Tag Archives: Thimbleberry

Pilot Rock

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

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

Flickr: Pilot Rock

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Mount Margaret Backcountry – Obscurity Lake to South Coldwater Trailhead

Waking up to a third tent at Obscurity Camp wasn’t our only surprise in the morning. I awoke at 4:30am to find nearly clear skies above the lake save for one small finger of cloud creeping over the ridge behind Obscurity Lake. We were getting an extra early start due to the forecast of possible¬† Thunderstorms after 11am.¬† The clear sky was encouraging, but it wasn’t long before clouds began creeping into the basin from all sides.
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By the time we were on our way we were hiking through fog.
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It was a fairly steep climb out of the Obscurity Lake Basin but as we neared the saddle between Obscurity and Panhandle Lakes beautiful blue skies appeared through the fog giving us some hope for views.
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There were some views if we looked up but when we crested the saddle it was evident that the view of Panhandle Lake would not be clear.
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Down we went back into even thicker fog. The trail crossed a couple of nice streams with marsh marigolds as it wound around the lake.
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As we neared the lake we spotted a mountain goat lounging just above the trail.
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It sized us up and kept a close eye on us as we passed by.
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We decided not to go down to the lake figuring the view couldn’t be much better than what we had along the trail.
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We continued on toward Shovel Lake. Once again the trail climbed out of a basin but instead of dropping back down toward Shovel Lake the trail passed above it along a ridge. On the far side of the lake was Mt. Whittier making this one of the most dramatic lakes in the backcountry but we never saw it.
The thickest layer of clouds lay right over Shovel Lake, but as we climbed the ridge we eventually rose above the clouds.
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We were pretty excited when we realized we could see the top of Mt. Rainier in the distance.
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The trail to Shovel Lake was near the top of the ridge which meant we would have had to descend a half mile back into the clouds to visit this lake. Once again we passed figuring it left us one more thing to come back for.
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From the Shovel Lake Trail junction though we had a great view of Mt. Adams, which appeared to be wrestling with the clouds.
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The trail continued up the ridge to a saddle where it was joined by the Whittier Ridge Trail.
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From this saddle we then began our descent toward Coldwater Lake. First up was Snow Lake.
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We had finally found a lake without clouds and as an added bonus we had a great view beyond to Coldwater Peak.
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The trail swung out around the lake and as it did so we gained a little glimpse of Mt. St. Helens as well.
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This time the trail went right by Snow Lake giving us an up close look.
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The other nice thing about Snow Lake was the climb out of the basin was short and not steep. We quickly crested the saddle above the lake and began to drop into another mass of clouds.
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From Snow Lake it was 3.4 miles to the Coldwater Trail and a footbridge over Coldwater Creek. We were passing through the cloud layer for the first part of this section so we couldn’t see much. The trail itself was brushy with thimbleberry bushes and vine maples.
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The tread was also narrow and washed out in spots but passable.
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We eventually got under the clouds and could see Coldwater Creek below us.
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We were also seeing more wildflowers again and finding ripe berries, including our first thimbleberries of the year.
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Trailing blackberry
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Thimbleberry
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Red huckleberry
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We passed a couple of small waterfalls along side streams, one on either side of the valley.
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The trail then passed above what appeared to be a nice fall along Coldwater Creek but didn’t provide much of a view.
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Just after passing the waterfall the trail entered a forested area.
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Hedgenettle
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From there to the Coldwater Trail junction the trial alternated between small meadows and woods with occasional views back to Coldwater Creek.
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Another trail crew from the Washington Trails Association was working on the Coldwater Trail on the far side of the footbridge when we arrived there. We stopped on some rocks above the bridge for a snack break and watched them as they worked.
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We were now on familiar trail, at least in theory. When we had hiked the loop around Coldwater Lake in May 2014 much of the vegetation was only beginning to produce leaves.
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This time the trail was crowded with plants.
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The wildflowers were out in force as we drew nearer to Tractor Junction.
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A male grouse flew out of one of the meadows and landed in a nearby tree. It was the first one we’d seen in full display and was quite colorful.
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The views were much better than they had been the day before at Tractor Junction and along the 3.2 miles from there back to the trailhead. Coldwater Lake was clearly visible and Mt. St. Helens even made an appearance.
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For the second day in a row we’d escaped without dealing with any rain showers and the thunderstorms had not materialized before we’d made it back to the car. Despite the sometimes cloudy conditions it had turned out to be a really nice trip. The views we did miss out on can now be our excuse for return trip sometime in the future. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157670492933452

Table Rock to Pechuck Lookout

We have two lists of “To Do” day hikes within a reasonable driving distance. One list is the hikes we have yet to do, and the second list is hikes we want to try again for one reason or another. Table Rock was one of the hikes on the later list having first visited in October of 2012. During that hike smoke from the Pole Creek fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness had limited the views and being fall it was too late for many flowers. We had seen enough on that visit to think it would be worth a second visit in early summer to see if we could catch the views and see what flowers there might be. I put it down on our schedule as our annual 4th of July hike thinking the timing might be good for wildflowers plus the drive avoided much time on freeways or busy highways.

The Table Rock Wilderness consists of 6028 acres designated in 1984 as wilderness and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Several trailheads access the 16 miles of trails in the area. For our hike we started at the Table Rock Trailhead which happens to be the shortest route to the summit of Table Rock, the highest point in the wilderness.
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When we redo a trail I try to find some way to differentiate the hike from the earlier visit. Only 13 of our 172 hikes so far had been “re-hikes” and only 3 of those had we done the same exact trails. Three other times we added other short hikes on different trails, and on the remaining 7 we extended the hike visiting new places further along the trail. The plan to make this visit unique was to continue on past Rooster Rock, where we had turned around on our first visit, and continue on to Pechuck Lookout.

We set off on an old roadbed that is now the Table Rock Trail after rocks slides closed the road, the first at the current trailhead. We reached the second slide after .3 miles where the trail briefly entered the forest to bypass the slide.
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Beyond the second slide the old road again becomes the trail for nearly another mile. Small trees and flowers now line the gravel road making it a pleasant walk.
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Rabbit along the road.
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At the 1.3 mile mark the trail leaves the road for good at the site of the former trailhead. Shortly after reentering the forest the Image Creek Trail joins from the right. A nice sign that had not been there in 2012 pointed to the Table Rock Trail.
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From this junction the trail passes below a large rock field that extends from the base of Table Rock then swings out and around a rocky ridge before turning back toward Table Rock and entering the rock field going the opposite direction of the earlier pass below.
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The rock field offers a close up look at Table Rocks columnar basalt cliffs. Numerous pikas were calling out from the rocks all around us but we weren’t able to spot any.
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There were also a few flowers managing to bloom in the rocks.
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The trail then reenters the forest and climbs to a trail junction in a saddle. We turned left and followed the Table Rock Summit trail .4 miles to the tilted plateau of Table Rock.
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The view was indeed better than it had been on our previous visit despite a fire that had broken out on Mt. Adams the day before. We could just make out Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along with Mt. Adams in Washington and had good views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters in Oregon.

Mt. Jefferson to the Three Sisters
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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Three Fingered Jack
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Three Sisters
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Mt. Adams
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After exploring the plateau we returned to the junction and took the unsigned Saddle Trail toward Rooster Rock. Two things stand out about this trail. First is the ants which were everywhere. They were all over the trail and there were several large anthills right next to it.
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The second thing that made an impression is the steepness of this trail as it dips down and then back out of a thimbleberry meadow at the head of Image Creek. The trail all but disappeared in the thimbleberry bushes but it wasn’t too hard to follow. The nice thing about thimbleberry is that the plants do not have thorns so they are not bad to walk through. We did have to maneuver around a couple of devil’s club plants though.
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The steep climb up from Image Creek ends at a saddle below Rooster Rock. Trees here block the view of Rooster Rock but a short path to the right goes up through a small meadow to a rocky viewpoint.
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I had thought this small meadow might be a good wildflower spot, and there were some but not in any large amounts.
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The view toward Rooster Rock was better this time too.
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After a short rest we were ready to head for Pechuck Lookout. From the saddle we needed to drop down on the other side of the ridge to the High Ridge Trail. We were now starting the portion of the hike that we had not done before and we were in for a surprise. Just on the other side of the saddle was a meadow full of wildflowers.
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Many of the flowers were past their prime succumbing to the heat, but there were still enough to make it an impressive sight. In most years our timing would likely have been spot on but the hot dry weather we’d been having has all the flowers at least two weeks ahead of schedule. On the far side of the meadow the trail again entered the trees.
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The High Ridge Trail was far more gentle with its ups and downs than the Saddle Trail had been. After .7 miles the Rooster Rock Trail joined from the right coming up from the trailhead on Rooster Rock Rd.
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We continued going up and down along the ridge leaving the wilderness and arriving at another former trailhead along the gated road near Pechuck Lookout.
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The trail continued on the far side of the road passing a nice view of Table Rock along the way.
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This short section of trail was another steep one before ending at the lookout.
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Pechuck Lookout was staffed from 1918/19 until 1964 with the current structure having been built in 1932. It is now available for overnight stays on a first come first serve basis. There was no one staying there so we went inside to take a look around and sign the log book.
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It was too warm to stay inside for long so we headed back out into the shade and had anther bite to eat while watching the many butterflies flitting about.
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Aside from the view of Table Rock only Mt. Jefferson was visible and that mountain could only be seen in a couple of spots between some trees so it wouldn’t be a good place to stay if you’re hoping for mountain views.

We returned the way we’d come, skipping the side trips to the rocky viewpoint and the summit of Table Rock. The views to the south had become increasingly hazy, but Mt. Hood looked much clearer now that the sun had passed over.
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The only other hikers we saw all day were between the summit trail junction and the old road on the way back to our car and that was only two other couples. The final stretch along the old road felt really long after all the climbing we’d done. I spent part of the final 1.3 miles chasing an orange butterfly that wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to get a picture. It took awhile but Warren (as I named him) finally gave me some shots.
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It wound up being a longer hike than we expected. Everything we looked at indicated we’d be doing 14.8 miles but the final GPS reading was 15.7. With the various trailheads available this could have easily been split up into several shorter hikes for more sensible hikers. The Table Rock Wilderness is certainly a place worth visiting, and there should be plenty of ripe thimbleberries come August. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157655417439836

Coffin & Bachelor Mountains

We wanted to get one last hike in on the way home from vacation and Coffin & Bachelor Mountains provided the perfect opportunity. We decided to combine these two short hikes and climb both the neighboring mountains on the same day. A two-day long spat of thunderstorms had ended, but the clouds remained in the Cascades and it quickly became clear we wouldn’t be enjoying any views from the summits on this day.

We parked at the Coffin Mt. trail head and set off on Forest Road 1168 toward the Bachelor Mt. trail. We could have driven to this trail head, but instead we decided to walk the 1.2 miles of bumpy roads and enjoy the roadside flowers.
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It was an easy walk so we quickly arrived at the post (no sign) marking the start of the trail.

Since the clouds were denying us the views we had hoped for we turned our attention to the many wild flowers still on display and the abundant ripe strawberries which we sampled throughout the day.
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The trail climbed up through a forested side of the mountain then turned a corner onto a drier rocky hillside. The trail then leveled out on a forested ridge. The vegetation was very damp and our shoes and pant legs were quickly soaked.
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The trail split and we took the left fork toward the summit. After passing through another forested section we again found ourselves amid wildflower meadows where a few bear grass plumes remained as did some cascade lilies.
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Then the trail traversed a small rock slide where a Pika stood lookout before reaching the small flat summit where a fire tower once stood.
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The clouds were so thick we couldn’t even see nearby Coffin Mountain so after a quick snack we headed back down and returned to the Coffin Mountain trail head. Near the start of the trail we found a thimbleberry patch with two ripe berries. We tried the berries and unanimously decided that they were now our favorite wild berry. The trail then continued up amid what must have been a spectacular display of bear grass. Even though the bear grass was done many other flowers remained in bloom.
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The number and variety of flowers increased as we made our way up the 1.5 mile trail to the staffed lookout tower.
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When we reached the summit a cloud was passing over limiting visibility to several feet. From the edge of Coffin Mountains cliffs all we could see was grey making for an eerie effect. We made use of the helicopter pad and had a second breakfast.
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A couple of slight breaks in the clouds gave us a view down to the forest below but it was obvious we wouldn’t be seeing any of the Cascade peaks this time around. We were anxious to get back down to the car and head home so we quickly covered the 1.5 miles back to the car. This one will be added to the list of hikes to retry when the weather is better. Happy Trails.

Facebook photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201735237249857.1073741848.1448521051&type=1
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157634901559507/