Tag Archives: rough skinned newt

Dickey Creek Trail

Once again the weather wasn’t cooperating with our overnight plans so we turned to plan B for our latest hike. Plan B wound up being the Dickey Creek Trail in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on what turned out to be a great hike on a beautiful day. We began our hike at the Dickey Creek Trailhead located in forest service road 140 near Ripplebrook, OR.
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The Dickey Creek Trail followed a decommissioned road for about half a mile to the former trailhead parking area.
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The trail continued to follow the old roadbed for .3 miles and then suddenly heads downhill.
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The descent was steep for the next half mile and included several sections of steps. It was one of the most fun sections of trail we’ve been on as it twisted and turned on it’s way down toward the creek. When the trail leveled out we were within earshot of the creek but the trail remained in the forest with the creek out of sight. The old growth forest in the valley was beautiful. Green moss carpeted the ground while large trees towered above. Rough skinned newts seemed to be everywhere and we had to step carefully to make sure we didn’t harm any.
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The old growth forest briefly opened up near a dry pond. The fall colors were on display around the pond and made a nice contrast to the green ground left over from where the pond water had been.
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We arrived at the bridgeless crossing of Dickey Creek after almost 3.5 miles.
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On the far side of the creek we spotted some interesting fungi.
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We were heading for Big Slide Lake which was a little over 2.5 miles from Dickey Creek. From there we would decide whether we would continue on to Big Slide Mountain or turnaround depending on how clear the skies were. After a few switchbacks the trail climbed gradually up the valley toward the lake. Views opened up across the valley to North and South Dickey Peak. Ahead were the cliffs of Big Slide Mountain and the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods, the wilderness’s namesake.
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After crossing a large rock field the trail split. We headed downhill to the right to visit Big Slide Lake where we encountered the only other people we’d see the entire day.
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It was approximately 6 miles to Big Slide Lake from the trailhead so turning around here would have made for a decent enough hike, but the weather was great and there were only a few clouds in the sky so we decided to head up to Big Slide Mountain to see how the view was. We climbed back up to the Dickey Creek Trail from the lake and continued uphill toward a saddle on the ridge between Bull of the Woods and Big Slide Mountain. After about a half mile of good climbing we arrived at the saddle and a trail junction.
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We turned left past a nearly dry pond.
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On the far side of the pond was a second trail junction. We stayed to the left on trail 555 and began to gradually climb Big Slide Mountain. Views opened up almost immediately on this section of trail. Mount Jefferson was the first of the Cascade peaks to come into view.
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Followed by Three Fingered Jack.
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Then came Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the North and Middle Sisters.
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Finally the South Sister made an appearance.
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After almost a mile and a half of climbing the trail crested at a saddle between the summit of Big Slide Mountain and Knob Peak. The trail then headed over the saddle and downhill to its end at Lake Lenore a half mile away. In order to get to the summit of Big Slide Mountain we needed to do some cross country climbing. From the saddle we headed uphill along the ridge toward the summit making our way up as best we could. We managed to find sections of faint trail and pick our way up the rocky slope to the summit. The views from the summit were great. Big Slide Lake lay below us to the West.
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To the North was Lake Lenore, Schriner Peak, Mt. Hood, and the shy Mt. Adams.
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To the southeast cascade peaks dotted the horizon while Welcome Lakes lay below in the wilderness.
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The peaks of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness rose to the south including Battle Ax and Bull of the Woods.
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Table Rock rose above the Table Rock Wilderness to the southwest.
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We took a long break on the summit watching the clouds in the sky and soaking in the sun before heading back downhill. On the way back we had one final stop to make. We wanted to check out an unnamed lake that lay off-trail below Big Slide Mountain. A short steep climb through some thick rhododendron bushes brought us to the edge of the small lake.
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The water was crystal clear with some excellent reflections of Big Slide Mountain.
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After fighting our way back through the rhododendrons we regained the trail. On our way back we stopped to check out a few interesting mushrooms, one complete with a newt.
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When we arrived back at the dry pond the sunlight was lighting up the deciduous trees.
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As we neared the end of our hike the only disappointment was having not seen a wilderness sign that morning. I try and get a picture of a wilderness sign for every wilderness we visit and I had been unsuccessful on our first two visits to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. After making the steep climb away from the creek and back up to the old roadbed we began watching for signs that we may have missed on our way by earlier. Just before reaching the former trailhead we spotted the sign up on a tree.
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It was a great end to a great hike. Happy Trails!

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The Other Eagle Creek (Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness)

We continued what I have dubbed “Creek Week” by visiting another Eagle Creek the day after our trip to the one in the Columbia Gorge. Even though both creeks share the same name and both are located partially in the Mt. Hood National Forest the similarities end there. This Eagle Creek flows through the old growth forest of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and is much less visited than the one in the Gorge. There are no dizzying cliffs or giant waterfalls but rather the relaxing sound of running water while you stroll through a lush forest.

It was good that the trail was so relaxing because the drive to it was anything but. The hike was listed as an additional hike in the 2012 edition of William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington complete with driving directions. He warned of a confusion of logging roads and he was right. I had also Googled the route and printed out directions from the Forest Service to the trailhead. The road names all matched but each of the directions gave different distances once we got onto SE Harvey Rd. Google said 1.2 miles, the Forest Service 1.8 miles, and Sullivan a more detailed 2.6 miles. Our first mistake was not paying attention to the difference in the distances given followed by not using the odometer as soon as we turned onto Harvey Rd. The area was heavily logged with operations ongoing so there were many side roads and turnoffs and no signs for any type of trail. We drove to the end of what we thought was Harvey Rd. and found a pile of garbage where people had obviously come out to shoot guns (seems to be a favorite pastime in that area) but no sign of a trail. We turned around and headed back the way we’d come looking for any sign of a trail that we might have missed. There were a couple of possibilities but nothing obvious. As we were reading the different instructions we noticed the different mileages which made it more confusing. In the end we decided to drive back to the start of SE Harvey Rd. and use the Odometer. There was nothing at the 1.2 mile mark so the Google instructions were ruled out. At the 1.8 mile mark a gated road led down to the right. The trail description in the book stated that the trail began on an overgrown old road so this had possibilities. I got an idea here and turned on the GPS to see if we were at the trail but when the map came up there was no trail where we were so we hopped in the car and continued to follow Sullivan’s mileage directions. We stopped at one point when we spotted what looked like it might have been an old road with a possible trail leading from it but again using the GPS it was clear that we still had not found the trail. At the 2.4 mile mark we spotted a barricaded road leading down to the right so again we stopped to check it out. This time the GPS showed us on a direct line for the trail and a small path led between the snags blocking the road. There were no signs but this was it.
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What we believe happened was the Forest Service stared counting mileage about half a mile after Sullivan started. Then the final approximate quarter mile of Sullivan’s directions had been since blocked by the logging operation because after a brief walk on the road we came to a second small barrier behind which we found an overgrown road such as he had described.
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In any event according to the GPS we had found the trail and were on our way down to Eagle Creek. We finally found a sign to confirm what the GPS was telling us. Near the end of the overgrown road there was some flagging and a sign announcing the beginning of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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After entering the wilderness the trail looked less and less like an old road until it finally became a full on trail.
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We ran across some interesting trees/trunks on the early portion of the trail. One of our favorites was a tree growing on top of an old trunk. You could see the new trees root system running down the length of the old trunk.
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Another old trunk had a stream flowing out from under it.
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There were many streams and creek to cross along the trail, but only one bridge.
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There was no way we were going to keep our feet dry on some the crossing but that was okay with us, the streams just added to the beauty of the forest.
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Due to the dense forest there weren’t a large variety of wildflowers but there were some including bleeding heart, wood violets, lots of trillium, and a new one to us scouler’s corydalis.
Bleeding Heart
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Wood Violets
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Trillium
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Scouler’s Cordylis
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scouler's corydalis

Open areas where were filled with salmon berry bushes.
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We were up above Eagle Creek at times and then we would be walking next to the water for a bit. It was a decent sized creek lined with lush forests.
Eagle Creek in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
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We didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this hike but I think that was partially due to the lushness of the forest. At one point we startled a deer that was in the creek but all I saw was splashing then a brown and white flash as it ran into the trees. What we did see was an Ouzel, an interesting spider, a couple of newts, and one of our favorite little song birds that I believe is a Pacific Wren.
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We turned around when we reached the end of the Eagle Creek Trail. Here it connected to the Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail which fords Eagle Creek before heading up a ridge to the Old Baldy Trail.
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The Eagle Creek Cutoff ford
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We had a little drizzle from time to time up to this point but as we began our return trip the drizzle turned to a light rain. We made quick work of our return slowing only due to the climb back up the old road. It had been a great hike for relaxing end to our creek streak with. Next up we’re going to attempt to get a view, but in the Pacific Northwest Spring views can be tricky. Until then Happy Trails!

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Brice Creek & Trestle Falls

A few posts ago I mentioned that the trail was a classroom. It seems as though we always learn something out on a hike, and our recent trip to Brice Creek was no different. During the hike we learned that rough-skinned newts love to play hide-and-seek, and they stink at it. 😀 We’ll get to that later, but first a little about the trail.

Brice Creek is located to the east of Cottage Grove, OR and flows into the Row River which in turns empties into the Willamette. There are several trailheads located along the creek in the Umpqua National Forest making it possible to choose the length of your hike. We chose to start at the West Brice Trailhead and hike to the other end of trail at the Champion Creek Trailhead. From there we could visit a pair of waterfalls on Trestle Creek.

It was a little misty and cloudy as we set off on the trail.
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After a brief stint on an exposed hillside the trail entered an old growth forest with plenty of lush green moss on the ancient trees. We also crossed several small but scenic streams.
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There were a few flowers blooming, mostly white varieties that are typical in older/denser forests.
Anemone
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Vanilla Leaf
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Solomonseal
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Most of the trillium was already finished but from the leaves and the few we did see it was clear they were very large in this area.
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The trail had been up above Brice Creek until coming down to the bridge for the campground. From there the trail stayed closer to the creek for awhile providing a number of chances to get to the creek and get an up close view.
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At one point the trail disappears along a bedrock section. The wet weather made for some slipper footing but the exposed rock was home to the most colorful flowers we would see all day.
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Larkspur
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Larkspur

The creek had many moods in this section and the clear water made it easy to see what was underneath the surface.
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We then climbed up and away from the creek again before descending to another footbridge 2.6 mi from the last, this time to Lund Park.
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We’d read that there was a meadow at Lund Park and were hoping that it might have some good wildflowers. We were a little disappointed when we arrived to find a couple of yellow flowers, some bleeding heart, and a lot of white wild strawberry blooms was all there was.
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Someone had put together a somewhat substantive rock collection on one of the picnic tables though.
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We started getting a few sun breaks after reaching Lund Park and in just another .5mi we reached a trail junction with Upper Trestle Falls trail. We would be returning down this trail after visiting the lower falls and taking the Upper Falls trail from the other end at the Champion Creek Trailhead. Before we get to that though this is where the hide-and-seek lesson comes in.
We had been seeing a lot of newts on the trail and noticed that when they were trying to get our of our way they tend to stick their head into or under something.
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This wasn’t the first time we’d observed this behavior. From a 2011 hike:
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Just after leaving Lund Park I passed by one of them and turned to Heather to have her stop to make sure it didn’t get stepped on. When we stopped it headed for the first thing it could stick it’s head under – Heather’s shoe 😀
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All I could think of is a toddler playing hide-and-seek. Apparently if they can’t see us we can’t see them. Heather was able to move and leave the newt unharmed and we’d discovered natures worst hide-and-seek players.

Back to the trail junctions and sun breaks.
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In another .5mi we had reached Trestle Creek Falls trail which would take us to the lower falls. After a brisk quarter mile climb we could see our destination.
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I got to the end of the trail where a pile of debris had collected and took another picture but the log was still interfering with the view.
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Some careful log walking got me to the gravel bar on the other side of the debris where I was able to get an unobstructed photo.
Lower Trestle Creek Falls
There was another little island of exposed rocks just before the next set of logs but a 15 to 20 foot gap lay between them and my rocks. I decided that wet socks were worth a look at the splash pool and dashed across the water to the other set of rocks. I was getting over this set of logs so I declared victory there and did the splash and dash back and carefully picked my back to the trail.
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As we were preparing to leave the falls we met a group of hikers coming up the trail. They were lamenting the fact that they had not brought their trekking poles with them and asked about the loop to the upper falls. We had both expected to see them again on the loop but never did. Returning to the Brice Creek trail we crossed Trestle Creek on a nice footbridge and finished the last half mile to the Champion Creek TH. The Upper Falls Trail starts just a bit down the road from the trailhead and climbs stiffly 1.4 miles to the Upper Falls. We both thought it was a pretty challenging 900′ climb but the reward at the top was well worth it. The upper falls was located in a wide bowl and was split into two levels. The trail wound around the bowl and behind the falls allowing us to experience the full force of the falls up close.
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Behind Upper Trestle Creek Falls

The Sun was out for our return trip which we made in pretty good time since I’d taken most of the pictures on the way by the first time. We had been discussing the lack of colorful flowers along the way, and when we got back to first exposed area we noticed that we had completely missed a field of plectritis. There was also a patch of what I believe to be giant blue eyed mary.
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There was also a lone yellow flower.
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It took us a lot longer than I had figured to complete the hike, but when we got home and looked at the GPS it had us going a couple of miles further than I had calculated. I’m not entirely sure what made up the difference, but it explained the extra time so we decided to just go with it since it made us feel better about getting back later than expected.

Happy Trails
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Wilson River

So far so good. We managed to get a hike in each month leading up to the marathon in April. Our recent visit to the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest was our final hike until after we’ve raced and recovered. We picked this hike because it provided a fairly level 8 miles which seemed like a reasonable outing at this point in our training. We chose Saturday morning for the trip based on a forecast showing no rain until that afternoon versus rain all day on Sunday. Yep, I fell for it again. The drunk monkeys that come up with the weather forecast weren’t even close as the 0% chance of precipitation was more like 95% as it rained or drizzled on us almost the whole time. Fortunately it didn’t rain hard since we hadn’t put our rain gear back into our packs.

The Wilson River trail extends over 26 miles, but for this trip we planned to hike out and back along a 4 mile section from the Jones Creek Day Use area to Bridge Creek Falls. It was great to get back on the trail and especially nice to see some signs of Spring. We set off from the parking area following the river west toward the Tillamook Forestry Center. Since the center opens at 10am the gate on the suspension bridge was still closed so we passed by and headed toward Wilson Falls after taking a quick peak back at Kings Mountain. Heather and I had done a loop hike in 2010 up neighboring Elk Mountain and down Kings Mountain. It remains to this day one of the toughest hikes we’ve tackled.

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Kings Mt. from the Wilson River Trail

The forest was beginning to transition from Winter to Spring as buds were showing or already opening on many plants and several varieties of early flowers were blooming trailside.

Snow Queen
Snow Queen
Trillium
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Wood Violets
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Slender Toothwort
Slender Toothwort

The river was running quickly due to heavy recent rain which had also swelled the creeks and runoff streams feeding into the river. Even if it hadn’t been raining there was no way our feet were going to stay dry. 🙂

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Wilson River
Cedar Creek
Cedar Creek
Runoff flowing over the trail
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Trail crossing below Wilson Falls
Trail crossing below Wilson Falls

We had two waterfalls to visit on this portion of the trail. The first was Wilson Falls which lay hidden right beside the trail until we were almost directly below it.

Nearing Wilson Falls
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Wilson Falls
Wilson Falls

The second falls was also our turnaround point. We had to leave the river and cross Highway 6 to find the short trail to Bridge Creek Falls. An impressive fall in a narrow canyon.

Sign for Bridge Creek Falls along Hwy 6
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Bridge Creek Falls
Bridge Creek Falls
Trying to give an idea of the size of the falls.
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We hadn’t had any company on the trail and had only seen a handful of fishermen on the way to Bridge Creek Falls, but things got more crowded on the trail on the return trip.
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Another slowpoke
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This one moved to the side to let us pass
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Finally we came to a standstill
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We didn’t wind up going into the Forestry Center. The rain had picked up and we were wet and muddy when we arrived back so we decided to pass on this trip. We did cross the suspension bridge in an attempt to return to the car from the opposite side of the river but washouts had closed that portion so we backtracked across the bridge and returned the way we had come that morning. The hike worked out just the way we’d hoped. Good scenery, no crowds, and not too taxing physically. Truly a hike that says “Happy Trails”.

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Shellrock, Serene, and the Rock Lakes

We headed out on the first day of Autumn for our first post Summer hike and boy did Fall arrive in full force. We headed to the Roaring River Wilderness to check out several lakes on a loop hike. There was a possible view of Mt. Hood and several Washington snow peaks, but it was obvious from the forecast that any views were unlikely. The Roaring River Wilderness is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest and one we had yet to visit. We began our hike at the Shellrock Lake trail head under cloudy skies and a light mist.

After donning our rain gear for the first time in months we decided to do a “warm up” hike to Hideaway Lake in the opposite direction of our planned hike. The trail to Hideaway Lake started on the opposite side of the road from the Shellrock Lake trail. A short .5 miles path brought us to the lake which we then circled on a 1 mile loop. After completing the loop we returned to the parking area and set off toward Shellrock Lake.

The Shellrock Lake trail quickly entered the Roaring River Wilderness and just a short while later we arrived at Shellrock Lake. Fog drifted over the water at this peaceful lake which had plenty of campsites but no campers.

Shellrock Lake
Shellrock Lake

We passed by the lake and began climbing at a sign for the Frazier Turnaround. This portion of the trail was fairly steep and rocky and also full of rough skinned newts. After 1.3 miles of climbing we arrived at Frazier Turnaround where we could have parked if we’d been willing to try the terrible access road.

From Frazier Turnaround the loop portion of our hike started. We followed a sign pointing to Serene and the Rock Lakes. Our first destination was Middle Rock Lake. We took the quarter mile path to the lake where we spotted numerous crawdads and a frog.

Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake

The trail continued along Middle Rock Lake and was supposed to take us to Upper Rock Lake. We ran into a little bit of an issue as we attempted to follow this portion of the trail when it appeared to veer away from the lake. We followed this faint path uphill where it was becoming increasingly overgrown until it finally disappeared at several fallen trees. Thinking the trees had blocked the path we worked our way around them and picked up what appeared to be the continuation of the faint path which quickly ended below a rock slide with no lake in sight. It was time to break out the Garmin (again) which revealed that we were too far to the right of Upper Rock Lake so we set off cross country through the wet brush. We passed a pair of scenic lily pad ponds before finally reaching Upper Rock Lake and finding a good trail leading to it’s shore.

Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake

We followed the good trail down and discovered the source of our confusion. A tree had fallen along the shore of Middle Rock Lake which had hidden the trail and obscured the view of the single pink flagging that indicated the correct path. We had turned right at the uprooted base of this tree on the only visible path to us at the time.

We had one more of the Rock Lakes to visit, Lower Rock Lake, which was on the other side of the loop trail so we returned the way we came and went down to visit this last one. There wasn’t much to see there, just a nice little forest lake so we quickly returned to the Serene Lake trail and continued our loop. The trail had dropped down to the Rock Lakes but now we were climbing up through a nice forest. After several switchbacks the trail leveled out and arrived at Serene Lake. This was the deepest lake of the day and was surrounded by rocky slopes and forest. Clouds drifted up over the hillsides surrounding the lake while we had a snack on it’s shore.

Serene Lake
Serene Lake

We left Serene Lake and headed for our last point of interest, Cache Meadow. The trail continued to climb as we continued on until finally leveling off on a plateau above Serene Lake. Here would have been the mountain views with Serene Lake below but the weather had not cooperated and only Serene Lake was barely visible below.

Serene Lake from the viewpoint
Serene Lake from the viewpoint

The rain began to pick up as we approached Cache Meadow. The meadow was larger than I had expected and the remains of a vast display of flowers covered the ground. Now only a few aster held some lingering petals. A small unnamed lake filled one end of the meadow but we didn’t explore much due to the increasing rain.

Cache Meadow
Cache Meadow

The next four plus miles was through the rain as we completed the loop back to Frazier Turnaround and then descended back to Shellrock Lake. The rain did let up as we left the wilderness area long enough for us to change into dry clothing before driving home. The only thing missing was a cup of hot chocolate 🙂 Happy Trails

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