Tag Archives: Waterfall

Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail – 08/29/2020

With our recent backpacking trip around Diamond Peak (post) leaving us with just one more featured hike yet to do from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) the only logical thing to do the following weekend was that last remaining hike. That hike was to the Erma Bell Lakes and as luck would have it late August was a pretty good time to visit, the berries were ripening and the mosquitoes weren’t too much of a nuisance. With a drive time of almost three hours the loop around the 8.5-9 mile loop around the lakes wouldn’t take long enough for us not to break our self imposed rule of the driving time being longer than our time spent hiking so we added a second stop to the day at the Shale Ridge Trail.

We started the morning by driving to the Skookum Creek Campground where the Erma Bell Trail begins.
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The trail crosses Skookum Creek on a footbridge.
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Soon after crossing the creek the trail enters the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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The trail traverses a forested hillside where we found a few ripe thimbleberries to snack on.
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A little over half a mile from the trailhead the Irish Mountain Trail splits off to the left toward Otter Lake allowing for a loop past that and several other lakes.
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We stayed right choosing to follow Sullivan’s suggestion to complete the loop counter-clockwise. The trail continued along the forested hillside for another mile before crossing a small stream on a bridge near Lower Erma Bell Lake.
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Just beyond the bridge we took a short spur trail to the left to visit the lake.
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The lake was a pretty blue color and quite deep.
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Despite the beauty of the lake our attention had been diverted by the familiar “meep” of pikas, our favorite trail critters. We quickly spotted one of the little fur balls collecting greens along the rocky lake shore.
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We watched the pika go back and forth with its greens several times before resuming our hike. We continued on the trail around the lake taking another detour after crossing the lake’s main outlet creek to check out a small cascade.
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Beyond the outlet the trail began a .4 mile climb up toward the Middle Erma Bell Lake.
IMG_5142Lower Erma Bell Lake from the climb.

A short but steep trail to the left just before the high point of the trail led to a viewpoint of a waterfall between the lower and middle lakes.
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IMG_5162Above the falls.

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After checking out the waterfall we continued up to Middle Erma Bell Lake.
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IMG_5175Ouzel

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We continued beyond Middle Erma Bell Lake passing a small pond on the right before arriving at Upper Erma Bell Lake .7 miles from the waterfall, also on the right.
IMG_5186Pond along the trail.

IMG_5189Spur trail on the right to Upper Erma Bell Lakes.

IMG_5192Paintbrush and aster along the lake shore.

IMG_5193Upper Erma Bell Lake

IMG_5197Lupine and paintrbush

In addition to a few flowers there were lots of ripe berries near the lake which we sampled before continuing. The trail climbed gradually for half a mile to a junction with the Judy Lake Trail which passes Mud and Edna Lakes (but no Judy Lake) before ending at the Taylor Burn Guard Station.
IMG_5202Judy Lake Trail on the right.

We stayed left passing above Mud Lake which was barely visible through the trees below.
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Just under a mile from the Judy Lake Trail junction we arrived at another junction, this time with the Williams Lake Trail.
IMG_5207Williams Lake Trail joining from the right.

Again we stayed left continuing for another .4 miles to Williams Lake. Before reaching the lake we encountered a grouse that was less than pleased with our presence.
IMG_5217Grouse giving us the what for from a tree.

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IMG_5220Williams Lake

IMG_5227Dry creek bed near Williams Lake.

The trail began to descend beyond Williams Lake passing through some damper meadows where berries were plentiful and some flowers remained (and so did some mosquitoes).
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IMG_5234Pearly everlasting

IMG_5237Fleabane

IMG_5243Prince’s pine

IMG_5244Mushroom

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IMG_5254Aster

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IMG_5272Paintbrush

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A little over two and a quarter miles beyond Williams Lake we arrived at a junction with the Irish Mountain Trail which headed uphill to the right.
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A short distance from the junction we came to Otter Lake.
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IMG_5294Curious dragonfly

The trail descended for another half mile to the Erma Bell Lakes Trail completing the loop.
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We turned right and returned the .6 miles to the now busy trailhead. Sullivan lists the hike at 8.4 miles but we both came up with a little over 9 miles, most likely due to the various side trips tp the waterfalls and along the lake shores. We left the trailhead and headed back toward Oakridge on Forest Road 19 stopping at the Shale Ridge Trailhead on the left (south) near milepost 30.

This trailhead serves as the start of the Shale Ridge Trail and the upper terminus of the North Fork Trail (segment 5). We had spent time on the North Fork Trail earlier in the year hiking segment 1 out of Westfir and another short section to Buffalo Rock in May (post).
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We weren’t here for that trail today and instead headed south on the Shale Ridge Trail, which according to a note written on the signboard had been partially logged out in June.
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The trail quickly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
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We followed the trail through old growth forest. The North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River could be heard at time off to our right but not seen.
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IMG_5317Ghost Pipe aka Indian Pipe

We were below the ridge that we had been on during the Erma Bell Lakes hike and at the 1.8 mile mark we came to Skookum Creek which was flowing through multiple channels through the forest. This area was the highlight of the hike along the Shale Ridge Trail.
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We continued beyond Skookum Creek just over a mile to the North Fork Middle Fork River at Cedar Bog. This was as far as we had planned on going and as far as the trail had been cleared to. In theory the trail continues up to the Blair Lake Trail (post) on the far side of the river but the condition beyond Cedar Bog is mostly likely very rough.
IMG_5349Arriving at Cedar Bog.

IMG_5350One of a couple dry channels.

IMG_5353North Fork Middle Fork

IMG_5358Flagging on a downed tree marking the continuation of the Shale Ridge Trail.

IMG_5360North Fork Middle Fork at Cedar Bog

IMG_5363Orange flagging on the far side of the river.

20200829_132354Monkeyflower at Cedar Bog

IMG_5366Candy flower

We turned back here and returned to our car completing a 5.8 mile out and back. While this hike was short on views there were some impressively large trees along the way and it was fairly level with only a 400′ cumulative elevation gain. The two hikes combined for nearly 15 miles of hiking which ensured that our hiking time was indeed longer than our driving time. More importantly we’d seen some nice lakes, all of which had their own distinct differences and had been gotten to watch a pika doing its thing. On top of it all we could finally say that we had done at least part of all 100 featured hikes in one of Sullivan’s guidebooks. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail

Foggy Flat Backpack Day 2 – 08/02/2020

Normally when we are just hiking back to a trailhead the same way we got to a campsite it wouldn’t warrant a separate trip report, but our hike from Foggy Flat back to the Killen Creek Trailhead did. After spending the night at Foggy Flat(post) we woke just after 5am to find clear skies and a nice sunrise.
IMG_3076Goat Rocks in the morning

Even before the Sun was up it was light enough to get a good look at Mt. Adams.
IMG_3081Mt. Adams

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Morning had brought out the mosquitoes so we decided to pack up and stop for breakfast somewhere along the return hike hoping for a less buggy spot. After a mile we stopped at the Muddy Meadows Trail junction where a log made for a prefect bench to have breakfast on.
IMG_3100Looking down the Muddy Meadows Trail from the log.

After breakfast we continued on the Highline Trail which offered good views of Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks in this direction. When we weren’t looking at the mountains or the flowers various birds caught our attention.
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Going in this direction gave us some good looks ahead toward Mt. Rainier.
IMG_3110Mt. Rainier and some of the Goat Rocks.

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IMG_3128Northern flicker

The unnamed lake near the Pacific Crest Trail had an excellent reflection of the forest and Mt. Adams.
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IMG_3145Little bird near the PCT junction.

When we reached Killen Creek (.2 miles beyond the PCT junction) we crossed on the footbridge then removed our packs to take the steep use trail down below the waterfall as we’d planned the day before.
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IMG_3158Killen Creek below the waterfall.

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IMG_3171Mt. Adams from the waterfall.

After exploring the area below the falls we climbed back up and continued through Killen Creek Meadows, stopping to check on the pollywogs along the way.
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The blue sky made for a different look than we’d had the day before and we kept pausing along the way to marvel at the scenery.
IMG_3195Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks from the PCT.

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IMG_3209Breakfast time (possibly second breakfast)

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IMG_3214Zooming in on Mt. Rainier

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We were almost surprised when we arrived at the junction with the Killen Creek Trail. The miles go by pretty quick when you’re distracted. We turned down that trail putting Mt. Adams to our backs.
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IMG_3231Killen Creek Trail heading away from Mt. Adams.

We turned to look back several times seeing less and less of the mountain before we lost sight of it for good.
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It had been wonderful trip. The Mt. Adams Wilderness has yet to let us down and we’re already looking forward to our next visit down the road. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Foggy Flat Backpack Day 2

 

Petroglyph Lake, Warner Valley Overlook, and DeGarmo Canyon – 07/22/2020

We took our second outing to the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in three short hikes. The temperatures were still expected to be high and Wednesday also provided the best chance for afternoon thunderstorms so we wanted to be done early for the day.

Our first hike for the day was Petroglyph Lake. As I mentioned in our previous post the Petroglyph Lake Road was closed so we had to decide how we wanted to get there. The easiest choice would have been to walk the closed road for 1.6 miles to visit the lake but Sullivan described a 5 mile off trail loop that not only visited the lake but also a viewpoint along Poker Jim Ridge. We picked the loop and parked along Hart Mountain Road near the signed Hill Top Reservoir Road.
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Looking across Hart Mountain Road we could see the small juniper covered knoll along Poker Jim Ridge that we were going to be aiming for.
IMG_1258The knoll is the lower rise to the left.

There was a lone pronghorn grazing in the morning light.
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We set off across through the sagebrush angling for the rim.
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IMG_1268From left to right: Flagstaff Lake, Upper Campbell Lake, and Campbell Lake.

IMG_1271Hart Mountain Road climbing up to the plateau.

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IMG_1273Campbell Lake

We followed the rim north toward the knoll.
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IMG_1282An Orobanche

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Petroglyph Lake was not visible at first but it lay to the east and we could make out the basin that it was in.
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As we gained elevation the further north that we got we finally could see the lake in the basin.
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We arrived at the knoll a little over 2 miles from where we’d parked.
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IMG_1301White pelicans and seagulls on Campbell Lake.

IMG_1305Looking south along Poker Jim Ridge

IMG_1307Looking north along Poker Jim Ridge

IMG_1308Junipers on the knoll

We made our way to the north end of the knoll to get a better view in that direction.
IMG_1312Bluejoint Lake below the ridge.

IMG_1313Stone Corral Lake

To reach Petroglyph Lake we had to backtrack to the south on the knoll to avoid a rocky descent.
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When we found a suitable spot to descend we could see the lake clearly but we knew that we would lose sight of it again once we were down off the knoll so we picked out some other features to use as reference points. When we were able to see the lake again we aimed for the left side knowing that a rock ledge rimmed its right side.
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IMG_1345Pronghorn above the lake.

As we neared the lake we got below the rim rock and turned right to explore along it as this is where the petroglyphs are.
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It was approximately a half mile to Petroglyph Lake Road at the far end of the lake and most of that distance was along the cliffs looking at the petroglyphs.
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IMG_1390Dragon fly

IMG_1398Western fence lizard

IMG_1410Yellow bellied marmot

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When the cliffs began to fade we followed a clear path along the lake to the road where we encountered the first other hikers since the previous Saturday (we’d been passed by a single mountain biker the day before).
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After a brief (6 foot) conversation with them we were ready to continue on but we faced a choice. Sullivan’s loop would have had us setting of cross country for 1.5 miles back to the hill top where our car was parked. We could also walk Petroglyph Lake Road to Hart Mountain Road and then walk up that road back to the car. This second option doubled the mileage but it also took us to within a mile of the refuge headquarters where we’d seen the bulk of the pronghorn the day before and it was road walking and not bushwhacking which we were both about done with for a while. The road it was.
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The road walk was fine, there were several flowers, a plethora of butterflies, and we did see a few more pronghorn, albeit at a distance.
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IMG_1433Some type of primrose I think.

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IMG_1445Lupine

IMG_1460There were dozens of butterflies and other pollinators on this rabbitbrush.

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IMG_1483The gate at Petroglyph Lake Road

IMG_1485Hart Mountain Road

IMG_1489The juniper knoll along Poker Jim Ridge and yes there are a few pronghorn out there.

IMG_1498Pronghorn keeping their distance from us.

After making it back to our car we drove just under 2 miles back down Hart Mountain Road to a small pullout with a Warner Mountain Overlook sign and a short (.4 mile) loop trail. We weren’t aware of this little interpretive loop until we drove past it the day before but it looked interesting so we added it to this days itinerary.
IMG_1505Sign for the overlook.

IMG_1506View from the pullout back up toward Hart Mountain.

IMG_1509The start of the loop trail.

Since we had already been up to the juniper knoll which looked this same direction the views from the overlook were not much different from those, but the half dozen interpretive signs along the route were interesting and worth the quick stop.
IMG_1511We like interpretive signs like this where we can see with our own eyes what is being described.

IMG_1518This one helped with identifying the different lakes plus provided the history.

IMG_1524Another of our favorites are the ones that identify the various hills and peaks.

IMG_1527We worked really hard on spotting some big horn sheep on this trip to no avail. There was so much space that they could be in it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

After completing the loop we continued our drive back toward Lakeview on Hart Mountain Road. We turned off once more at a small pointer for DeGarmo Canyon (4.5 miles after pavement resumed in this direction or 9.4 miles from Plush). Sullivan described the half mile dirt road as very rough and requiring a high clearance vehicle, otherwise he suggested parking along Hart Mountain Road and walking to the trailhead. Typically we heed these warning from him but for some reason I decided to test the road with our Outback. It wasn’t pretty but we did make it to the parking area and I vowed not to make that mistake again.
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Sullivan lists three possible hikes with with some additional optional side trips. He has a 1.4 mile out and back to a 35′ waterfall, a 2.6 mile loop, and a 9.4 mile hike to DeGarmo Notch. If you make it to DeGarmo Notch it’s only 2 more miles (4 round trip) to Warner Peak. When our vacation started my plan had been the 9.4 mile hike with the optional trek up Warner Peak. As the week progressed we wound up hiking to Warner Peak the day before from Barnhardi Basin (post) so we didn’t need to do that anymore. We had toyed with the idea of still hiking up to DeGarmo Notch but we had seen that feature the day before as well and we were hot, tired, and a little sick of bushwacking which the 9.4 mile hike had some more of. That left us with the 1.4 mile out and back or 2.6 mile loop, both of which visited the waterfall.

Before we decided which option we would be doing we needed to get across DeGarmo Creek. Sullivan had warned of a dangerous crossing just above a 10′ waterfall and recommended following a rock ledge 50′ upstream to an easier crossing. Given the time of year the creek wasn’t flowing very strongly and vegetation was crowding the rock ledge so we opted to cross above the 10′ waterfall despite the warning.
IMG_1533It’s not visible in this photo but there were dry rocks close enough on the far side to simply step over the water onto. The wet rock would have been very slippery and certainly dangerous.

We followed a path upstream and found the location of Sullivan’s recommended crossing.
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A steep trail led up around the vegetation along the creek into a wider canyon that had some very interesting rock formations. It was also extremely warm as it was directly in the sun and there was no breeze.
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We had our eyes out for snakes but only saw a couple of lizards.
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The 35′ waterfall was just .7 miles up the canyon and it came into view well before we arrived at it.
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The temperature at the falls was much more pleasant and was a popular spot with the local butterflies.
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We took a relaxing break at the falls surrounded by the butterflies. When it was time to continue our hike we both agreed that neither one of us was up for what it would take to do any of the options other than the 1.4 mile out and back. In order to do any of the longer hikes, even the 2.6 mile loop, we would have needed to follow a steep scramble route 200′ before the falls up around some cliffs. We had both spied the route on our way to the falls and both thought “not today”.
IMG_1619The scramble route is at the base of the cliff to the right.

IMG_1620Looking up from the trail at where the scramble route was heading.

We were happy with our choice and ready to get out of the heat so we retraced our steps back to the 10′ water fall.
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The smaller waterfall had been invaded by butterflies too.
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After carefully driving the wretched half mile to Hart Mountain Road we headed back to Lakeview to treat ourselves to burgers and milkshakes from the Burger Queen drive thru. It was our shortest day so far of the vaction at 8.7 miles (6.8 at Petroglyph Lake, 0.4 at the overlook, and 1.5 at DeGarmo Canyon) but that was plenty. Thursday’s hike had the potential of being the longest of our trip as we were set to visit one of the six remaining wilderness areas in Oregon that we had yet to hike in, the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Petroglyph Lake, Warner Valley Overlook, and DeGarmo Canyon

Gales Creek Trail

A day off of work for New Years and a clear weather forecast = our first hike of 2019. Our trail of choice was the Gales Creek Trail in the Tillamook State Forest. We began our hike at the Gales Creek Trailhead, the same trailhead that we used in 2015 for a hike to nearby University Falls (post).

We began this hike as we had on our previous visit by following the Gales Creek Trail west from the parking area.
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The first .8 miles to the Storey Burn Trail was a repeat of 2015 as we crossed Low Divide Creek on a footbridge and arrived at the trail junction.
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Unlike last time when we turned left onto the Storey Burn Trail this time we turned right sticking to the Gales Creek Trail which paralleled Gales Creek.
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It was a chilly morning, about 28 degrees, and there was a fair amount of frost on the ground and plants. In addition to the typical frost we see on a chilly morning, we had been noticing white clumps here and there. The clumps looked like they could be garbage at first glance but it wasn’t. Other thoughts were fur but we couldn’t think of any animals in the area with white fur or something from a tree but it wasn’t the right time of year for things like cottonwood. Our next guess was a little closer with a fungus but upon closer inspection we determined it was some sort of fine ice/frost.
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It was very interesting. The scarcity of the clumps told us that there must be some set of conditions to create these frost clumps and spent much of the hike marveling at the designs. Thanks to the help of some fellow hikers over at Oregonhikers.org we later learned that this type of frost is the result of a fungus inside certain rotting wood that leaves water and carbon dioxide behind as the wood decays. The CO2 forces the water out of the wood through tiny holes and when the temperature is just a bit below freezing creates the frost “hairs” . Here is a post describing the phenomena in more detail and a article on BBC – Earth with a time lapse video of the frost forming.

The Gales Creek Trail stuck fairly close to the creek, sometimes rising a bit above it as it passed through the forest and crossed several streams that would likely have been dry in the summer months.
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A mile and a half from the Storey Burn Trail junction we did come to a dry creek bed, but a flash of water back in the trees looked like it might be a decent waterfall. The terrain looked like it might make for a reasonable off-trail jaunt and the fact that there was no water down at the trail but there was some further up made us curious so we decided to head uphill. After about a quarter mile climb over and around downed trees we found ourselves looking at a nice 20′ or so waterfall. The terrain narrowed enough that we couldn’t get right up to the falls but it was still a nice view (although not the best lighting for photos).
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IMG_5450The route we came up.

After admiring the falls we returned to the trail and continued west toward the Bell Camp Trailhead.
IMG_5453A short section of railroad grade.

More creek crossings followed, some trickier than others, but we managed to keep our feet fairly dry using rocks or logs.
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A total of 2.25 miles from the junction we arrived at stand of alders as the site of good sized slide that occurred in 2007.
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Just over a mile from the alder stand we came to the trickiest crossing of the day. There appeared to be two options across, a lone rock barely sticking out of the water and a pile of slick looking logs. Due to the direction we were heading the rock was too far to reach so we opted for the logs. Some carefully placed steps got us across dry.
IMG_5471The logs we came across.

IMG_5472The rock after having crossed.

On the way back I opted to attempt a jump from the rock. It worked but after watching Heather recross fairly easily on the logs my 46 year old body thought that would have been a better choice.
IMG_5508Heather finishing her crossing on the way back.

Beyond this crossing the trail turned inland away from Gales Creek a bit. Slides apparently forced the trail to be rerouted at some point because a footbridge could still be seen through the trees closer to Gales Creek.
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We passed a very small cascade along this section and then approximately 1.75 miles from the tricky creek crossing arrived at our turn around point, a 25′ waterfall right along the trail.
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We took a break at the falls and as we studied the falls the light moved enough to create a small rainbow.
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We returned the way we’d come. The sun was shining but it was still chilly as we made our way back.
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We didn’t see much wildlife, just a handful of birds, and being the middle of winter no wildflowers but there were a few mushrooms to enjoy.
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With the half mile side trip the hike wound up being just under 12.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It was a nice start to a new year of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gales Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

While we continue to work on completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks we occasionally take a break from that pursuit and take a hike recommended from another source. Our recent hike along the Elk Lake Creek Trail was one such outing.

Using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” we drove to the northern end of the Elk Lake Creek Trail.
Elk Lake Creek Trailhead

After a short forested section the trail traversed a burnt hillside above Elk Lake Creek.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington Lilies above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington lilies

Elk Lake Creek

As the gap between the creek and trail narrowed we passed a pair of small waterfalls leading into green pools. A small amount of bushwhacking was required to get the best views.
Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek

The burned section ended just before entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness near Pine Cone Creek at the 1.1 mile mark.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek Trail entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Pine Cone Creek

Beyond Pine Cone Creek the trail entered a fir forest with rhododendron and ripening huckleberries.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Just before the two mile mark we arrived at a crossing of Knob Rock Creek.
Sign for Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Just around a ridge end from Knob Rock Creek was Welcome Creek which had a couple of nice little waterfalls.
Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

A short climb from Welcome Creek brought us to a junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail.
Welcome Lakes Trail

Welcome Lakes Trail sign

That trail climbs 2000′ in three miles through mostly burned forest to Welcome Lakes, a trip for another time. We stayed straight on the Elk Lake Creek Trail (Trail 559).
Elk Lake Creek Trail

From the junction the trail descended for two tenths of a mile to a ford of Elk Lake Creek. We had originally planned to do this hike last June but the high snow pack had left creek running high well into June making the fords of Elk Lake Creek dangerous. With a much lower snow pack this year the ford was only knee deep and not swift.
Elk Lake Creek ford

Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek ford

On the far side of the creek I nearly stepped on a rough skinned newt. He high tailed it off the trail and tried to disguise himself as a piece of bark.
Rough skinned newt

Rough skinned newt

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through old-growth forest just a bit away from the creek but it was always within earshot and often eye sight.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek

Just over 3.25 miles from the trailhead the trail arrived at a viewpoint above an emerald pool.
Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

We spent a good deal of time marveling at the colors here on the creek before continuing on. Beyond the emerald pool a small section of trail had been claimed by a stream.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We reached the second knee deep ford of Elk Lake Creek 0.4 miles from the pool.
Elk Lake Creek

On the far side, the trail became a bit brushy as it continued near the creek skirting a hillside of rocks.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Hillside above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

As soon as we were past the rock fields the trail reentered the forest.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We faced another ford near the 5 mile mark, this time of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

Battle Creek

Just two tenths of a mile later we had reached our original goal – the junction with the Mother Lode Trail (Trail 558).
Elk Lake Creek Trail junction with the Mother Lode Trail

Mother Lode Trail

The Elk Lake Creek Trail continued from the junction and would have eventually brought us to Elk Lake after nearly another 4 miles but continuing from the junction meant climbing up a ridge. Instead of turning back here though we decided to hike a short distance up the Mother Lode Trail to visit Mother Lode Creek. This looked to involve much less climbing so off we went to yet another ford of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

We soon entered forest burned in the 2010 View Lake Fire Complex and after a half mile on this trail came to a junction with the now abandoned Geronimo Trail.
Mother Lode Trail junction with the abandoned Geronimo Trail

What appeared to be a homemade sign marked that trail and its tread was still visible heading uphill into the burn.
Old Geronimo Trail

Mother Lode Creek was just a short distance away and we hiked down to it before turning back.
Sign for Mother Lode Creek

Mother Lode Creek

We returned the way we’d come stopping again at the emerald pool which was now in the sunlight. We watched fish swimming in the clear water for a bit before continuing on.
Emerald pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Fish

The hike was a little over 11.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of total elevation gain and 5 fords (I forded Mother Lode Creek to get a picture of its sign). One of the things we really enjoyed about the hike was that there were several “attractions” along the way with the small waterfalls, the emerald pool, and the old-growth forest in general. There were a few mosquitoes around but one spraying of DEET seemed to keep most of them at bay. This makes for a great early summer hike as long as the water levels make the fords possible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk Lake Creek

Harts Cove & Drift Creek Falls

It has become a tradition to finish off our hiking year either on the Oregon Coast or in the coast range. This year we targeted a pair of shorter hikes to keep the tradition alive. For the first of these two hikes we traveled to Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City in order to visit Harts Cove where a waterfall spills into the Pacific Ocean. We parked at the Cascade Head Upper Trailhead along road 1861 at a sign post for the Nature Conservancy Trail. A trail here led off for a mile to Cascade Head’s upper viewpoint which we had visited before. In order to find the Harts Cove Trailhead we walked another .9miles down road 1861 where a large parking area with plenty of signs marked the start of the trail. We could have driven here but were contemplating hiking to the upper viewpoint later if the sky cleared so we decided to park at the upper trailhead.
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One of the signs warned of difficult hiking conditions on the trail which piqued our interest.
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The trail started out by diving fairly steeply downhill through the forest for the first half mile then descended more gradually to a bridge across Cliff Creek.
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Cliff Creek

After crossing the creek the trail turned back toward the ocean along a ridge. We could hear a number of sea lions on the rocks below but could only get small glimpses of them across the water through the trees.
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As the trail wound around the ridge end there was a bench that offered an obstructed view across Harts Cove to a meadow which was where the trail would end. The trail then bent back leading us around the cove. We crossed Chitwood Creek which appeared to have once had a bridge but it was now in pieces further down the creek.
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We had been in clouds and fog for most of the hike but as we came out of the forest into the meadow we could see clearer skies out over the ocean. The trail was steep here also and muddy making it a bit slick.
Looking down the trail:
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Looking up from below:
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North toward Cape Lookout:
Cape Lookout from the meadow near Harts Cove

South toward Cascade Head:
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The sea lions could still be heard across the way below Cascade Head, and now we could see them better.
Sea Lions and Seagulls

We followed the trail down and around to the left toward Harts Cove so that we could get a view of Chitwood Creek’s waterfall. We were surprised to find a handful of flowers in bloom including a number of Salal bushes.
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The waterfall turned out to be very picturesque as it fell down into the surging ocean.
Harts Cove and Chitwood Creeks waterfall

Chitwood Creek waterfall

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There was a nice open spot below a tree where we stopped for a snack and to remove some of the unnecessary layers of clothes we had on. While we were resting there Heather spotted a hummingbird that was interested in my orange jacket. It was zipping about, landing occasionally and then darting back into the air. I was snapping pictures frantically trying to get some sort of picture before the hummingbird disappeared. I wasn’t sure if I’d managed to get anything until we got home, but I wound up getting lucky with a single shot.
Hummingird in the meadow near Harts Cove

As we headed back up the steep trail we noticed that Haystack Rock near Pacific City was shinning in full sunlight.
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We returned the way we’d come and decided to skip the upper viewpoint because it still appeared to be enveloped in the clouds. This hike had been 7.6 miles which included the unnecessary 1.8 miles due to parking at the upper trailhead.

Our next stop was Drift Creek Falls which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest between Hwy 18 & Hwy 101 along Drift Creek Camp Road (Road 17). There was a good sized parking area and restrooms at the trailhead.
Drift Creek Falls Trailhead

The trail leads down through the forest crossing two creeks on footbridges.
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At the .7 mile mark the trail forks at a sign for the North Loop, a longer loop option which we planned to take on the way back from the falls. A third of a mile later we came to the other end of the North Loop.
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Just a short distance later we arrived at the suspension bridge over Drift Creek.
Suspension Bridge over Drift Creek

The bridge passes over the creek very close to the falls allowing for some nice views.
Drift Creek Falls

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The trail continues on the far side of the bridge down to Drift Creek where we could get a different perspective.
Drift Creek Falls

After enjoying the falls for a bit we headed back, this time taking the North Loop which would add about .7 miles to the return trip. This 1 mile section of trail climbed up and wound back through the forest. Aside from the trees and a few mushrooms there wasn’t much to see, but the trail was nice and good for a little extra exercise if wanted.
North Loop - Drift Creek Falls Trail

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By taking the North Loop back we wound up with a total of 3.9 miles showing on the Garmin. These two trails were close enough (30 minute drive) and short enough to do in a day but they were also nice enough to stand on their own. As far as the cautions at the Harts Cove Trail we didn’t experience anything that we found too hard or scary but some of that is subjective and the trial was steep in places and the wet conditions caused a lot of mud which was slick at times. We will most likely be back to the coast sometime next month to kick off our 2015 hikes, but until then Happy Trails!

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June Lake

One of the things that makes for a good hike is variety. We have often commented on how much variety can be packed into just several miles of hiking. The terrain, vegetation, wildlife and views can vary drastically in a relatively short distance. That was the case on our most recent hike in the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

We had toyed with the idea of making this an overnight trip but the uncertainty of suitable water sources gave us pause so we amended our plans to make a day hike out of it. We stuck with our original plan to start at the June Lake trail head and headed up to the Loowit Trail from there. Originally we planed on turning right on the Loowit and heading over to the Plains of Abraham to find a camp spot and then explore further on down to Loowit Falls, but that would be too far for a day hike so instead we decided to go left and check out Dryer Creek Meadows.

It was a cloudy morning as we set off on the June Lake Trail. From the trail head it was a mere 1.3 miles to June Lake on a nice wide trail that gently climbed through a forest with plenty of ripe berries to snack on.
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We were surrounded by fog when we arrived at June Lake which made it difficult to get a good view of the 40′ waterfall that falls on the far shore of the lake.
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While exploring the small lakes shore we spotted a couple of frogs in the muddy water.
Frogs at June Lake

The best view of the falls came from a side trail at the north end of the lake shortly after a switchback. The reflection of the falls created the illusion of water both falling and rising to the surface of the lake.
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About a quarter mile from the side trail we arrived at the junction with the Loowit Trail which circles the entire mountain on a 29.5 mile loop. We turned right and quickly emerged from the forest and began crossing the first of three lava flows that make up the “Worm Flows”. Unlike some of the other lava fields we have hiked over there was no visible trail in many places, just a series of posts and rock cairns to aim for.
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It meant a lot of rock hopping and scouting for the best looking route to the next marker. While we were working on making our way over the lava the clouds began to give way and we were treated to a clear view of Mt. St. Helens.
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Mt. St. Helens

After crossing the Worm Flows the trail began descending into Swift Creeks canyon where we would find Chocolate Falls. On our way down a colorful western tanager posed for some pictures.
Western Tanager
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Before reaching swift creek we passed through a small pocket of vegetation.
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We were happy to find water flowing over Chocolate Falls as Swift Creek often dries up overnight and doesn’t begin flowing again until after 11AM on some days.
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We took a snack break at the falls and while we were relaxing we were joined by what I think was the same western tanager who decided it was time for a bath.
Western Tanager
Western Tanager

We continued on the Loowit Trail from Swift Creek and began a steep climb that passed through forest and meadows. We also were treated to a great view of Mt. Adams and a descent view of Mt. Hood looming above the clouds.
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Mt. Adams
Mt. Hood
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Meadow filled with nuttall’s linanthus
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Mt. Adams from one of the meadows
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Passing through a meadow
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Mt. Hood from the meadow
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Mountain heather and a blue copper butterfly
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Two miles from Chocolate Falls we crossed the Ptarmigan Trail which climbs up Monitor Ridge to the Rim of Mt. St. Helens.
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We have a date with that trail later this year.

We crossed the trail and shortly came to the edge of another lava flow. A doe was making her way up toward Monitor Ridge showing off her superior rock hopping skills.
Doe
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This crossing was .9 miles of post to post travel.
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From this section we had a great view of Mt. St. Helens, Monitor Ridge, and the Green Knob.
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After navigating the lava flow we were once again in a forest. This one was drier and the trees more sparse than the previous sections we’d passed through. Cicadas chirped loudly from the pine trees and scattered flowers dotted the sandy landscape.
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The trail then began alternating between trees and meadows.
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As we came around a corner I noticed something peering out of a tree further up along the trail.
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A bull elk emerged and gave us a quick look before heading downhill deeper into the trees.
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Elk

We turned around at the dry Dryers Creek and retraced our steps back toward Chocolate Falls.
Mt. St. Helens from the dry bed of Dryers Creek
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Mt. Adams had been hidden by clouds while Mt. Hood had nearly fully emerged from them.
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There was evidence of the increased afternoon snow melt when we arrived back at Chocolate Falls.
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Chocolate Falls
We took our shoes and socks off and soaked our feet for a bit in the creek before setting off from the falls. When we did get going we left the Loowit Trail and turned right along Swift Creek on the Swift Ski Trail.
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Chocolate Falls and Mt. St. Helens

It was an easy trail to follow and we quickly descended .5 miles to the Pika Ski Trail which we took and headed back toward June Lake.
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The Pika Trail was easy to follow for the first few tenths of a mile plus it was lined with ripe blueberries, huckleberries, and a few strawberries.
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The easy trail didn’t last long though as we still had to cross part of the Worm Flows to return to June Lake. The crossing here was the most difficult of the day as there was no sign of any trail at all and the few orange poles ended halfway across the lava flow.
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Luckily from the final pole June Lake was visible on the other side of the flow.
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We headed for the lake and eventually made it down to the sandy bed of a dry creek which we climbed out of and returned to the June Lake Trail. The lake was clear now so we stopped to get some unobstructed photos of the waterfall and lake before beginning the final leg of our hike.
June Lake

We took our time on the final 1.3 miles partly due to being tired from all the rock hopping and partly because we were picking berries as we went. The hike had totaled 13.4 miles and in that distance we’d passed two waterfalls, a lake, several creeks (dry and flowing), through several sections of forest, multiple meadows, and over four different lava flows. We’d seen an elk, a deer, chipmunks, golden-mantled squirrels, frogs, and various birds. We sampled at least 6 different kinds of berries, saw a variety of wildflowers, and had views of three cascade volcanoes. It had been worth the effort. Happy Trails!

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Upper Rogue River Trail and Boundary Springs

Hike #2 on our mini-vacation was a visit to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Crater Lake National Park. The plan was to start at the Mazama Viewpoint on Hwy 230 and first visit Boundary Springs which is where the Rogue River begins. Then we would hike down the Rogue River to Rough Rider Falls. We would have turned around there but my parents decided to come along and start at a different trail head and hike up the Rogue to the falls. They dropped us off at the Mazama Viewpoint before heading down to the lower trail head. This allowed us to continue past Rough Rider Falls and meet them at that spot.

It was a cloudy morning and we’d driven through a little rain/snow mix on the way there. An occasional light rain would continue all day long with a glimpse of blue sky thrown in every now and then. We started off on the Upper Rogue River Trail from the Mazama Viewpoint and followed the trail half a mile to a junction with the Boundary Springs Trail. Shortly after joining this trail we started getting glimpses of the Rogue flowing through the forest.
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We crossed the boundary of Crater Lake National Park and continued on toward the springs. The river was increasingly scenic as we went.
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Near Boundary Springs was a pretty waterfall:
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The river just below the springs:
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The largest of the springs:
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After poking around the springs we returned to the Upper Rogue River Trail and turned left to head down river to Rough Rider Falls. The trail started out far above the Rogue as it flowed through an interesting canyon.
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We came upon a couple of deer that were too quick for pictures and a pair of noisy woodpeckers that didn’t seem too pleased with one another.
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We also saw the best candysticks we’d come across:
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And a strange mushroom thing:
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The trail descended back down to the river which was amazingly clear where the water was calm.
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Once the trail lowered into the canyon it became a bit messy. Many downed trees created tricky obstacles and the trail was in need of some maintenance.
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It was 4.2 miles from the Boundary Springs Trail to Rough Rider Falls. A sign above the falls announced them.
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It was pretty above the falls but we couldn’t get a good feel for them until we descended below them.
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After Rough Rider Falls we passed a pretty little waterfall coming from a hillside into the river.
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A little island with whitewater on each side:
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And finally an unnamed waterfall:
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The strangest thing of the hike was the amount of climbing we felt like we did considering we were supposedly traveling downhill with the river. When we arrived at my parents car we discovered that they had just finished about 15 minutes earlier. There were some mosquitoes around the car so we quickly tossed our gear in the back and hopped in. We had hopped to stop by Crater Lake on the way home since Dominique has never seen it and it had been years since my parents had. We were there in 2012 but smoke from a fire had obscured most the views. With the weather flipping between blue sky and rain showers all day we weren’t sure if we would be able to see the lake but my parents had their National Park Pass with them so we decided why not give it a try. As we drove up to the north rim we entered the clouds and some more rain/snow mix. The visibility was worse than our previous visit so I took a couple of pictures to show we were then we turned around and headed home.
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We plan on heading back this Fall for another try and maybe then we'll be able to actually see the lake. Happy Trails!

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