Tag Archives: Washington

Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

One week after spending a day hiking in California at the Lava Beds National Monument (post) we visited our neighbor to the north, Washington. On our itinerary for the day were a pair of hikes north of Carson, WA. We started with a visit to Falls Creek Falls.

We parked at the trailhead at the end of Forest Road 57 where only one other car occupied the large parking area at 7:15am. The dim morning light coupled with some low clouds made it hard to capture the fall colors with the camera but our eyes had no problems appreciating them as we set off on the trail.
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We quickly passed a trail on the left which would be part of the loop we were planning on doing here and stayed straight toward the falls.
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At the .4 mile mark we arrived at a short suspension bridge over Falls Creek.
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Beyond the bridge the trail climbed gradually for a mile to a junction. Along the way there were several views of the creek.
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At the junction we stayed right and continued to gradually climb for another .3 miles to three tiered Falls Creek Falls. The first views are of the upper and middle tiers through some trees.
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The lower tier comes into view near the end of the trail at which point most of the upper tier is lost due to the angle.
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We spent a few chilly minutes admiring the falls before heading back to the junction.
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Here we veered uphill to the right climbing fairly steeply for about two tenths of a mile to the Falls Creek Trail.
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Before continuing on the loop we turned right on the Falls Creek Trail to visit a viewpoint or two above the falls. After .6 miles on this fairly level trail we spotted a side trail heading out to the first viewpoint. We started to head out this spur but then noticed a tent set up there (we found the owners of the other car) so we continued another quarter mile to the second viewpoint.
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The view from the top was just out over the valley, but a steep scramble trail led down to the top of the falls from here. We checked to see if the ground seemed muddy or slick, but it turned out to be in good shape so we made our way down to the creek just above the falls.
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From the viewpoint we returned to the loop and continued down the Falls Creek Trail 1.7 miles to another bridge over Falls Creek which we hadn’t seen since the viewpoint. Despite the creek not being visible from the trail the scenery was not lacking due to the surrounding forest and fall colors.
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At the far side of the bridge we turned left for a little over half a mile completing the loop and returning to our car, and a much fuller parking lot.
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After the 6.3 mile hike here we were ready for the second hike of the day to the Indian Heaven Wilderness and Red Mountain. We drove back toward Carson and eventually (after missing the turn the first time) turned east on Warren Gap Road (Road 405) at a pointer for the Panther Creek Campground. We followed this road for a little under two miles to Forest Road 65 where we turned left for 8 miles, passing the parking area for Panther Creek Falls (post) along the way, to a junction with FR 60. We turned right here and followed this road for two miles to the Pacific Crest Trail and a small campground.
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We followed the PCT north climbing gradually through the forest which looked quite different from the forest along Falls Creek just a few miles away.
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A little over 1.75 miles from the trailhead we passed one of the small Sheep Lakes.
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A quarter mile later we entered the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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Although there wasn’t as much fall color along this trail as there had been along the trails at Fall Creek there was some and there were also some interesting mushrooms to be seen.
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IMG_4469This may named be Green Lake

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As we hiked through a meadow we spotted the lookout tower on Red Mountain to the SW which was to be one of our stops on the hike.
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We turned left off of the PCT 1.2 miles after entering the wilderness at a sign for Indian Racetrack.
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This trail led a half mile through the forest to the large meadows at Indian Racetrack where up until 1928 tribes indeed raced horses.
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We turned left in the middle of the meadows toward a trail sign for the Indian Racetrack Trail.
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This trail climbed for .8 miles, steeply at times, to a road on the shoulder of Red Mountain. An opening just above a saddle along the way provided a nice view of Mt. Adams to the NE.
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We followed the road uphill for .3 miles to the lookout gaining views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along the way.
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Near the lookout Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson could be seen to the south in Oregon.
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We took a nice long break at the summit gazing at Washington’s trio of volcanoes and talking with a fellow hiker from Vancouver who had tried to reach the lookout earlier in the year but had been turned back by snow.
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From the lookout we headed back down the road and followed it all the way back down to FR 60 a total of 3.4 miles from the tower.
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We were a half mile from the Pacfic Crest Trail so we road walked, uphill, back to our car. In hindsight it might have been nicer to do the loop in reverse in order to start with the road walks and finish the hike with a gradual descent. Either way it was a great hike, but we had been expecting it to be a 7.5 mile loop based on our guidebook, but our GPS (and our legs) put it at 9.2 miles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Falls Creek Falls and Indian Racetrack

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Throwback Thursday – Odds and Ends

With this Throwback Thursday post we will have covered all the trails that we hiked prior to starting this blog and have not been part of a subsequent hike that was featured here. We are combining several hikes in one for a couple of reasons. The remaining hikes were all relatively short, some we have few if any pictures, and one was done on the same day that we did another hike that we did again after we started the blog.

Many of our earliest hikes were centered around Bend, OR and were part of vacations prior to 2010 when we first started to be serious about hiking. These were hikes of opportunity more than conscious efforts to go on a hike.

One such was the 3 mile loop around Suttle Lake. We were staying at one of the cabins at the Suttle Lake Resort and decided to take the trail around the lake. The level hike offered views of the lake and of bald eagles and osprey as they soared over the lake watching for fish. On that hike we didn’t even carry a camera.

Another camera-less but worthwhile hike was the Lava River Cave. This mile long lava tube south of Bend is a great stop for kids and adults and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lava Lands or the High Desert Museum.

In 2007, while in Bend on vacation in July, we hiked up Pilot Butte. A mile long trail in the middle of town leads up to the top of the 4148′ summit which offers view on a clear day north to Mt. Adams in Washington.
Mountain locator on Pilot Butte

It was a bit hazy during this visit but the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Mt. Bachelor to the Three Sisters were still visible.
Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mt., Ball Butte, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters

On that same trip we took a stroll along the Deschutes River Trail from the Mt. Bachelor Village upriver to a footbridge and returned on a loop via Reed Market Road.
Deschutes River

Geese on the Deschutes River

Scarlet gilia

Deer along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, OR

Deschutes River

Grand Collomia

The hikes weren’t all in Central Oregon. On 7/27/2009 we completed the 1.8 mile round trip to Henline Falls from the Henline Falls Trailhead. The trail is approximately 45 minutes east of Salem and features an old mine shaft near the waterfall.
Henline Falls

Abandoned mine shaft

Abandonded mine shaft

We also started up the nearby Henline Mountain Trail (trailhead) that day but were not in decent enough shape to make it very far.

The final short hike along Lava Canyon near Mt. St. Helens was done after our first hike to Ape Canyon on 9/17/2012. We went back to Ape Canyon in 2015 (post) but that time we did Ape Cave for the other hike.

After finishing our Ape Canyon hike in 2012 we walked from the Ape Canyon Trailhead .25 miles to the Lava Canyon Trailhead.
Trail map near Lava Canyon

A .4 mile trail leads down to the start of a short half mile loop.
Lava Canyon Trail sign

We stayed left at the start of the loop staying on the west side of the Muddy River. A footbridge led across the river above Lava Canyon Falls which was below the trail but mostly obscured.
Lava Canyon Trail sign at the start of the loop

Lava Canyon Falls

Just .2 miles from the first bridge the loop crosses the river on a suspension bridge.
Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Upstream from the suspension bridge the Muddy River careens down Triple Falls.
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A .3 mile trail returns to the footbridge along the river along the eastern bank.
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Muddy River

Upper Lava Canyon Falls

Henline Falls, Henline Mountain, and Lava Canyon are all in our future plans and reliving these and all our other Throwback Thursday hikes has been a lot of fun. Even though the information is dated hopefully they have provided some additional ideas for places to visit here in the Pacific Northwest. As always check with the managing agencies for current trail conditions before heading out. Happy Trails!

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

Long Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, and Fort Columbia

For the third day of our 4 day mini-vacation we headed north into Washington for a series of hikes along the coast from Long Beach to the Columbia River. We decided to start with the northernmost hike and work our way south. Our first stop was at the north end of the 7.2 mile Discovery Trail located on North 26th St. in Long Beach.

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Normally when we have a 7.2 mile trail we would just hike the entire thing out and back and call it a day, but on this rare occasion we were going to follow Sullivan’s easy 3 hike description. From this trailhead we were simply following the trail for .3 miles to a replica of Clark’s Tree. The replica represents a tree where William Clark carved his name on a tree in November of 1805 to claim the territory for the U.S.

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We took a short sandy path from the tree to the foredune to take a look at the ocean before heading back.

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For our next hike we drove south to Sid Snyder St. where a .4 mile stretch of boardwalk parallels the paved Discovery Trail.

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Interpretive signs lined the boardwalk including one showing all of the shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.

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We returned via the paved Discovery Trail and once again hopped into the car and headed south. We left Long Beach and continued south on Highway 101 for 3 miles to the stoplight in Ilwaco where we turned right on Highway 100 and entered Cape Disappointment State Park.

We were originally headed for a signed parking lot for Beards Hollow 1.9 miles away. We needed a $10 Discovery Pass to park there but, when we turned right into the parking area we discovered that there was no self-pay station. We had passed a Beards Hollow Viewpoint about a mile before turning into the parking lot which didn’t require a pass so we drove back uphill to the viewpoint parking lot and started our hike from there.

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A trail led downhill from the viewpoint to the lower parking lot.

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At the lower parking lot we once again picked up the Discovery Trail.

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We followed the paved trail through a wetlands which is a result of the building of the Columbia River jetties.

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When the Discovery Trail made a sharp right near the ocean we took one of several sandy paths to the beach where we turned south and headed for North Head.

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The beach was quite but judging from the number of tire tracks and amount of garbage lying around it gets a lot busier in the evenings. Near the end of the beach we came upon some nice tide pools which we explored briefly before heading back.

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After hiking back up to the viewpoint we continued south on Highway 100 and turned right onto North Head Lighthouse Road. A Discovery Pass is required to park here as well but we spotted a self-pay station near some signboards so we parked and I went to pay.

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I don’t mind having to pay for the passes, but I do get annoyed by how hard it is to buy them sometimes. We had to drive a couple of miles further along Hwy 100 to the park entrance booth where we were finally able to purchase the required pass.

After returning to the North Head parking lot we headed for the North Head Lighthouse.

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A short .3 mile loop passes several buildings that used to house the lighthouse keepers, but are now vacation rentals, before continuing out the headland to the lighthouse which is currently undergoing rennovations.

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After completing the loop we turned right at a sign for the 1.5 mile North Head Trail.

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Our plan was to follow this trail out to McKenzie Head then take a short road walk past Oneil Lake and explore a few more trails in the park from the area near the entrance booth. The North Head Trail passed through a pretty coastal forest going up and down, over and around ridges. We spotted lots of wildlife along this section of trail, mostly in the form of frogs and snakes.

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We crossed Fort Canby Road at a small parking lot for McKenzie Head.

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After stopping to read the interpretive signs we started up the .3 mile path to Battery 247.

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We explored the old bunker and took in the view from North Head before heading back down.

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When we arrived back at the McKenzie Head parking lot we turned right and walked along Fort Canby Road until we were able to cut over to a gravel campground road along Oneil Lake.

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We spotted an egret and an osprey at the lake.

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At the far end of the lake we crossed Jetty Road just west of the park entrance booth and located the Cape Disappointment Trail.

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We followed the trail uphill past a viewpoint of the jetty.

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The trail continued to climb from the viewpoint passing a set of stairs that led to a hilltop with a view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

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The little hilltop was a dead end so we backtracked down the stairs and continued following the trail to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

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The aroma near the center was less than appealing due to the presence of sea birds on the rocks below.

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At the far end of the center we managed to find a spot in the shade where we couldn’t smell the birds and took a short break.

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It was another .6 miles to the lighthouse from the interpretive center so we sallied forth. The trail dipped down between a Coast Guard station and Dead Mans Cove.

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A narrow paved road led from the Coast Guard station uphill to the lighthouse and an impressive view.

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After another short break we returned to the interpretive center and walked around the east side and explored Battery Harvey Allen.

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After exploring the battery we returned to the park entrance booth. We headed out Jetty Road past the booth and park entrance sign toward the boat launch across Coast Guard Road. On the far side of that road we located a trail sign for the Coastal Forest Trail.

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There was a moment of hesitation when we read the caution sign warning of ground hornets on the trail. Growing up I had a huge fear of bees and any related species but as we’ve been hiking I’ve come to an understanding with most of the yellow and black insects. Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are not on that list. We decided to proceed but with extreme caution.

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Our plan was to do the 1.5 mile loop. At the far end of the loop near a bench a spur trail led out to a viewpoint.

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A heron was hunting in the grasses nearby.

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We completed the loop without running into any hornets and I was relieved when we got back to Coast Guard Road. After passing Oneil Lake on Fort Canby Road again we took the North Head Trail back to our car at the lighthouse parking lot. There were more snakes on the trail on the return trip than we’d seen earlier in the day which was fine with me since they weren’t hornets.

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We had one final stop left. Following signs for Ilwaco we left the park and returned to Highway 101 where we headed back toward Oregon. Eight miles from Ilwaco we turned right at a sign for Fort Columbia State Park.
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We walked through the old buildings and turned uphill on Military Road. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was visible in the distance.
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We found a map on a signpost which showed fewer trails than what our guidebook and Google showed.
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We decided to trust the park map and headed up the grassy Military Road Trail.
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The trail passed some overgrown structures.
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When we arrived at 780′ summit we decided to head back down on the Scarborough Trail, forgoing the .5 mile Summit Trail.
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The Scarborough Trail began as a decent dirt trail but soon became overgrown with a few downed trees to climb over.
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After .4 miles we came to another grassy roadbed.
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This was the route shown on the park map. The trail did seem to continue downhill which corresponded to the map in the guidebook but without knowing the condition of that trail we played it safe and followed the roadbed back to the Military Road Trail. On the way down we took a short detour following a use path toward the sound of falling water. The path led to a small waterfall behind a fence with a “Do Not Enter” sign. We took a photo from the fence and then returned to our car.
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When it was all said and done we’d hiked a total of 17.3 miles from 5 different trailheads. It had been a really enjoyable group of hikes full of wildlife and history. Happy Trails!

Flickr: SW Washington Coast

Labor Day Weekend – Mt. Adams Wilderness Days 2 & 3

We woke up after 6am on Sunday morning which counts as sleeping in for us. The forecast had called for smokey conditions all weekend which hadn’t materialized at all on Saturday but the sky was a little hazy now.
It certainly wasn’t bad and there was no fire smell in the air which was nice.

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Our mission was to find a water source as we had run low the day before and didn’t want to try and filter out of the nearby Cascade Creek which was too silty. We grabbed our packs and headed across Horseshoe Meadow to the Pacific Crest Trail. Our plan was to follow it north to the Killen Creek Trail and possibly into Killen Creek Meadows.

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The PCT climbed along a ridge at the edge of the meadow and we were able to spot our tent in the trees below.

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The trail climbed around the ridge end through the scars of the Cascade Creek Fire. The ground was covered with flowers that were well past bloom but they still provided a colorful display.

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Looking out to the SW we could see smoke in the valleys below a higher layer of clouds. Mt. St. Helens somehow seemed to be in a clear zone though.

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As we passed a large rocky area we heard the “meep” of a pika followed by several more. We stopped to see if we could spot one of our favorite alpine animals and sure enough one scurried out onto a nearby rock.

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After watching the little guy for a while we remembered our quest for water and continued on. The trail remained in the Cascade Creek Fire zone for nearly the entire 3.5 miles to Sheep Lake which was the first potential source of water we came too. The fire zone offered some nice views and interesting rock formations reminding us that as sad as it is too see the forest burn it is part of the natural cycle and can offer some different scenic qualities.

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IMG_7781Mt. St. Helens

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IMG_7784The bottom of Mt. Rainier

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IMG_7798Goat Rocks

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Sheep Lake was nice and was lined with berries which we happily ate as part of our breakfast but it was a little shallow along the edges for our pump filter.

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Riley Creek was near enough that we could hear it flowing so we decided to check it out to see if the water was clear enough to filter. Not only was the water clear but the creek was lovely and we found a large flat area atop some rocks where we could cook our breakfast.

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Heather filtered water while I prepared our Mountain House Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash which is quickly becoming one of our favorite backpacking meals.

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After breakfast we continued north on the PCT into a green forest. More blueberries and huckleberries lined the trail and we joined the area wildlife in snacking on the juicy treats.

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Large clumps of gentians dotted the open ground in this area as well.

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Just under a quarter mile from Riley Creek we passed the Riley Camp Trail.

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The stretch of green forest lasted for about a mile before the PCT came to a lava flow near Mutton Creek.

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Mutton Creek was cloudy with silt but not the chocolate color of Cascade Creek. It looked more like someone had poured some milk into the creek. The trail followed the cascading creek for a bit before crossing it.

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The PCT then passed across another section of lava where we stopped to admire the craggy peaks lining the horizon.

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There was also a good view of Mt. Adams although the combination of the haze and angle of the Sun affected it.

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We passed through another meadow before reaching the Lewis River.

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It was hard to believe this was the same river that we’d hiked along when we visited Lower Lewis River Falls in May of 2016.

Lower Lewis River Falls

About a quarter mile from the Lewis River we passed the Divide Camp Trail.

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Just beyond the trail junction we passed over a section of the mountain where a washout or avalanche had wiped out a swath of forest at some point where small trees were now regrowing.

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Just beyond that was an even larger barren rocky area where we came to Adams Creek.

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This proved to be the trickiest crossing of the entire weekend. We chose a spot where it looked like we could rock hop to a small island where a log might get us to the other side relatively dry.

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It worked reasonably well and we sallied forth towards the Killen Creek Trail. IMG_7898

About a mile from Adams Creek we passed a shrinking pond.

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Another quarter mile brought us to the High Camp Trail which headed toward the mountain.

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Shortly beyond that junction we arrived at the Killen Creek Trail.

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Although we had toyed with the idea of continuing all the way to Killen Creek it was another .4 miles away and downhill. We had done 22.6 miles the day before and this day was already going to be over 17 miles so we decided to call it good. We figure we can go back someday and start on the Killen Creek Trail and go north on the PCT from the junction.

On the way back the haze began to clear and the passed far enough overhead to greatly improve the views of Mt. Adams.

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The massive Adams Glacier really caught our attention.

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While we were admiring the mountain, Heather spotted a face in the rocks.

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The view of Mt. Adams kept getting clearer and even the view of Mt. Rainier improved somewhat.

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One view that didn’t improve was to the SW where yet another smoke plume had arisen. This one we would learn the next day was the East Crater Fire in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

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We stopped again at Riley Creek where we joined a number of PCT thru-hikers cooling off and collecting water. We refilled our packs as well as our 96oz canteen (which was not the most fun thing to haul the 4 miles back to camp).

It was just after 4:30 when we arrived back at Horseshoe Meadow. Mt. Adams appeared to be free of any smoke but just over it’s shoulder to the east the sky looked really smokey.

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We ate dinner then sat by our tent and watched as a few wispy clouds passed overhead.

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With all the fires around we couldn’t have asked for a better couple of days on the mountain. Those wonderful conditions didn’t make it into Labor Day though.

We woke up at 5:30am and despite it still being dark, we knew that some smoke had moved in based on the smell. When I got out of the tent and turned on my headlamp it illuminated the ash that was falling like a light snow. As the morning light made seeing a little easier we found that we couldn’t even see Mt. Adams.

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As the Sun rose higher we could at least make out the mountains outline through the smoke.

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We ate breakfast and packed up then headed south on the PCT.

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Overall it was a cool morning but occasional blasts of warmer air hit us. We had started hiking a little before 7am so that helped. We passed a number of thru-hikers on their way north, one of whom told us that the Indian Heaven Wilderness was closed due to a new fire (East Crater).

A red sun came up over Mt. Adams as we made our way back.

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The smoke finally lessened a bit when we had gotten back down into unburnt forest.

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Near the trailhead we spoke to another thru-hiker who had been evacuated from Cascade Locks due to the Eagle Creek Fire. It was from her that we learned a teenager illegally using fireworks had started the inferno and that at least 140 hikers had been stranded overnight, trapped between the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek Fires.

Given the information we decided to drive back to Salem around Mt. Hood via Highways 35 and 26 thinking that I84 might be closed by the time we were trying to get through. It’s been a tough year out west regarding wildfires. Even though they are a natural part of the forest cycle (unless some moron does something stupid) it’s hard when so many of our favorite places seem to be burning at the same time. We know they will not look like they once did anytime in our lifetimes, but they will recover and in the meantime we will watch as God’s creation heals. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Adams Wilderness Days 2 & 3

Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain

What do we do when the temperatures are going to be nearing triple digits in the Willamette Valley? Take a 23.9 mile hike of course! Okay so that wasn’t our original plan, but due to some navigational errors that’s exactly what happened.

We were headed to Three Corner Rock and then hopefully onto Table Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail. We’d visited Table Mountain in 2013 starting from the currently closed trailhead near the privately owned Bonneville Hot Springs. Our plan for this hike was to start at the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead where the PCT crosses CG-2090.

After purchasing a Washington Department of Natural Resources Discover Pass online we headed to the Columbia Gorge and crossed into Washington on the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, OR. From there we followed the directions from the Oregonhikers.org field guide to the trailhead.

Our first (and biggest) error of the day happened as we set off on the PCT. Not only does the trail cross CG-2090 but it also crosses CG-2000, which we took to reach the trailhead, further to the north. On the map below the black “x” is the Rock Creek Pass TH and the red “x” marks the PCT crossing of CG-2000.

Rock Creek Pass TH

We hadn’t noticed the PCT crossing of CG-2000 on the drive to the TH and for some reason I had it stuck in my head that our starting point was the red “x”. So based on the direction we had driven to the spot from, we needed to take the PCT to the left to be heading south toward Three Corner Rock. Had we stopped to question why the Sun was nearly straight ahead as we started on the PCT we may have realized our mistake.

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We also hadn’t paid enough attention to the guidebook stating to go right on the PCT from the trailhead so off we went blissfully going the wrong way. From the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead it should have been 1.5 miles to the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail which meant we had expected to reach it between 45 minutes to an hour into the hike. Instead about an hour into the hike we crossed CG-2000. That didn’t tip us off because based on where we thought we had started and the direction we thought we were heading our route would have included a crossing of CG-2090 which we mistook this crossing for.

Heather had been questioning things for a while but it would have been impossible to be going north by following the PCT in the direction we had from where we thought we started, and we figured if we somehow failed to spot the Three Corner Rock Trail we’d just do it on the way back from Table Mountain instead. The forest along the trail was nice and we eventually came to a footbridge across what we soon realized was Rock Creek.

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Soon after crossing Rock Creek we came to a junction with the Snag Creek Trail quickly followed by Snag Creek itself.

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Neither of us remembered anything about having to ford a creek on our planned route but across we went. We were just over an hour and a half into the hike and now we were both having serious doubts about our direction. We pulled the map out again and this time I also zoomed out on the GPS far enough to see the Columbia River on the display which we had clearly been moving away from. It still took me a few minutes to realize what we’d done. I just kept thinking it was impossible to have gone left at the trailhead and be heading north until it finally sunk in that the trailhead wasn’t where I thought it was. Back we went having to retrace three plus miles and regain nearly 1000′ of elevation.

It was 10am when we made it back to the trailhead, nearly 3 hours after we’d set off in the wrong direction. This time we headed south.

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The funny thing was even though by that point I knew we’d gone the wrong way for at least the next hour I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were headed north. The PCT climbed away from Rock Creek Pass gaining views of Mt. Adams through the trees.

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Near the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail many avalanche lilies were still in bloom.

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We turned right onto the Three Corner Rock Trail which popped out onto an old road bed after approximately .4 miles.

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We followed the road uphill just under a quarter mile to Three Corner Rock.

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It was really windy on the open ridge and on Three Corner Rock which was once home to a lookout tower.

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It was a five volcano day with a bonus view of Goat Rocks thrown in.

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To the SE a small section of the Columbia River was visible between Wind and Dog Mountain in Washington and Mt. Defiance in Oregon.

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Despite the wind the views were great, but it did make it difficult to take pictures of the wildflowers in the area.

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After a short break we headed back to the PCT where we decided to continue south toward Table Mountain. We told ourselves we’d play it by ear and could turn around at any time but we’re both stubborn and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’d wind up making it all the way there.

From the Three Corner Rock Trail junction the PCT gradually descended for 1.25 miles to a road crossing at a saddle with a spectacular display of paintbrush and penstemon. Along the way the trail crossed a rough 4wd track and passed along a ridge still showing evidence of the 1902 Yacolt Burn.

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From the road the PCT traversed along the east side of a ridge through the forest for a mile before arriving at a large clear cut.

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Three Corner Rock was visible behind us.

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The trail climbed through the clear cut for about a half mile before reentering the trees.

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For the next 1.25 miles the PCT passed through a series of wildflower meadows, first on the west side of a ridge with views to the south of Table Mountain and Mt. Hood, then onto the east side of the ridge with a view of Mt. Adams and the Columbia River.

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The views were nice but we spent most of our time focused on the many wildflowers along the trail.

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The variety of colors of penstemon was particularly impressive.

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We had hoped to hop off of the PCT at a sharp right turn just uphill from some power lines and hook up to a dirt road just on the other side of the lines at a saddle. As we came around the ridge end though we couldn’t see any obvious signs of a connector trail so we stuck to the PCT as it began to quickly lose elevation. After looking at the map and realizing that following the PCT all the way to the road would add almost two miles and another 500′ of elevation gain we went back to look again for a connection. After a brief off-trail excursion on a steep slope with thick brush, we bit the bullet and took the PCT down to the road.

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We had to walk back uphill on the road and it was warm. We had benefited from a nice breeze most of the day which helped keep the temperature bearable but there was none along the road. When we arrived at the saddle we spotted a sign near an overgrown roadbed pointing 1.4 miles to Table Mountain.

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We followed the old roadbed for about half a mile to its end where a faint, and at times very brushy, trail continued along the north ridge of Table Mountain.

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When the trail wasn’t overgrown it too was lined with wildflowers.

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Not only was the route a bit of a challenge to follow due to the brush but it was steep at times, especially on two rocky climbs, the last of which brought us to the plateau of Table Mountain.

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Three Corner Rock was visible to the left of the ridges we’d followed to reach the plateau as were the power lines running over the saddle a mile away.

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We picked up the Table Mountain Trail on the plateau and followed it south to the viewpoint above the cliffs overlooking the Columbia River.

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We sat in some shade near the cliffs and took off our shoes and socks to give our feet a bit of a break while we ate a snack. We had no idea how far we’d gone (it was almost 16 miles already) but we knew our feet were sore and we were both developing blisters. We were also getting low on water but thankfully Heather had brought our water filter and we’d passed what I thought would be a sufficient water source in the meadows between the saddle and the clear cut.

We started back at 3:15pm hurrying as quickly as our protesting feet would allow. We both ran out of water shortly before arriving at the seep where the water was just deep enough to use our filter to get some much needed wonderfully cold water. We arrived back at our car at 6:48, almost 11 hours and 45 minutes since we’d set off that morning.

It certainly hadn’t gone as planned but we’d at least come prepared with enough food and water to make it through the day. In addition to some great mountain views and wildflowers meadows we’d learned a valuable lesson about how important it is to make sure you know where your starting point is and to consider everything when determining where you’re at. Had we taken the position of the sun and the description of the hike as beginning uphill to the right of the TH we might have realized much more quickly that we’d misidentified the location of the trailhead on the map. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain

Lucia & Moulton Falls Parks

It’s been a wet and dreary winter in the Pacific Northwest so when a halfway decent forecast came along we jumped on it and headed out for our March hike. Our destination was a pair of Clark County, WA parks along NE Lucia Falls Road and the North Fork Lewis River.

We began our day with 1 mile warm-up hike at Lucia Falls Regional Park. A loop passes through the park and along the river past viewpoints of the modest Lucia Falls.

Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls Park

North Fork Lewis River in Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls

North Fork Lewis River

After our warm-up we hopped back into the car and continued east on Lucia Falls Rd for .3 miles where we veered right onto Hantwick Rd. We followed this road for half a mile to the Hantwick Road Trailhead.

Hantwick Rd. Trailhead

From the trailhead the Moulton Falls Trail follows an old railroad grade 2.6 miles to Moulton Falls Park.

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The trail crossed several streams which were flowing nicely and also passed a long pond.

Pond along the Moulton Falls Trail

Small fall along the Moulton Falls Trail

Stream along the Moulton Falls Trail

Beyond the pond the trail neared the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Just beyond the 2 mile mark we came to the Bells Mountain Trail junction. We planned on heading up the trail a ways after visiting Moulton Falls Park so for now we took a photo of the sign and continued on.

Bells Mountain Trailhead along the Moulton Falls Trail

A little further along the trail we spotted cars on the far side of the river in the park’s parking lot. Moulton Falls was visible below, a small 10′ cascade.

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We crossed the river on a scenic footbridge.

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Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

The trail split on the far side of the bridge and we forked right heading uphill toward Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail climbed to an upper parking lot which appeared to still be closed for the winter before dropping back down to a crossing of Lucia Falls Rd. On the far side of the road were a couple of picnic tables and a small pullout above Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail continued down some stairs to a seasonal footbridge.
Yacolt Creek Falls

The footbridge pivots and was still in its winter position making it impossible to complete the loop shown on the park map.

Yacolt Creek Falls

We were a little confused by this as well as by the placement of the falls on the map. The star marking the location appeared to be further up the creek along a spur trail that extended north off the loop on the other side of Big Tree Creek. The fact that the falls at the footbridge were on Big Tree Creek and not Yacolt Creek also made us question whether or not this was actually Yacolt Creek Falls. We decided to walk down Lucia Falls Road and pick up the other side of the loop where it crossed the road. We turned back uphill on the loop trail on the east side of Big Tree Creek and quickly arrived at a viewpoint of the falls and bridge.

Yacolt Creek Falls

Yacolt Creek Falls

We found the spur trail shown on the map leading up and away from the viewpoint. We followed this path less than 100 yards past a sign for Yacolt Creek Falls to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad and Moulton Station.

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Sign for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

Despite the fact that the Yacolt Creek Falls sign seemed to support the falls we’d just come from as being the correct ones we were still unsure based on how we were reading the park map.

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Sign for Yacolt Creek Falls

We passed through Moulton Station and continued along the tracks for a bit before deciding that we were on a wild goose chase. We had failed to take into account the scale of the map and just how short the distances reflected on the map were. It was a good early season reminder to pay attention to the map scale. We turned around and headed back past Yacolt Creek Falls and descended to Lucia Falls Road which we crossed.

To the right was the parking lot at Moulton Falls which was filling up pretty quickly and to the left was the continuation of the loop. If we’d have gone right a short distance we would have come to a viewpoint with a close up of Moulton Falls, but we’d seen them from the other side of the river already so we turned left. The trail crossed Big Tree Creek on a footbridge then led to a nice viewpoint of the bridge over the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

Beyond the viewpoint the trail climbed up away from the river completing the loop. We recrossed the footbridge and headed back toward the Bells Mountain Trail. This trail provides access to  Silver Star Mountain.  We weren’t going to be going anywhere near that far on this day though, instead we decided to pick a turn around time based on when we started on the trail.

It was 10:25am when we started up the Bells Mountain Trail so we gave ourselves until 12:30pm and then we’d turn around hoping that would get us home around 5pm. The trail climbed fairly steeply at first but soon leveled off in a young forest.

Bells Mountain Trail

After the initial climb the trail did a series of ups and downs crossing several streams and logging roads as it passed through alternating sections of clear cuts and trees.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Creek along the Bells Mountain Trail

Clear cuts along the Bells Mountain Trail

Due to the amount of logging activity in the area the trail is subject to periodic closures so make sure to check ahead if you’re planning on visiting.

The trail was in really good shape and there was good signage at the road crossings as well as mile markers every half mile.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

The mile posts actually played into our turnaround point as we arrived at the 4.5 mile marker at 12:25 which was exactly 2 hours after having set off on the Bells Mountain Trail.

Bells Mountain Trail

Despite setting 12:30 as our turn around time being at the mile marker exactly 2 hours after having started out seemed to demand our calling it so we tapped the post and headed back. On the way back the clouds lifted enough to reveal Silver Star Mountain.

Silver Star Mountain from the Bells Mountain Trail

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain and Sturgeon Rock

We were really feeling the effects of not hiking regularly on the way back. We hadn’t really been paying that much attention to how far we’d gone but our feet knew it was a lot further than the 10 miles I’d originally planned on for the day. By the time we’d made it back to the Hantwick Road Trailhead we’d gone 17.8 miles, but we’d finished a little before three so we were on track to be home by five. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lucia & Moulton Falls