Pacific Union Railroad the half mile bridge was purchased for $1 by the city in 2004. In April, 2009 the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and bicyclists connecting Wallace Marine Park to Salem’s Riverfront Park.
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After crossing the river we turned right and headed into Riverfront Park. The section of sidewalk just after the bridge was one of the least scenic portions of the route as it followed the parks entrance road past an electrical station and under the Center and Marion Street Bridges.
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Between the Marion Street and Center Street Bridges is the Gilbert House Children’s Museum.

This science and art museum is a great place for kids and fun for their parents.
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We chose to go around the museum on the left which took us between the museum and some still operational railroad tracks. If you’re looking for scenery skip this section and stay to the west of the museum which keeps the river in view.

After passing a parking lot we came to the open green grass of Riverfront Park.
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A music event was being set up in the center of the 23 acre park.
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The park is also home to the Willamette Queen Sternwheeler
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Riverfront Park was the location of the field sessions when Heather and I took the Route-Finding Class offered by the Chemeketans.

We passed the small open air amphitheater, which is slated for an upgrade in 2020, and continued south toward the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
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Another park feature, the Eco-Earth Globe, sits near the bridge and is an interesting bit of art.
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We headed across the bridge and into Minto-Brown Island Park.
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Interpretive signs line the new section of trail linking the bridge to the older trail system in the park after approximately 3/4 of a mile.
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At the junction with the older trail is a large signboard and map.
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By far the largest of the three parks, at 1,200 acres, numerous trails and loop options were available to us. We had done a short loop hike here in April of 2016 but this time planned on covering a bit more ground.

We turned right at the map and followed paved paths to the bank of the Willamette River.
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Signage along the trails is excellent and makes it fairly easy to get around even if you aren’t familiar with the park. We were headed for the Shelter Parking Lot, where we had started our 2016 visit.
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We had been passed by several familiar faces running with groups from Gallagher Fitness Resources but when we arrived at their watering hold near the gazebo at the Shelter Parking lot there were none to be seen in the area.
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We continued on from the gazebo following our route from our previous visit by forking right across at footbridge after a tenth of a mile.
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After another .4 miles we detoured to the left to visit a collapsing fishing dock.
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We continued on passing an open field before turning off the paved path on a wide dirt path to the left which led us to Faragate Ave.
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At Faragate Ave we turned left on a paved path which paralleled the road for a short distance before bending back into the park.
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After crossing another footbridge we turned right on a narrow dirt path.
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This path led about a quarter mile to another paved path where we initially turned right hoping to make a wide loop on another dirt path. We took a left on a little path after a tenth of a mile but it was rather brushy with blackberry vines and some poison oak so we quickly scrapped that idea and returned to the paved path which runs between the east end of Homestead Road and the Shelter Parking Lot #3. This section of trail is a bit drier and more open which allows for a few more flowers as well as little more poison oak.
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There is also an old car along the way.
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We were on our way back, but before reaching the gazebo we turned right on the Duck Loop which would swing us out and around some duck ponds.
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We crossed the park’s entrance road after .9 miles and turned right along it to the Entrance Parking Lot which we found to be super busy. We followed a paved path from the far end of the lot across the Willamette Slough and turned right on another paved path.
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We completed our loop through Minto and headed back toward Riverfront Park.
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We took a different route back through Riverfront Park in order to go by Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, another great attraction for kids.
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According to our GPS we managed to get 12.4 miles in for the day and there were still trails in Minto that we didn’t get to. Even though urban hikes are a lot different than our normal outings this was a nice hike and gives us a nearby go-to option when we just can’t get away. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wallace to Minto Parks

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

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

Pilot Rock

On our way home from Mount Shasta City we stopped for a quick hike to Pilot Rock in Oregon’s Soda Mountain Wilderness. We took exit 1 from Interstate 5 and drove north on Old Highway 99 for 6.9 miles to Pilot Rock Road (Road 40-2E-33) where we turned east. Instead of starting at the Pilot Rock Trailhead which is located 2 miles up the road we parked after a mile at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing. (If you do start here be sure not to block the private driveway.)
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From the road Mt. Ashland to the west and Mt. McLoughlin to the north were visible in the morning light.
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We headed south on the PCT (which ironically meant we were going northbound due to the route the trail takes after crossing I-5).
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Most of the flowers were finished but by the looks of things there had been quite a few. A number of late bloomers remained and along with those were some juicy thimbleberries.
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Aside from a couple of very short uphills the trail seemed fairly level and after about 3/4 of a mile Pilot Rock came into view.
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After another .9 miles we arrived at a junction with the closed road that serves as the trail from the official Pilot Rock Trailhead.
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The two trails joined for .2 miles passing through a nice forest before splitting once again.
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We forked to the right following the Pilot Rock pointer. This trail was much steeper and we climbed about 600′ in .7 miles to the base of Pilot Rock.
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In a perfect world we would have scrambled up to the top of the rock which wasn’t that much higher, but after hiking 80 plus miles and climbing at least 20,000′ over the previous 7 days we weren’t sure that we had the strength and muscle control left to safely climb to and descend from the top.

Rather than risk it we stopped just below the first section where we definitely would have need to use our hands to go any higher.
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We returned the way we’d come. Starting at the PCT put the hike at a little under 5 miles a little less than double what it would have been from the Pilot Rock Trailhead with some nice scenery which would have been even better earlier in the year when the numerous flowers were still in bloom. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pilot Rock

Chucksney Mountain to Grasshopper Meadow – Overnight

After cancelling our first two planned backpacking trips in June we finally got out for an overnight trip. Originally on the schedule for the last week in June, we moved our visit to Grasshopper Meadow back three weeks to let the snow finish melting off, we just hoped we hadn’t waited too long to see the wildflowers.

Our plan for this trip was to start at Box Canyon Horse Camp and hike to Grasshopper Meadow via the Chucksney Mountain and Grasshopper Trails.

Box Canyon Horse Camp is located just off paved Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Road) and can be reached by driving south from Highway 126 (4 miles east of Blue River) or north from Highway 58 (3 miles west of Oakridge).

After turning at a sign for the Horse Camp we forked right and parked in a large unmarked parking area where a post marked the start of our trail.

Trail from the car parking at Box Canyon Horse Camp

The trail led uphill and left to a signed trail junction just above the corral at the horse camp where we picked up the Grasshopper Trail.

Grasshopper Trail

Mosquitoes were a bit of a nuisance here, and they would be so off and on for the entire trip. We turned uphill passing the Box Canyon Trail which forked to the left before arriving at the signed junction with the Chucksney Mountain Tail. Here we turned right onto the Chucksney Mountain Trail which would lead us to the 5756′ summit in a little under 5 miles. The trail passed through a variety of scenery as it climbed.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Beargrass and a small burn along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

In the first 3.5 miles from the trailhead we’d climbed about 1500′ reaching an elevation of 5200′ then the trail dropped a bit and leveled out for about a half mile. The level area held a couple of snow melt ponds and some green meadows which gave rise to plenty of mosquitoes so there wasn’t much stopping for photos as we zipped through. When the trail began climbing again we were approximately 600′ below the summit of Chucksney Mountain.

The trail made up the elevation in a half mile by using a long switchback. As we climbed the number of trees lessened and we passed an increasing number of wildflowers.

Lupine along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail crested a ridge below the summit in an old burn area which left plenty of exposure for wildflowers as well as open views.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Phlox

View from Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor

The Chucksney Mountain Trail didn’t actually reach the summit but an easy .1 mile climb along the ridge brought us to the summits survey marker.

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Survey marker on Chucksney Mountain

A nice variety of wildflowers covered the ridge.

Owl's head clover

Catchfly

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Scarlet gilia

From the summit we could see eight of the Cascade volcanoes from Mt. Jefferson in the north to Diamond Peak in the south.

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack from Chucksney MountainMt. Jefferson & Three Fingered Jack

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor from Chucksney MountainThe Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor

Diamond Peak from Chucksney MountainDiamond Peak

After a short break at the summit we returned to the trail which turned south along a long ridge where the tread became faint as it passed through a meadow.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

We spotted some other types of wildflowers along the ridge as well as some nice ripe strawberries.

Fireweed

Grand collomia

Wallflower

Coneflower

Columbine

Strawberry

The trail reentered the trees as it began a hillside traverse to its end at the Grasshopper Trail.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail passed along another section of burned forest just before reaching the signed junction.

Meadow along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail junction with the Grasshopper Trail

Turning left here would have led us back to the down to the Box Canyon Trailhead in 3.9 miles but we were saving that section of trail for our return the next day. We turned right and headed east along the Grasshopper Trail which promptly began to descend through and then along a meadow with lots of cat’s ear lilies and a view of Diamond Peak.

Meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Cat's ear lilies

Cat's ear lilies

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

The trail lost a little over 500′ of elevation as it followed the forested ridge east. A little over a mile from the junction we finally hit the low point in a saddle just under 5000′ in elevation. We then began regaining nearly all of the elevation we had lost in the next mile. This climb contained the steepest section of the hike and ended in a beargrass filled meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Beargrass

Beargrass meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

A brief exploration of the meadow revealed some blocks in the ground of unknown origin.

Blocks in a meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

We also spotted a fairly good sized and very colorful moth which we later identified as a common sheep moth thanks to some help from the folks at Oregonhikers.org.

Sheep Moth

Sheep Moth

We had thought this meadow might be Grasshopper Point but after consulting the map it was clear we had a way to go yet before we’d reach that feature. We continued on the trail, which for the next quarter mile traveled along some rocky cliffs offering more views of Diamond Peak.

Diamond Peak

Beyond the cliffs the trail turned north as it began to contour around a creek drainage. Up until this point the the trail had been in good shape with signs of recent maintenance where logs had been cut. The Chucksney Mountain Trail had been a bit faint through the meadow along the ridge but it had still been relatively easy to follow. Here we came to a large meadow with signs of another fire but no sign of the trail at first.

The Grasshopper Trail was not visible through this meadow, a few Forest Service flags helped mark the way.

We finally spotted a small orange flag in the middle of the grass and made our way towards it.

Forest Service Flag marking the Grasshopper Trail

It was a Forest Service “Trail” Flag so we looked for a second one. We did spot one, but it was next to a small tree next to the trail we’d just come from. We scanned for any signs of a trail: flagging, cairns, blazes but there was nothing. Time for the maps. The Garmin, Forest Service, and topographic maps all showed the trail swinging around to the NE so we began using the GPS to stick close to where it showed the trail was supposed to be. We spread out a bit in hopes of rediscovering the trail. We both spotted different flags at about the same time.

Forest Service Trail flag

There wound up being three flags at the lower end of the meadow which led us to the continuation of the trail as it reentered the trees. After a short stint in the trees the trail began to climb out of the valley into another meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

The trail was faint at times in this meadow as well, but there were large rock cairns to help guide us this time.

Grasshopper Trail

Looking back from this meadow gave us a good look at another meadow across the valley.

Meadows along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow gave way to a wildflower rock garden as the trail regained the ridge.

Grasshopper Trail

Owl's head clover

Scarlet gilia

Wildflowers along the Grasshopper Trail

Penstemon

In the next half mile the trail passed through two small meadows, the first filled with lupine and the second more beargrass. The trail was once again very faint in the lupine meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Lupine

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

The trail then dipped off the ridge, first on the north side, then after climbing back up to a saddle, to the south side to avoid some rock outcrops.

Grasshopper Trail

Beyond the outcrops was a short forested section of the ridge where some fragrant Washington lilies were in bloom.

Washington lily

Washington lily

A total of 5.2 miles from the Chucksney Mountain Trail junction we arrived at the meadow near Grasshopper Point.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

We spotted a patch of bare ground at the edge of the meadow near the trees where we decided to set up camp.

Lupine meadow

Camp site along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow was filled with flowers and provided views of Diamond Peak, especially on the rocks of Grasshopper Point.

Wildflower meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Diamond Peak

After setting up camp and taking a nice break at Grasshopper Point we continued east on the Grasshopper Trail to the large Grasshopper Meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Meadow

Grasshopper Meadow (and Grasshopper Point for that matter) lived up to their name as dozens of grasshoppers jumped with every step. The number of grasshoppers was impressive but more impressive was the variety of butterflies we were seeing.

Checkerspot butterfly

Swallowtail on tiger liliy

Mountain parnassian

Butterfly in Grasshopper Meadow

Fritillary butterflies

Butterflies in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper

There was even another common sheep moth.

Sheep moth

We were so busy looking at the butterflies and flowers we missed the fork in the trail that would have led down to a spring which is where we had planned on heading. We had brought our dinner with us and had planned on finding a place to eat near the spring so we could refill our water afterward since it was the only source of water around. When we reached a saddle where the trail began to descend to the north of Grasshopper Mountain we realized our mistake. From the saddle the Grasshopper Trail follows Hiyu Ridge for 4 miles to the Grasshopper Trailhead.

The view from the saddle included Diamond Peak to the SE and the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor beyond Chucksney Mountain to the NE.

Diamond Peak from Grasshopper Meadow

The Three Sisters and Broken Top

We momentarily considered attempting to bushwack up to the former lookout site atop Grasshopper Mountain but the brush near the summit looked thick and in the end we decided not to exert the effort.

Grasshopper Mountain

Instead we decided to head cross country downhill and use the GPS to locate the spring.

Grasshopper Meadow

From higher up in the meadow we’d seen something near a boulder below and on our way to the spring we took a closer look.

Some sort of memorial in Grasshopper Meadow

Not sure if it was some sort of memorial or what but after satisfying our curiosity we continued steeply downhill to the SE where we managed to find the spring flowing out of a pipe amid a clump of yellow monkey flower and a swarm of blue copper butterflies.

Spring in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper butterflies

We filled all our containers from the spring and then picked up a trail just a few feet east of the spring climbing steeply uphill. This trail starts just .7 miles from the spring along Forest Road 1929 and is the described route in William Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades”.

The terrain was too steep to provide any place for us to fix dinner so we began climbing back up toward the Grasshopper Trail. The trail was faint but visible as we climbed. Along the way we spotted a huge Washington lily blooming in the meadow.

Washington lily in Grasshopper Meadow

Washington lily

Washington lily

We were curious to find out where we’d missed this trail earlier when we passed by. It turned out that the path led over a rocky area where the tread vanished leaving a lone post and small rock cairn as it’s only identifiers.

Grasshopper Trail

We decided to return to Grasshopper Point and set up our stove on the rocks there. We fixed dinner then relaxed as we enjoyed the view and listened to the birds.

Western tanager

White crowned sparrow

We turned in for the night after having put in a little over 15 miles for the day. After a good nights sleep we awoke early and began preparing to depart. The mosquitoes were out in force, (they had been mostly absent in the meadows during the heat of the previous day) and we were dealing with a fair amount of condensation due to setting up next to the meadow.

Lupine in the morning light

After packing up and applying some DEET we headed back. We had talked about the possibility of seeing some sort of animals in the meadows that morning and sure enough we did spot three deer just as we entered one of the meadows, but they quickly retreated into the trees.

While we hadn’t seen anyone else yet on this trip we did spot some fresh mountain bike tracks as we neared the junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail. We reached that junction after a little over five miles. We passed that trail and continued straight on the Grasshopper Trail.

Our shoes were soaked from the dew in the meadows and the mosquitoes were ready to pounce whenever we paused, so even though the next 3.6 miles of the Grasshopper Trail was new for us, we kept a brisk pace. The trail wound it’s way downhill through the forest where there were still many of the typical white flowers found amid the trees; bunchberry, anamone, queen’s cup, twin flower, and we even spotted a pair of trillium still in bloom.

Trillium

After a wide switchback we crossed a stream flowing down Box Canyon and in another quarter mile arrived back at the lower junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail.
Stream in Box Canyon

Grasshopper Trail junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail

A final .3 miles brought us back to our car which was being patrolled by a squadron of mosquitoes. We quickly tossed our packs in the back of the car and hopped inside to change. We never did wind up seeing anyone else on the trails which made the fourth hike in a row where we didn’t see another person on the trails.

The trails had been amazingly clear of debris, we only stepped over two logs and one young bent tree, but the faint sections through the meadows required some navigational skill. The relative lack of water along the route make it an unlikely backpacking destination but it worked out well for us. That being said the views and the wildflowers make either Chucksney Mountain or Grasshopper Meadow a worthy early summer day hike destination. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157683128711132

Big Bottom (Clackamas Wilderness) & Rho Ridge Trail

For the second outing in a row we turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” as our guide. A number of the hikes in this book are lesser known and therefor less popular which means fewer people and most likely more challenging due to spoty trail maintenance.

We began our day with a short hike into one of Oregon’s wilderness areas that we had yet to visit, the Clackamas Wilderness. This particular wilderness is broken up into five separate tracts of land, one of which is Big Bottom. The Big Bottom tract protects an old growth forest along the Clackamas River. Although there are no official trails in Big Bottom a decommissioned logging road allows for a mile long walk down to the wilderness boundary where a use trail continues north for a little over half a mile before vanishing in brush.

To reach the decommissioned road we drove Forest Road 46 north from Detroit for 28.6 miles to Fores Road 4670 where we turned left crossing the Clackamas River. Just beyond the bridge we turned right on FR 4671 for .7 miles and parked on the right at the old road.
Closed road 120 which leads to the Big Bottom unit of the Clackamas Wilderness

We followed the roadbed downhill through a previously logged forest.
Heading down to Big Bottom

Just prior to reaching the wilderness boundary the road bed became choked with downed trees which we simply detoured around.
Trees leaning over old road 150

At a junction with an even older roadbed we turned left (north) and followed what became a clear user path into the old growth of Big Bottom.
Big Bottom

Big Bottom

There were a few downed trees to navigate but the path was easy enough to follow until we neared a creek where the ground became marshy and the underbrush extremely thick.
Big Bottom

We turned around at that point returning to the car to complete a 3.4 mile hike. That was our warm-up for the day before a longer hiker on the nearby Rhododendron (Rho) Ridge Trail. Our plan was to start at Graham Pass and follow the trail south 4.8 miles to the Hawk Mountain Trail and take the .4 mile trail up to the Hawk Mountain Lookout.

To reach Graham Pass we followed FR 4670 for 13.9 miles to FR 6530 where a large parking area was visible. There was no signage visible at the parking area, just a blank signboard along an old logging road.
Rho Ridge Trailhead

With no obvious trail visible we turned to the forest service map and our GPS to try and see if we could tell where the trail was supposed to be. Both of these indicated that the trail lay just east of the parking area so we headed into the trees and began to hunt for any sign of it.
Beargrass near Graham Pass

After a few minutes of climbing through the brush and crossing the location of the trail as shown on the GPS several times we decided to head toward the logging road. The GPS showed it curving back to the east further uphill where the Rho Ridge Trail would cross it and we figured the worst case scenario was we’d have to walk the road up to the crossing where we would hopefully be able to identify the trail. We were also beginning to suspect that the location of the trail on the maps was incorrect which is not all that uncommon. Sure enough we found the trail before reaching the road.
Rho Ridge Trail

We turned uphill following this obvious trail through beargrass filled meadows.
Rho Ridge Trail

Beargrass along the Rho Ridge Trail

The trail was brushy at times with lots of huckleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

The tread was faint through most of the meadows and blowdown was common along the way but old blazes and yellow diamonds on trees helped identify the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

Blowdown over the Rho Ridge Trail

Rho Ridge Trail

The trail had several road crossing and shortly after the third we arrived at Fawn Meadow where a small stream flowed through a meadow of wildflowers.
Meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

Shooting star

Wildflowers along the Rho Ridge Trail

After a fourth road crossing the trail entered another beargrass meadow with a partial view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
Penstemon lined road crossing

Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams from a beargrass meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The brush was particularly thick as we exited the meadow which required us to really pay attention to the trail which was hard to see through all the green. We reentered the forest where we crossed one final old logging road before spotting the first snow along the trail. (There was actually a larger patch lower that we’d notice on the way back down but somehow we both missed it on the way up.)
Rho Ridge Trail

Snow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The little patch of snow was near Round Creek which was flowing on this day. The sound of the creek was nice but we didn’t dare stop to admire it due to the many blood thirsty mosquitoes that were present. Just under half a mile later we spotted the sign for the Hawk Mountain Trail.
Rho Ridge Trail jct with the Hawk Mountain Trail

We turned uphill here climbing approximately 300′ in .4 miles to the summit meadow and the Hawk Mountain Lookout.
Hawk Mountain Trail

Snow along the Hawk Mountain Trail

Hawk Mountain Lookout and Mt. Jefferson

Hawk Mountain Lookout

The view from the summit is a good one especially of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington from Hawk Mountain

Mt. Jefferson

Additionally Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington were visible further south with the very top of Broken Top poking up above the ridge north of Three Fingered Jack.
Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, an Mt. Washington

The view wasn’t the only attraction at the summit. An impressive display of wildflowers was underway which had attracted a wide variety of pollinators.
Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Butterfly on penstemon

After a nice break it was time to head back.
Mt. Jefferson from Hawk Mountain

On the way down the Hawk Mountain Trail we stepped off the trail briefly to get a view to the north since trees on the summit had not allowed us to see in that direction. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood were all visible.
Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

On the way back we managed to follow the trail all the way down where we discovered that the official start of the trail was just a few feet up the logging road from the blank signboard. The Rho Ridge Trail sign had been just out of sight.
Rho Ridge Trail sign

The hike from Graham Pass to Hawk Mountain was 10.7 but a shorter option exists by starting at the southern end of the Rho Ridge Trail. From this end the hike up to Hawk Mountain is just 4.2 miles round trip. This was the second straight outing that we didn’t encounter a single other hiker along the trails. As overcrowded as some of the popular trails have become it’s nice to know that there are still some out there that offer a little more solitude. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Big Bottom & Rho Ridge

Scar Mountain

We’ve developed a tradition of using the day off of work provided by the 4th of July holiday to take a hike. One of our go to areas in the first part of July is the Old (Western) Cascades. The Old Cascades are older than the volcanic peaks of the High Cascades and rise only half as high meaning they melt out much sooner than their younger companions. These highly eroded volcanoes are home to old growth forests and top notch wildflower meadows.

This year we decided to visit the Scar Mountain Trail. The hike is listed in our usual guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” as hike #111. Due to it not being a featured hike the description in that book is brief so we turned to another excellent resource, “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” by Matt Reeder.

We followed his directions to the North Pyramid Trailhead where we parked then crossed Forest Road 2266 to the signed Scar Mountain Trail.

North Pyramid Trailhead

Scar Mountain Trail

The Scar Mountain Trail is part of the approximately 30 mile long Old Cascades Loop. We had done another section of this loop in 2014 when we started at the Pyramids Trailhead and hiked to Donaca Lake for an overnight stay.

The trail climbed through a nice forest,gradually at first then more steeply as it switchbacked up toward a ridge top.

Scar Mountain Trail

The switchbacks ended after just over a mile and the trail began to traverse along the hillside below the ridge. There were occasional glimpses of the Three Pyramids to the south and Daly Lake in the valley below.

Daly Lake below the Three Pyramids

Daly Lake

For the next mile and a half the trail continued to gain elevation via a series of ups and downs as it gained the ridge top and alternated between its west and east sides providing views of several of the High Cascades to the SE, Mt. Jefferson to the NE, and Coffin & Bachelor Mountains to the north.

Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and the Husband Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters and the Husband

Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Coffin and Bachelor MountainsCoffin and Bachelor Mountains

A few small patches of snow lingered on and along the trail.

Snow on the Scar Mountain Trail

The trial began to climb steeply again at the 2.5 mile mark as it headed up Trappers Butte. The forested summit offered some similar views to what we had seen on the way up but one big difference was the presence of some non-white wildflowers near the top.

Paintbrush

Penstemon

The trail then descended roughly 400′ in .8 miles to a saddle where it crossed an old roadbed in a clearing with blooming beargrass and rhododendron and view of the Three Pyramids.

The Three Pyramids

Another one and three quarter miles of ups and downs had us nearing our goal, a dramatic rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain. The trail had been in reasonably good shape with some minor blowdown and a few brushy spots which became a bit more frequent as we climbed Scar Mountain.

Scar Mountain Trail

Rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain

The flowers on and around the pinnacle might not have been as impressive as the meadows on some of the other nearby peaks but there were still some nice displays.

Valerian along the Scar Mountain Trail

Wildflower on Scar Mountain

Yellowleaf iris

Paintbrush along the Scar Mountain Trail

Columbine

Wildflowers along the Scar Mountain Trail

Stonecrop and penstemon

The real reward for this hike were the views from Scar Mountains cliffs.

Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams peaking over a ridge and Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson from Scar MountainMt. Jefferson

Three Fingered JackThree Fingered Jack

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters and the HusbandThe Three Sisters and the Husband

The Husband and the Three PyramidsThe Husband behind the Three Pyramids

Crescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountian and South PeakCrescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountain, and South Peak

North Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron MountainNorth Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron Mountain.

We took a nice break near the pinnacle where there seemed to be less mosquitoes. They hadn’t been too noticeable but with the snow still melting there were more around than we realized given the number of bites we discovered later.

Rock pinnacle along the Scar Mountain Trail

Looking down from cliffs along the Scar Mountain Trail

We returned the way we’d come passing the time on the ups and downs by admiring the many different flowers in the forest including large numbers of coralroots.

Caterpillar on coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Round trip was just under 12 miles with a good amount of elevation gain overall but broken up enough to never feel too daunting. Like many of the trails in the Old Cascades the Scar Mountain Trail offered a good dose of solitude. We neither spotted nor heard another person during the hike. Instead we listened for the calls of sooty grouse, the singing of birds, and “meeps” of hidden pikas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Scar Mountain