Tag Archives: turkey vulture

Throwback Thursday – Patjens Lakes

On 8/2/2012, a day after our mosquito filled visit to Miller & Maidu Lakes, we were heading home. I had injured my right knee running down the trail to Miller Lake in an attempt to thwart the mosquitoes and it was feeling a little off, but I wanted to give a hike a try on the way over Santiam Pass.

We decided to try Patjens Lakes due to it being relatively short, right around 6 miles, with only 400′ of cumulative elevation gain. The trailhead is located on the NW side of Big Lake off of Forest Road 2690 which is also the entrance road to the Hoodoo Ski Area.
Patjens Lake Trailhead

We stayed right at a fork near the trailhead planning on doing a counter-clockwise loop. A 2011 wildfire had burnt much of the forest along the loop but signs of life were already returning.
Patjens Lake Trail

Goldenrod, penstemon and aster

Pearly everlasting

Patjens Lake Trail

Mt. Washington and Big Lake were visible along the first portion of the trail.
Mt. Washington

The trail looped around a small butte passing a series of meadows and view to the NW of the Sand Mountain Lookout.
Meadow along the Patjens Lake Trail

Lupine

Sand Mountain Lookout

Shortly after passing a horse trail joining on the right the we entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness and began the only real significant climb of the hike.
Wt. Washington Wilderness sign

The trail climbed to a saddle between the butte and a small hill. At the saddle the Three Sisters were visible to the south.
Forest along the Patjens Lake Trail
Small hill from the saddle.

Patjens Lake Trail

The Three Sisters

As the trail descended from the saddle it entered forest that had been spared by the fire.
Patjens Lake Trail

We passed through a series of meadows full of ferns and scarlet gilia.
Patjens Lake Trail

Tall cascade lilies rose above the ferns.
Cascade Lilies

Cascade lilies

Cascade Lily

As we were passing through one of these meadows we encountered a foul reek. There was obviously some sort of rotting carcass out in the brush but we couldn’t see anything. We were a little concerned that it might have been a mountain lion kill or that a bear might be feeding on it so when we heard a ruckus off to our right we were on high alert. The noise turned out to be a pair of turkey vultures who had apparently located the dead animal.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey vulture

We left well enough alone and continued on our way paying extra attention for any large predators that might have been attracted by the smell. Around a mile from the saddle we came to a small body of water on the right side of the trail.
Patjens Lake #1

The first Patjens Lake was approximately .7 miles from the pond on our left.
A Patjens Lake

The trail then passed a large meadow reentering the burn area before reaching the second Patjens Lake.
Meadow along the Patjens Lake Trail

Patjens Lake #2

The third lake was just beyond the second and it looked like they were probably connected for a brief times during high water. We left the trail and began to loop around the third lake in a clockwise direction.
A Patjens Lake

A number of ducks could be seen in the reeds.
Ducks on a Patjens Lake

From the north end of the lake there was a nice view of Mt. Washington rising over the forest to the south.
Mt. Washington from a Patjens Lake

We took a break here watching the ducks and admiring the mountain then continued around the lake back to the trail. A mile and a half from the last lake we came to a junction near Big Lake where we turned left following the lake shore back toward the trailhead. Flat Hayrick Butte and round Hoodoo Butte rose above the blue waters of Big Lake.
Hoodoo and Hayrick Buttes from Big Lake

Hoodoo Butte
Hoodoo Ski Area

Looking back over our shoulders provided big views of Mt. Washington.
Mt. Washington and Big Lake

A mile from the junction at Big Lake we were back at the trailhead. Despite a little discomfort going downhill my knee had held up which was encouraging. The hike had been a good choice for it and it had been a really nice hike even with the burned forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Patjens Lakes

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Tom McCall Preserve and Mosier Twin Tunnels

We do our best to plan and prepare for all of our hikes, but we were reminded that now matter how much pre-trip preparation we’ve done things can still happen. For our last hike that meant an extra 4 miles of hiking.

We had headed back to the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge for a combination of several hikes near Mosier, OR. First up was the plateau trail at the Tom McCall Preserve. The trail sets off from the Rowena Crest Viewpoint located along the Historic Columbia River Highway 6.6 miles east of Mosier.
Rowena Crest Trailhead

The trail heads out onto the plateau toward the Columbia River passing several viewpoints and lots of wildflowers including our first bachelor button sightings.

Bachelor Button

Balsamroot at Rowena Crest

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Columbia River from Rowena Crest plateau

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The trail also passes a pair of ponds where we had to be on the watch for poison oak.
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After approximately one and a quarter miles the trail ends at a viewpoint on the edge of the plateau. Across the river was a train while below on our right were a pair of turkey vultures and on our left a couple of deer down in Rowena Dell.
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Deer below Rowena Crest plateau

After returning to the parking area we headed up the second trail at Tom McCall Preserve to Tom McCall Point. The summit of the point had been shrouded in clouds while we were on the plateau trail.
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The clouds were breaking up as we began our climb though.
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This path was wonderful. There were plenty of views as well as some wooded sections. We also saw several types of flowers that we had not seen along the plateau trail such as paintbrush, broomrape, larkspur, and chocolate lilies.
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The clouds finally lifted from the summit by the time we were about halfway up the trail.
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We were also high enough to see the entire plateau behind us.
Rowena Crest from the Tom McCall Point trail.

The views from the summit were impressive, but alas the clouds had not broken up enough to reveal either Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams which on a clear day would have been visible.
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Summit of Tom McCall Point

We had planned one more hike for the day since the two trails at Tom McCall Preserve only totaled 6 miles. The Mosier Twin Tunnel trail set off on the west side of Mosier at the Senator Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead.
Trailhead for Mosier Twin Tunnels

The trail is actually a portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway that has been converted to a hiking and biking path. Our plan was to hike out about 2.5 miles to an overlook of Koberg Beach State Wayside to add another 5 miles to the days totals. The path begins amid rock piles that reminded us of the lava flows in Central Oregon. Here the basalt cliffs that are typical of the gorge had broken up leaving the jumble of rocks. A fence separated the path from the rocks to protect pits made by Native Americans, possibly used as vision quest sites. One such pit is visible in the upper left hand side of the picture below.
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About a half mile from the start of the trail is the first viewpoint.
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Not long after the first viewpoint the trail comes to the first of the twin tunnels.
First of the Mosier Twin Tunnels.

Inside Mosier Twin Tunnels.

The first tunnel has a pair of windows carved into the rock wall offering views of the river.
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Upon exiting the second tunnel the path continues under an odd concrete structure. Dominique thought it reminded him of being in a parking garage. The purpose of the structure is to act as a rockfall shield able to withstand a 5000lb. boulder falling from 200ft above.
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Just under a mile from the tunnels is a second overlook at the county line between Wasco and Hood River counties.
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Our planned turnaround point was to be .8 miles from this second overlook at a .2 mile side path. We continued on toward the turnaround but Dominique wasn’t feeling all that well so he eventually took one of the car keys and headed back. It turns out he was only about 100 yards from our planned turnaround point. I was waiting for Heather by a gravel path that led off through a fenced meadow.
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Viewpoint along the Mosier Twin Tunnel trail.

This was in fact the path we were looking for, but it ended at the fence where there was no view to speak of and certainly no sign of a beach wayside. On top of that I had viewed the hike on Google Maps and had expected the side path to drop down a bit and this path led up. We also felt like we hadn’t gone .8 miles since the second viewpoint so I checked the Garmin which showed that Koberg State Park was still ahead. We decided this wasn’t it and continued on. We kept walking and talking thinking the viewpoint was going to be just ahead. We began seeing more and more people but it was now after noon and that made sense, but when we passed a couple with a stroller we both began to wonder what was going on. They didn’t look like they had hiked over 2 miles already. Then Heather spotted some signs ahead. There were quite a few and they were big which didn’t make sense for a small side path, then we noticed an RV parked above the trail to the left. Now we knew something was wrong for sure because there were no roads open to vehicles anywhere near our planned turnaround point. Then we saw the parking area, restrooms, and information center at the western trailhead near Hood River. We’d gone nearly 2 extra miles! The good news was they were nice bathrooms and we had spotted a snake and our first California Poppies (while on a hike) in those extra miles.
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California Poppy

It turned out that the main portion of Koberg State Park is located across the Interstate from the western trailhead, but a portion of it is also located below the outcropping that the gravel path led onto. There just isn’t anything there to see. We hurried back as quickly as our sore feet would let us. On the way we spotted a bald eagle soaring above the trees and some wind surfers sailing above the Columbia.
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At the car we found a napping kid who it turned out had stuck to our original plan better than we had. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652170987082/