Tag Archives: Pika

Bingham Ridge (Mt. Jefferson Wilderness) – 8/24/2019

After a week back at work it was time to hit the trails again. We once again turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” for inspiration choosing the Bingham Ridge Trail as our destination.

The Bingham Ridge Trailhead is located 5 miles up Forest Road 2253 aka Minto Road. That road is just 17 miles east of Detroit, OR and was in great shape except for some water damage in the first quarter of a mile. Beyond that short stretch it was a good gravel road all the way to the parking area just before the road was gated.

The trail began opposite the little parking area where we had parked along side two other vehicles.
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The trail climbed through a green forest along the dry bed of Willis Creek before briefly passing through the edge of a clear-cut.
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IMG_7381Huckleberry bushes and beargrass in the clear-cut.

20190824_065018Sleeping bees on some thistle.

The trail soon reentered the trees and then passed into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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IMG_7395The bees on the thistle may have been asleep but a western toad was out and about.

After entering the wilderness the trail continued to climb very gradually as it passed through alternating sections of green trees and forest scarred by the 2006 Puzzle Creek Fire.
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IMG_7400Mt. Jefferson through the burned trees.

IMG_7402Back in the green.

IMG_7404Three Fingered Jack through the burned trees.

IMG_7408Aster

IMG_7409Pearly everlasting

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The longest stretch through burned forest occurred as the trail passed to the right of a rocky rise along the ridge.
IMG_7412Three Fingered Jack

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IMG_7417The rock covered rise.

IMG_7418South Cinder Peak (post) to the left and Three Fingered Jack to the right.

IMG_7422Still passing the rocks.

We heard a couple of “meeps” from pikas in the rocks but we only managed to spot a golden-mantled ground squirrel.
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As the trail passed around the rocky rise we reentered green forest and quickly came to the end of the Bingham Ridge Trail at a junction with the Lake of the Woods Trail 3.7 miles from the trailhead.
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The Lake of the Woods Trail runs north-south between the Pamelia Limited Entry Area and Marion Lake (post). We turned left (north) onto this trail which promptly crossed over the ridge at a low saddle and began to traverse a forested hillside.
IMG_7429The low saddle.

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The trail wound around the basin arriving at a ridge end viewpoint where we had hoped to get a view of Mt. Jefferson but soon realized that we hadn’t come far enough around yet and we were looking west not north.
IMG_7432Coffin and Bachelor Mountains (post).

We continued along the hillside finally coming far enough around to get a look at Mt. Jefferson.
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Just a little further along we arrived at Reeder’s turn around point for the 8.8 mile hike described in his book. A cinder viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson across the Bingham Basin.
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There was a strange group of clouds hanging out on the top of the mountain. We could see them moving in what appeared to be a SE direction but despite seeing the movement it never really appeared that they were going anywhere.
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As we stood at this rocky viewpoint we could hear more pikas and then Heather spotted one sitting on top of some rocks, maybe enjoying the same view we were.
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Even though Reeder calls this viewpoint “the most logical stopping point for dayhikers” he does provide information for those wishing to continue. Since logic sometimes goes out the window with regards to hiking we continued on. The trail dropped just a bit to a fairly level bench where it passed through a couple of meadows before arriving at an unnamed lake with a view of Mt. Jefferson on the left.
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IMG_7461Spirea with a beetle.

IMG_7464Unnamed lake with Mt. Jefferson (and those pesky clouds).

IMG_7469From the opposite side of the lake.

A half mile later (or just under 2 miles from the Bingham Ridge Trail junction) we arrived a Papoose Lake.
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The mountain was mostly hidden by trees from this lake but there were several frogs to watch and a short scramble up a rockpile on the east side of the lake did provide another look at Mt. Jefferson.
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It was actually a really impressive amount of boulders here and although we didn’t spot any, we could hear a number of resident pikas.
IMG_7483Looking south over the rock field.

Turning back here would have put the hike in the 11.5 mile range, but we had our sights set on a further goal – the Pacific Crest Trail. Beyond Papoose Lake the Lake of the Woods Trail passed several seasonal ponds which were now meadows where we had to watch out for tiny frogs.
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IMG_7496One of the frogs.

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IMG_7663Frog in the trail.

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Just under three quarters of a mile from Papoose Lake (6.3ish from the trailhead) we arrived at the northern end of the Lake of the Woods Trail where it met the Hunts Creek Trail (post).
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A left on this trail would lead us into the Pamelia Limited Entry Area for which we did not have a permit, but to the right the trail remained out of the limited area as it headed to the Pacific Crest Trail.
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In his book Reeder describes this section of trail as “spectacular” which is what prompted us to abandon logic in the first place. We turned right and continued the theme of gradual climbs as the trail passed a hillside dotted with a few asters.
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After little over a quarter of a mile we found ourselves beneath a large talus slope (by the sound of it filled with a pika army).
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Here we embarked on possibly the most significant climb of the day as the trail switchbacked up through the rocks to a saddle.
IMG_7510Apparently the trail was rerouted at some point because we could see tread that we never used.

IMG_7511The Three Pyramids beyond Bingham Ridge.

As we neared the saddle we spotted what must have been the pika lookout.
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There was more talus on the opposite side of the saddle, and more pikas too!
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We spotted at least 4 pikas (it’s hard to keep track when they are running in and out of the rocks) and heard many more. The only thing that could tear us away from our favorite wildlife critters was the view of Mt. Jefferson looming over Hunts Cove.
IMG_7534 (the clouds had finally vanished)

Continuing away from the saddle just a bit provided an excellent view of the mountain and Hanks Lake with a bit of Hunts Lake visible as well.
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IMG_7551Hanks Lake

IMG_7552Hunts Lake

IMG_7553Rock fin above Hunts Cove.

Reeder hadn’t exaggerated by using spectacular to describe this section of trail. The views of Mt. Jefferson were amazing and a variety of wildflowers (past peak) lined the trail.
IMG_7560Penstemon and a western pasque flower.

IMG_7563Western pasque flower seed heads.

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20190824_101714Hippie-on-a-stick

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IMG_7576Paintbrush and lupine

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20190824_102625Patridge foot

IMG_7584Mt. Jefferson, Goat Peak (behind the tree) and the Cathedral Rocks.

As the trail crossed a cinder field glimpses to the south between trees reveled the Three Sisters (among others).
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IMG_7588South Cinder Peak

IMG_7591The Three Sisters

IMG_7594Three Fingered Jack

The trail briefly lost sight of Mt. Jefferson as it passed around a butte, losing a little elevation as it did so.
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IMG_7597Paintbrush in a meadow behind the butte.

Although the view of Mt. Jefferson was temporarily gone the view was still good. There was a large basin full of meadows just below the trail and occasional views of South Cinder Peak and Three Fingered Jack.
IMG_7602South Cinder Peak

IMG_7603Three Fingered Jack

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The trail gained a little of the elevation back as it came around the butte regaining a view of Mt. Jefferson in the process.
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After passing another sign for the Pamelia Limited Entry Area at a now abandoned (but still used) portion of the Hunts Creek Trail we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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We sat on some rocks here and rested. We were now at least 8 miles (that is the mileage Reeder assigns but with some extra exploring we’d done a bit more) from the Bingham Ridge Trailhead and needed a good break. Up until this point we’d only run into one other person, a bow hunter along the Bingham Ridge Trail. As we rested in the shade a pair of backpackers heading south on the PCT stopped briefly to talk. After they continued on we did little bit of exploring in the immediate area since there were a few flowers about and at least one tree frog.
IMG_7619Mostly past lupine

20190824_110312Paintbrush

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We returned the way we’d come enjoying the views just as much on the way back as we had the first time by. We didn’t see anyone else the rest of the day and we didn’t see anymore pikas, but as always there were a few things we spotted on the way back that we hadn’t seen or noticed earlier.
IMG_7632Butterfly on an aster.

IMG_7636Never seen one of these looks so clean and smooth, it almost looked fake.

IMG_7660We don’t know if this was just a stunted wallflower or something we’d never seen before.

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We ended the day nearly out of water (luckily for us the temperatures stayed below 70 so it wasn’t too warm) and with some sore feet. Our GPS devices both showed us having traveled nearly 17 miles which was further than we’d planned but all the little side trips and exploring can really add up. Depsite the distance this was a great hike with varied scenery, good wildlife, and a reasonable elevation gain made better by the trails having such gradual grades. Of course any trail where we see multiple pikas is going to be aces in our minds. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bingham Ridge

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Bull of the Woods Lookout & Pansy Lake – 8/16/2019

For the 5th hike of our vacation we finally got around to one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we hadn’t done yet, Pansy Lake.  Pansy Lake is located in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in a basin below the Bull of the Woods Lookout.  In his guidebook Sullivan has you start the hike from the Pansy Lake Trailhead which is just over a mile from the lake. He gives two options, a 2.4 mile out-and-back to Pansy Lake or a 7.1 mile loop past the lake up to the lookout and then back down passing Dickey Lake along the way. Either of these options would have caused us to break our self-imposed rule against driving for more time than we spend hiking due to the driving time to the Pansy Lake Trailhead being roughly 2:45 for us. Fortunately Sullivan also mentions the option of starting at the Bull of the Woods Trailhead for an easier hike to the lookout. The Bull of the Woods Trailhead was about a 15 minute closer drive and it added almost 3 miles to the round trip which provided an acceptable drive/hike ratio.

With our plan in place we set off on the drive which proved to be a bit of an anomaly. The trailhead is located at the end of Forest Road 6340. Where the road was good it was an excellent gravel road but there were a couple of ugly obstacles along the way. The first was a slide that covered the road, half of which was impassable while the spot that could be driven over required a very slow, bumpy crossing (high clearance is probably necessary until it gets cleaned up). This was prior to a fork where the right hand fork (FR 6341) continued to the Pansy Lake Trailhead. After this fork sections of FR 6340 were deeply rutted by channels created by runoff again requiring careful placement of tires. We arrived at the trailhead no worse for wear though and set off on the signed trail.
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The first few hundred yards were a little brushy but soon the vegetation gave way to a huckleberry filled forest.
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There were ripe berries everywhere and they were big juicy berries too. In fact for most of the day there were ripe berries available and we ate quite a few. We weren’t the only ones feasting on berries though as we counted no less than 13 piles of berry filled bear scat along the trails.
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Although we kept our eyes open for a bear all we ran into on the trail was a rough skinned newt.
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The Bull of the Woods Trail climbed gradually as it passed below North and South Dickey Peaks.
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A little over 2.25 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Dickey Lake Trail. We would be coming back up that trail later after visiting Pansy and Dickey Lakes.
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As the trail continued to climb we were treated to a couple of different views. First was to the west across the Pansy Lake Basin.
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A little further along, when the trail crested the ridge, we got a look a Mt. Hood which was rising above some clouds.
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The trail left the ridge for a bit and then regained it where the view also included Mt. Jefferson to the SE.
IMG_6763Mt. Hood

IMG_6772Mt. Jefferson

The trail then followed a narrow rocky ridge passing below the lookout and coming up to it from the other side, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
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A lizard scurried into the rocks beneath the lookout as we approached. Aside from a bit of morning haze the view was great. The clouds to the north hid the Washington volcanoes from sight but Mt. Hood stood out just fine.
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To the south Mt. Jefferson was cloud free and so was Three Fingered Jack for a bit. Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters played peek-a-boo through the clouds though.
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IMG_6796Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6846Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

In the basin to the NE Big Slide Lake (post) was visible.
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To the SW the flat topped Battle Ax Mountain (post) rose up above the surrounding peaks.
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We sat below the lookout for awhile enjoying the cool morning air as we watched the procession of clouds around us. After our break we headed steeply downhill via switchbacks for just over half a mile to the Mother Lode Trail.
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IMG_6855Bull of the Woods Trail ending at the Mother Lode Trail.

We turned right onto the Mother Lode Trail.
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We continued to descend as we followed this trail for approximately 1.25 miles, passing a viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson shortly before arriving at another junction.
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We turned right again, this time onto the Pansy Lake Trail.
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More downhill hiking ensued as we dropped into the basin. The trail was a bit rockier than the others and passed over a couple of talus fields.
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We’re always on the lookout for pikas and have had quite a bit of luck in spotting them this year, enough so that we have started calling it “the year of the pika”. As we came to the second section of talus Heather spotted one of the little “rock rabbits” scurrying along the hillside.
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After talking to the pika (I don’t know why but we tend to have a lot of one sided conversations with the wildlife) we continued on. Shortly before reaching the lake we found a couple of ripe thimbleberries, they were delicious.
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IMG_6885First look at Pansy Lake.

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We passed by the lake and reached a junction .8 miles from the Mother Lode Trail. We turned left and quickly arrived at the lake where we were a bit surprised that we were the only people there.
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We wandered around the lake passing through numerous empty campsites before finding a little log to sit on by the lake where we could watch the dragonflies and ducks.
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After a short break we returned to the trail junction and turned left continuing on the Pansy Lake Trail for another .2 miles to the Dickey Lake Trail junction.
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It was time to climb now and we headed up the Dickey Lake Trail which climbed relatively steeply at times. After .6 miles we came to a spur trail on the right which led down to Dickey Lake.
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The lake was quite a bit smaller than Pansy Lake and a lot brushier. After getting a look we returned to the Dickey Lake Trail and continued the climb back up to the Bull of the Woods Trail. A bit beyond the lake the trail passed through a little meadow with some remaining wildflowers and a few more thimbleberries.
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We gained approximately 800′ over the next .8 miles before reaching the junction. There was a few more downed trees along this trail than we had encountered on any of the others but none of them were too troublesome.
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We turned left onto the Bull of the Woods Trail and followed back to the car getting one last look at Mt. Hood along the way.
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With the extra exploring around the lakes we wound up doing 10.6 miles (for the third time in the week). We both thought that the elevation gain doing the loop from the Pansy Lake Trailhead would have been quite a bit worse so the extra miles were worth it in our minds, plus it gave us that much more time to eat berries. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pansy Lake and Bull of the Woods Lookout

Maxwell Butte – 8/12/2019

We spent another vacation doing day hikes from home as we continue to take care of our elderly cats. It has created a delay in our plans to visit all of the designated wilderness areas in Oregon, but it also has given us a chance to redo some hikes that didn’t go as planned the first time around and hit a few other hikes sooner than planned.

The first hike of the week was a repeat of a cloudy September 2015 climb to the summit of Maxwell Butte (post). We’d had no views whatsoever that day so a sunny forecast gave us the green light to try again. Once again we parked in the paved Maxwell Butte Sno-Park lot instead of driving the additional .4 miles of gravel road to the actual Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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From the official trailhead the Maxwell Butte Trail climbed gradually through a nice forest entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after 1.75 miles. It was sad to find that the unique wilderness sign was missing.
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First wilderness sign we'd seen that looked like thisThe wilderness sign in 2015.

A little more than two and a quarter miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Lava Lakes Trail near Twin Lakes.
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There was significantly more water in the lakes this time around (and better visibility too).
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Low water levels at Twin Lakes2015

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Low water at Twin Lakes2015

Our presence raised a ruckus from a Stellar’s jay.
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Twin Lakes2015

One the way back by later (after the Sun had moved out of the way) we stopped at the lakes to get a photo of Maxwell Butte.
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We followed the Maxwell Butte Trail past the lakes as it began to climb up and around the butte. Closer to the lakes we passed a few remaining flowers and some ripe huckleberries.
IMG_5619Penstemon

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IMG_5626Lousewort

IMG_5631Scarlet gilia

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IMG_5625A couple of short (and late) beargrass plumes.

As the trail got closer to the butte we passed through some meadows and open rocky areas where we kept on the lookout for pikas.
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IMG_5647This looked like prime pika habitat to us.

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The trail made its way to the south side of Maxwell Butte where our first good mountain view was of Diamond Peak beyond Sand Mountain which we had visited earlier in the year (post).
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The trail steepened a bit as it made its way up the south side of Maxwell Butte via a series of switchbacks.
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Butterflies and increasingly better views helped keep our minds off the climb.
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IMG_5665Hogg Rock (near left), flat topped Hayrick Butte next to Hoodoo Butte, Mt. Washington with Broken Top behind left and the Three Sisters behind right.

Five and a quarter miles from the sno-park we arrived at the summit of Maxwell Butte where a fire lookout once stood.
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The view now included Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the north.
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IMG_5676Mt. Hood in the distance to the left of Mt. Jefferson.

Less than three miles away as the crow flies Three Fingered Jack dominated the view east.
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IMG_5699Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Santiam Lake in the forest below.

IMG_5706The view south.

IMG_5728Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters with Hayrick Butte in the forefront.IMG_5701Santiam Lake

IMG_5702Duffy Lake (post)

IMG_5703Mowich Lake

After a nice long break taking in the views and naming as many of the lakes dotting the forest below as we could we headed back down. We took a quick detour to check out Maxwell Butte’s crater.
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IMG_5742Paintbrush in the crater.

There were quite a few more butterflies out as we made our way back and we managed to spot a pika gathering greens in the rocky area we had thought looked like a good spot for one.
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IMG_5767Golden-mantled ground squirrel in the same rocky area as the pika.

It had been a successful do-over getting the views we’d missed out on before. Round trip the hike was 10.6 miles with a little over 2500′ of elevation gain. It was a solid start to what we hoped would be six straight days of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Maxwell Butte 2019

Bear Point – 7/22/2019

We had passed the Bear Point Trail twice when hiking into Jefferson Park on the South Breitenbush Trail, most recently last August. (post) It was finally time to tackle that trail which gains almost 1700′ in just over one and three quarters of a mile to the site of a former fire lookout.

We set off from the South Breitenbush Trailhead a little after 6am hoping to get the climb over before the day heated up too much.
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We followed the familiar South Breitenbush Trail for 2.2 miles to a signed junction.
IMG_3870Lots of spent beargrass along the trail.

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At the junction we went left on the Bear Point Trail.
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At first this trail continued the gradual climb that we’d been making on the South Breitenbush Trail as we passed around a spring set in a green forest.
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IMG_3886Thimbleberry bushes near the spring.

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IMG_4179Spring near the trail.

Shortly after passing the spring the trail began to climb in earnest via a series of swithbacks. The hillside below Bear Point was covered in talus slopes, the perfect spot to see a pika.
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IMG_3901Spotted the first pika of the day at this switchback (it’s on one of the red rocks)
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The hillside was pretty dry and the trees began to give way to manzanita, chinquapin and snowbush which allowed for some excellent views of Mt. Jefferson and the surrounding area as we trudged up the switchbacks.
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IMG_3921The Three Pyramids, Bachelor Mountain, and Coffin Mountain in the distance with Triangulation Peak in a cloud shadow along the near ridge to the right.

IMG_3928Mt. Jefferson with Three Fingered Jack now fully visible.

IMG_3935Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4169Grouse in the brush to the left of the trail.

IMG_4171Grouse

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As we neared the top the trees began to reappear in larger numbers and the beargrass was still blooming.
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We spotted the second pika of the day in a talus slope just below the summit.
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Despite the 3000′ of elevation gain to reach the summit the climb wasn’t particularly steep until the final 100 yards or so.
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IMG_3981Almost to the top.

IMG_3989Bear Point summit.

The views from the summit were amazing and there were a few wildflowers scattered about. We would have loved to have spent quite a bit of time relaxing there but the mosquitoes were a nuisance and there was no breeze to keep them at bay.
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IMG_4018The Three Sisters and Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4009Mt.Jefferson

IMG_4013Park Ridge (post)

IMG_3991Bear Lake, Dinah-Mo Peak, and Park Ridge

IMG_4146Triangulation Peak and Devils Peak

IMG_4148Boca Cave below Triangulation Peak (post)

IMG_4147Devils Peak (high point to the right of the ridge), which we had just hiked to a couple of weeks earlier (post)

IMG_4152Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte (The Breitenbush Cascades are also out there amid the trees.)

IMG_4137Mt. Hood with Slideout and Mildred Lakes in the forest below.

IMG_3986Fleabane

IMG_3996Columbine and fleabane with Bear Lake in the background.

IMG_4022Snow patch near the summit.

The round trip to Bear Point is just 7.6 miles so we had some energy left and with the early start coupled with not stopping for very long due to the bugs we also had some time so we decided to tackle another challenge and visit an off trail lake. Due to the lake being off-trail I’m not going to go into much detail although it probably wouldn’t take a lot of detective work to figure it out. This was a challenge to reach and required route finding and navigational skills.
IMG_4031Typical terrain, it’s hard to tell here but this was a steep hillside.

IMG_4023There were tons of these butterflies around.

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IMG_4045Crossing a talus slope.

IMG_4050More typical conditions.

IMG_4053Pond near the lake.

IMG_4055Bird at the pond.

IMG_4058The lake

IMG_4076Spirea and shooting stars

20190722_094856Crab spider with a bee

IMG_4080The lake

IMG_4102Aster

IMG_4104Lupine and beargrass

There were of course mosquitoes here too, being July and near water, so we didn’t linger and were soon attempting to follow our route back. It was slow going but we managed to get back just fine. It was a fun and challenging day and it felt good to be able to practice our off-trail skills a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Point

Tidbits Mountain – 6/29/2019

As we continued to let the weather dictate our vacation plans we couldn’t pass up a “sunny” morning forecast for Tidbits Mountain near Blue River, OR. Another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, the trip to the site of a former lookout tower atop Tidbits Mountain is just 4.4 miles round trip from the Tidbits South Trailhead. This was actually a bit of a problem as the drive from Salem was a little over two and a half hours which meant our hiking time would most likely not be greater than our driving time which would break our rule of not driving longer than hiking. Our original plan to solve this was going to be making a second stop at the Lower McKenzie River Trailhead where we could hike as far as we liked on the McKenzie River Trail, but while researching the Tidbits Mountain hike another option presented itself.

The Gold Hill Trail travels 3.2 miles along a ridge to a junction with the Tidbits Mountain Trail three quarters of a mile from the summit of Tidbits Mountain. Instead of driving to a different trailhead we could spend some time on the Gold Hill Trail which the Forest Service warned sees only periodic maintenance.

We started our hike not at the Tidbits South Trailhead but rather along Forest Road 1509 where FR 877 headed uphill .2 miles to the trailhead on the left.
IMG_1504FR 877 at FR 1509

Both the Forest Service and Sullivan pointed out that FR 877 was steep and Sullivan added that turning around at the trailhead was “awkward”, thus our decision to walk up the road.
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As we hiked up the road there were a couple of views of the rocky pinnacles of Tidbits Mountain on the left.
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A sign marked the start of the Tidbits Mountain Trail.
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The trail climbed gradually for 1.3 miles to a junction on a ridge crest. This section of trail passed through some old growth trees and was full of rhododendron blooms. It was by far the best display of rhododendron that we had seen.
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There were a few other flowers along the way as well but none in anywhere near the numbers as the rhodies.
IMG_1531Penstemon

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IMG_1538<script async src=”//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js” charset=”utf-8″Paintbrush and stonecrop

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At the junction we turned left following a pointer for the Tidbits Mountain Lookout.
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This section of trail traversed a rocky hillside on the north side of Tidbits Mountain. Being on the north facing slope trillium were still in bloom and a few remnants of glacial lilies remained.
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The talus slopes below Tidbits Mountain allowed for some previews of the views to come at the summit.
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IMG_1605Looking west toward the Green Mountain Lookout.

IMG_1607Green Mountain Lookout

IMG_1603Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1601Three Fingered Jack

The talus is also home to one of our favorite wild animals, the pika! They are not particularly easy to see but once you know what you are looking for with a little luck you’ll spot one of these rabbit relatives. It was a lucky day for us as we spotted two.
IMG_1614There is at least one pika in this picture.

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IMG_1648There is another one in this picture.

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When we weren’t scanning the rocks for pikas we did a lot of looking up at the formations above us.
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IMG_1636Columbine and solomonseal in the talus slope.

IMG_1630Last of the snow along the talus.

At a saddle a half mile from the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we came to a second junction. This one was unsigned. To the right a trail headed downhill to the Tidbits West Trailhead. The Gold Hill Trail used to continue straight here but it was so faint and overgrown that we didn’t even see it on the first pass. We turned uphill to the left and began the steep .2 mile climb to the summit.
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IMG_1684Catchfly on the way up.

IMG_1685Lookout remains below the summit.

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IMG_1693Foundation remains

IMG_1696Wildflowers at the summit.

The 360 degree view from the summit was very good although our timing meant the sun was overhead between us and the Cascades impacting the ability to get clear photos of those mountains.
IMG_1698NE we could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack.

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IMG_1705Mt. Jefferson behind Iron Mountain and Cone Peak

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The eastern view added Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_1708Mt. Washington

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IMG_1718Mt. Bachelor

We could also just make out the lookout tower atop nearby Carpenter Mountain (post).
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To the SE we could make out Maiden Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Diamond Peak.
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IMG_1719Maiden Peak (post)

IMG_1762Mt. Thielsen (post)

IMG_1722Diamond Peak

We spent a good amount of time on the summit taking in the view before descending to a lower viewpoint with a number of flowers.
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IMG_1802Cat’s ear lilies

IMG_1806Oregon sunshine amid buckwheat

IMG_1807Penstemon and paintbrush

IMG_1816A fleabane or aster

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IMG_1819Looking down from the lower viewpoint.

We then headed back down to the trail junction where we found the faint tread of Historical Gold Hill Trail. We followed it just far enough to get a close up view of a flower garden.
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IMG_1850Western wallflower

IMG_1853Larkspur

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We returned to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and recrossed the talus slopes, this time we didn’t spot any pikas. We did stop to admire some of the flowers though.
20190629_093755Baneberry

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IMG_1879Bleeding heart, trillium and wood violets

20190629_093952Wood violet

With the Sun starting to pass overhead Mt. Jefferson was a little more photogenic.
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When we arrived back at the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we briefly searched for any sign of a former shelter that was indicated on the map.
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After failing to uncover any sign of it we headed out on the Gold Hill Trail. Given the Forest Service mentioned that this trail only receives periodic maintenance we weren’t sure how far we might go but we were curious to check it out.
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The trail was pretty overgrown, not crowded with brush, but it had a lot of vegetation growing in the middle of it indicating a lack of use.
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We soon passed a rock outcrop where a patch of small monkeyflowers were blooming.
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We followed the trail a total of 2.7 miles losing a total of 800′ through a series of ups and downs as it followed a ridge to the north and east. We passed through some lovely forest filled with more blooming rhododendron and by several rock outcrops. There were occasional views of the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor through the trees and also spotted some deer, at least one doe and fawn, as they dashed away through the trees. Despite the lack of use and periodic maintenance the trail was in pretty good shape with just a few trees to step over.
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IMG_1914North and Middle Sister

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IMG_1927Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_1939Washington lilies getting ready to bloom

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At the 2.7 mile mark the trail began a final 400′ descent in the remaining half mile to FR 1509. We weren’t overly keen on having to climb back up that just to say we reached the road plus we had set an 11:30 turn around time and it was just after 11:20. We noticed an open knoll just off trail to the right so we decided to check it out and make this be our turn around spot.
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The knoll turned out to be very interesting. In addition to some nice views there were a number of flowers.
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IMG_1975The Two Girls

IMG_1999Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_1986Wolf Rock an Mt. Washington

IMG_2007North Sister

IMG_2008Middle Sister

IMG_2010South Sister

IMG_1990Mt. Jefferson had been overtaken by clouds but Iron Mountain and Cone Peak were still visible.

IMG_1996Buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_2021Wallflower and cat’s ear lilies

IMG_2015Penstemon and paintbrush

After exploring the knoll we headed back looking for anything we missed on our first pass. We did notice a couple of interesting old tree trunks and a grouse crossed the trail in front of us.
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IMG_2040Young tree growing out of an old trunk.

IMG_2049Grouse

We made our way back to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and returned to the trailhead without seeing another person until we ran into a gentleman at the trailhead who seemed to just be out for a drive and looking around. We ended up with a 10.5 mile hike which was perfect. It was a nice way to end our vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tidbits Mountain

South Breitenbush Trail to Jefferson Park 8/11/18

We kicked off six days of hiking with a visit to Jefferson Park. Since 2011 Jefferson Park had been an annual destination until last year when we were forced to skip our visit due to the Whitewater Fire. For this years visit we started at the South Breitenbush Trailhead.
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This was our second time on this trail with our first coming in 2013 (post). We had remembered that the trail was quite rocky, but forgotten how much more of a climb it was than either the Whitewater (post) or Woodpecker Ridge (post) trails. The Whitewater Trail remains closed for now due to the fire while the Woodpecker Ridge Trail is open but undergoing repairs by the Forest Service. The other option to reach Jefferson Park is from the north via the PCT over Park Ridge (post) but one time driving the road to that trailhead was enough for us.

We followed the South Breitenbush Trail uphill through the trees along the increasingly rocky tread.
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At the two mile mark we found that the Forest Service had replaced the sign for the Bear Point Trail, a hike that is on our schedule for next year.
South Breitbenbush Trail junction with the Bear Point TrailBear Point Trail sign 2013

IMG_9831Bear Point Trail sign 2018

There aren’t many views of Mt. Jefferson along the lower portion of the trail and on this day the mountain was playing peak-a-boo through some clouds.
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We noticed another difference at the 4.2 mile mark where the trail passes a small pond. This years drought conditions were obvious by the difference in the water present.
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Just over a half mile from the pond the trail passes over a ridge and descends through a rock field where we spotted one of our favorite animals, a pika.
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After the descent the trail levels out somewhat as it passes through wildflower meadows before arriving alongside the South Breitenbush River.
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As we neared a junction with a side trail to Park Lake at the six mile mark a break in the clouds finally revealed Mt. Jefferson.
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We decided to return via Park Lake so we stuck to the South Breitenbush Trail after crossing the river on rocks and climbed for nearly a half mile to its end at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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IMG_9924South Breitenbush Trail sign at the PCT junction.

IMG_9925PCT heading south through Jefferson Park.

We turned left on the PCT and headed north crossing the river again before turning right toward Russell Lake after .2 miles.
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Russell Lake never disappoints. We passed around its north end and took a break on some rocks on its SE side.
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IMG_9946Park Butte

After a snack we continued around the lake for a bit before veering to the SW and returning to the PCT which we followed south for .3 miles to a sign for Scout and Bays Lakes.
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By the time we had reached Scout Lake the clouds had gained the upper hand and Mt. Jefferson had all but vanished.
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With the mountain hidden and a five day backpacking trip beginning the next day we decided to skip Bays Lake and turned right at a sign for Rock and Park Lakes.
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We likewise skipped Rock Lake this time staying above it and passing Park Lake.
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We returned to the South Breitenbush Trail and headed back down to the trailhead. With the clouds rising to overtake Mt. Jefferson there was a better view of the surrounding valleys and ridges which showed the scars of the Whitewater Fire.
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Aside from a few trees on hilltops surrounding the park there was no other visible sign of the Whitewater fire in the areas we visited.

We had been a little surprised by the lack of people we encountered in Jefferson Park but we were apparently just a bit early because we passed a lot of people heading up as we were descending. We made it back to our car by 1:30pm after hiking 14.3 miles and headed home to pack. It had been a relatively quick visit to Jefferson Park but we were planning on being on the road by 5am the next morning in hopes of reaching the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead before 11am. Happy Trails!

Flickr: South Breitenbush Trail to Jefferson Park

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_1073Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

IMG_1071Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

IMG_1096The rest of Tom Dick and Harry Mt.

IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails