Tag Archives: Waterfall

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Waterfall on Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

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