Tag Archives: Osprey

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

Marion Lake and Marion Falls

When it was time to say goodbye to Central Oregon we packed up and headed for one final hike. We chose Marion Lake as the destination hoping for some good fall colors along the way. We passed over the crest of the Cascade Mountains returning to the west side and the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The Marion Lake Trail set off through a green forest before entering the wilderness area.
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We soon found the fall colors we were looking for as we reached Lake Ann.
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Lake Ann

A half mile from Lake Ann we took the Marion Outlet Trail in search of the unmarked side trail to Marion and Gatch Falls.
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The side trail was about 200yds from the junction and we followed toward Marion Creek and the falls. Someone had put a sign up indicating a yellow jacket nest along the trail so we bypassed that section rejoining the path a bit beyond an overlook of the falls. The path continued steeply down to the base of Marion Falls.
Marion Falls

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From Marion Falls it was just a short distance down to a view that included Gatch Falls (which some have argued is really a lower tier of Marion Falls).
Marion & Gatch Falls

After visiting the falls we continued toward Marion Lake. At a junction with the Blue Lake Trail we crossed Marion Creek hoping to get a view of Mt. Jefferson from across Marion Lake.
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At the edge of a rock field that was ablaze in Fall colors we followed a path down to the lake shore where there was a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the North.
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There was an Osprey circling the lake apparently looking for breakfast.
Osprey over Marion Lake

We then recrossed the lake’s outlet and headed toward Marion Lake’s day use peninsula. As we made our way around the lake Three Fingered Jack came into view.
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From the peninsula both Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack were visible but never at the same time.
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After leaving the peninsula the trail crossed over another rock field with even more colorful leaves and many small birds.
Fall colors along Marion Lake

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Looking back we could see the peninsula and Three Fingered Jack.
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After leaving the lake shore we came to another trail junction which was unsigned. We turned left to complete the small loop back to the earlier junction just prior to the Marion Falls side trail. There was more rocky hillsides and orange leaves along this portion.
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We returned to Lake Ann where we found a good number of ducks floating on the far side of the lake.
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From there we finished off the final 1.8 miles of our vacation hiking. It was time to go back and get ready for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party the next day. Happy Trails (and happy birthday Grandma!)

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Proxy Falls & Separation Lake

They say timing is everything. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it certainly can make a difference in hiking. The time of day, of week, and of year can greatly impact the experience on any given trail. That was certainly the case on our recent visit to the Three Sister Wilderness. The plan was to hike to Separation Lake and back, a 13.7 mile trek. While I was planning the hike though I got to thinking that the trailhead was awfully close to the Proxy Falls trailhead on the Old McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242). Proxy Falls was a hike that we had been wanting to do at some point, but at only 1.7 miles it didn’t warrant the 2:45 minute drive. It was only about 11 miles from our turnoff on Foley Ridge Road for the Separation Lake Trail though so we decided we’d do the loop there as a warm up for the longer hike.

Proxy Falls is a very popular hike. The trailhead is located along the highway, the distance is manageable for hikers of all ages and types, and most importantly the falls are quite impressive. During the summer months the parking spots fill quickly, but on this day we were by ourselves when we arrived at 8am. The old highway is closed during the winter months and doesn’t reopen until June, but just a couple of weeks ago the first snow gate had been opened on the west end allowing access to the trailhead. The Proxy Falls trail loops over a lava field and past the two falls before returning to the highway. The falls are the stars of the show, and being the only ones there we were able to explore and enjoy them all to ourselves.

The lava flow
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The first fall that you reach is Lower Proxy Falls
Proxy Falls
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Next up is Upper Proxy Falls. The pool of water at the bottom of the falls flows underground reappearing a few miles away.

Pool beneath Upper Proxy Falls
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Upper Proxy Falls
Upper Proxy Falls
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Upper Proxy Falls

Our timing was great in this case. The falls were flowing very strongly due to the time of year and we had had a very popular trail all to ourselves :). We hopped back into the car and headed back toward the Separation Lake trail for part two of the days hikes.

Unlike the Proxy Falls trail the trail to Separation Lake is lightly used. We weren’t sure what we would find for conditions as it was unlikely the Forest Service had done any trail maintenance since last year. We were once again the only car at the trailhead which suited us just fine. The trail quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness as it headed down toward Separation Creek.
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The trail crossed several creeks all of which were easy to manage either on bridges or by rock hopping.
Bridge over Louise Creek
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Another creek crossing
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One more
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At one point we passed a tree stump littered with pieces of pine and fir cones. We’d never seen such a large pile and kept expecting to see the fattest chipmunk ever nearby.
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The path was very brushy in places and our feet and lower legs were soaked as we passed through the damp leaves.
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A number of early flowers were out and many of the bushes and trees were beginning to leaf out.

Vanilla Leaf
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Fairyslipper
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Red Currant
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Trillium
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Oregon Grape
Oregon Grape

George Creek is the final small creek that the trail crosses before reaching the much larger Separation Creek. This was the most scenic of the smaller creeks at it had a small waterfall at the crossing.
George Creek
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After 3.5 miles the trail finally gains a view of Separation Creek. It looked like a river compared to the other creeks we had crossed.
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Separation Creek

After following along the creek for 2 miles the trail splits. The Separation Lake Trail crosses Separation Creek on a log bridge while the Separation Creek Trail continues on deeper into the Three Sisters Wilderness. That trail is apparently no longer maintained and closed due to excessive downed trees. We crossed over the creek and continued on toward the lake. Not long after crossing the creek we were greeted by the smell of skunk. It wasn’t actually a skunk but rather a marshy area filled with skunk cabbage.
Separation Creek crossing
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Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage

A little over a mile after crossing the creek the trail reaches Separation Lake. It was a nice little lake with a couple of campsites. We were greeted by the usual birds and chipmunks (and a mosquito or two). We took a break here and had a snack at which point a couple of sets of ducks appeared on the far side of the lake followed by an Osprey who was scoping out the small fish that had been jumping in the lake.
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The ducks
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The osprey
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After the food break we strapped our packs back on and made the return trip back to the car. On our way back we finally ran into the first and only other people we would see – a couple and their dog were headed in to camp. We were pretty tired when we reached the trailhead but it had been a great day of solitude in the wilderness. Happy Trails!

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Timothy Lake

We reached into our bag of backup hikes this past weekend and grabbed what wound up being a decent little hike. We were needing something in the Portland, OR area because after the hike we were set to celebrate the upcoming birthdays of my Grandmother Zana (89) and our Son Dominique (18) at Gustav’s http://gustavs.net/. Our original plan was to hike up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood but the forecast called for thunder storms so we decided to save that one for another time and went to plan B which was a loop around Timothy Lake.

I am a bit hesitant when it comes to hiking around a lake because loops like that can sometimes lack a scenic diversity, but Timothy Lake was in the right area and had an appealing distance and elevation gain (14.2mi & <1000'). We started our hike at Little Crater Lake Campground in order to visit Little Crater Lake before starting the loop. Little Crater Lake is the result of a cold spring that has removed soft soils over time leaving a clear blue pool of water.
Reflection in Little Crater Lake Reflection in Little Crater Lake
A pair of ducks floated on the small lake while the surrounding meadows were draped in a low layer of fog. Shortly after leaving the lake we arrived at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned left for .3 miles to the start of the official loop.

We remained on the PCT heading south, crossing Crater Creek, and passing several small springs before reaching our first good view of Timothy Lake. A great blue heron flew by and landed in a tree a little further down the lake shore from where we stood.

Timothy Lake
Timothy Lake
Great blue heron
Great blue heron

For the next 2 miles the PCT stayed in the forest away from the lake shore. Numerous paths led from the trail toward the lake but we stuck to the PCT as I was on a mission to find a view of Mt. Hood.

We knew Hood was visible from the lake, but we didn’t know from which part of the trail, and we’d managed to forget both the guide book and a map. When we reached the Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River the trail split from the PCT and continued along the lake shore toward the first of several busy campgrounds. It was at the second of these campgrounds that Mt. Hood was finally visible.
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The campgrounds reminded me of another reason I am leery of lake loops. Crowded, noisy, and often disappointingly dirty (Is it really that hard to throw your garbage away?) these types of campgrounds are diametrically opposed to the tranquil beauty of nature. I think it’s great that people want to go out and enjoy God’s creation, but it would be nice if more of them respected it enough to be good stewards as I believe God intended when he gave man dominion over it. End of rant and back to the trail ;).

We hurried our way through the first 3 campgrounds and then were faced with a fork in the trail. To the right a path led along the lake but the sign indicated the only allowed use was for bikes. The left fork showed open to horses, hikers, and bikes and since we had already commented on the bike tire marks on a hiker only portion earlier we went left. This fork crossed paved road 57 and continued through the forest parallel to the road until reaching the dam that created Timothy Lake.

Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River continuing on from the Timothy Lake dam.
Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River continuing on from the Timothy Lake dam.

After passing through yet another campground the trail once again became peaceful as it continued on to Meditation Point. Meditation Point is a peninsula with a small tent campground. We took the short .3 mile trial to the end of the peninsula which had a nice view despite no longer having a view of Mt. Hood.

Timothy Lake from Meditation Point
Timothy Lake from Meditation Point

Continuing on the loop after Meditation Point we worked our way around the lake to the NW side where the top of Mt. Jefferson was now visible.
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Just a short while later we spotted a line of ducks floating on the lake. We headed down to the shore to get a closer look and as we were doing so an osprey had the same idea.

Osprey flying of ducks on TImothy Lake
Osprey flying of ducks on TImothy Lake

It was interesting to watch as the ducks began to huddle together while the osprey flew overhead. After a couple of passes the osprey flew off leaving the ducks in peace.
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After that interesting encounter the hike was fairly uneventful. We went around one final campground before veering away from the lake for good and returning to the PCT. We stopped again to marvel at Little Crater Lake before returning to our car and completing the trip.

Reflections on Little Crater Lake
Reflections on Little Crater Lake

Happy Trails!

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Dillon & Benham Falls

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening. We were driving up the Cascade Lakes Highway through an impressive thunderstorm attempting to reach the Green Lakes trail head at Fall Creek when we came to our senses. The second round of hail and the increasing display of lighting prompted a retreat back down toward the city of Bend, OR. We had known this was a possibility the day before when the lighting and thunder had started so we invoked our backup plan and headed south of Bend to the Benham Falls picnic area on the Deschutes River near the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

We parked on the east side of the river at the picnic area and waited for a rain shower to pass and some sunlight before setting out. We promptly crossed the river on a footbridge and remained on the west side for the remainder of the hike. The river was calm and peaceful above Benham Falls as we walked along watching the sun rise through the clouds to the east while the thunder and lighting continued to the west.
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After approximately .7 miles the river became louder as it approached Benham Falls. The falls are not a classic waterfall but rather a series of turbulent rapids as the Deschutes flows through a lava canyon.
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We headed up to the parking area here to make use of the facilities and had a deer bolt away as we came around a corner. Then a forest service vehicle pulled up and we spoke briefly with the driver who confirmed we made the right choice when we turned around. He said it was a mess up in the Cascades with many small lightning fires having been spotted. Indeed we heard (and saw) the helicopters and planes throughout the day flying over on their way assist with the fires.

The river calmed again after Benham Falls passing forest on the west bank and a lava flow on the east. The sun made a couple of brief appearances, once creating a faint rainbow in front of us, and then disappeared. We were heading toward the Slough Day Use area and the hike was quickly turning into a wildlife spotting bonanza. We saw douglas squirrels, golden mantled squirrels, chipmunks, and scores of birds. Heather also spotted a paper wasp nest near the trail which was not the kind of wildlife I was interested in seeing.

When we reached a small slough pond we started noticing little Pacific Tree Frogs hopping along the trail.

A pair of Pacific Tree Frogs
A pair of Pacific Tree Frogs

The further we walked the more frogs we spotted and soon our progress was slowed as we tip-toed along trying to avoid all the little frogs.

We made it to the day use area and went down to the river for a closer look when I noticed something staring at us from across the water. At first we thought it was another deer, but then I spotted a second one and we noticed that their heads were darker than that of a deer. We broke out the binoculars and while we were watching a couple more came into view and we confirmed that they were indeed elk. The first we have seen while actually hiking :). They headed on down the river and out of sight so we continued on as well. We didn’t have to go far when we spotted them again on the opposite bank. There was now close to 20 elk including a small bull and several calves.
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The trail then swung around a 10 acre slough lake where the number of frogs somehow increased. There were now dozens of frogs hopping in all directions. There were also several families of ducks who left the reeds and headed for the center of the water as we approached.
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Next we passed through a short forested section of the trail and came to the edge of a large meadow. Looking across the meadow we could see Mt. Bachelor beneath the clouds in the distance. Here we were greeted by mosquitoes which quickly became a nuisance. The thunder and lightning had not quit and as we hurried across the meadow a heavy rain began to fall. It was both a blessing and a curse as the rain helped keep the mosquitoes at bay, but drenched us in the process.
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Shortly after leaving the meadow we reached the parking area for Dillon Falls. Like Benham Falls, Dillon Falls was a series of rapids in a lava canyon. We spotted an Osprey clenching a fish that it had snatched from the river as we descended down toward the calmer waters below the falls.
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A series of log steps brought us down into the canyon and to the river’s bank where we passed through some different types of vegetation including a section of trail lined with ferns.

Over the next three miles we passed Aspen (where whitewater rafters put in), Big Eddy Rapids (where the rafters scream), and Lava Island (where they get out). Near Big Eddy there were several Osprey across the river including one perched on its nest.
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A smaller bird was circling the river, occasionally diving into the water hunting for something. Just past the Lava Island Day Use area we came to our turn around point a small rock shelter used long ago by hunters.
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The thunderstorms had ended and the trail became increasingly crowded on our way back, but the wildlife remained abundant. The birds and golden mantled squirrels kept us entertained as we returned to the car. We had started the morning expecting mountains and lakes, but instead found a river and wildlife which proved to be a more than adequate replacement.
Happy Trails 🙂
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