Tag Archives: Western Fence Lizard

Greenleaf Creek

With the arrival of May we officially started our hiking season by making an attempt to reach Greenleaf Falls. We knew it was a long shot given the little bit of information shown online, but the hike to Greenleaf Creek was a featured hike in the 2018 4th edition of William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington”. We would at least be getting one step closer to our goal of completing all 500 of his featured hikes (post).

We began our hike from the Bonneville Trailhead which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam.
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From the picnic area we followed a gravel path to a pointer for Table Mountain.
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We’d been to Table Mountain twice, in 2013 via a now closed trailhead at the former Bonneville Hot Springs resort and in 2017 from the north via Three Corner Rock.

We followed the Tamanous Trail a little over half a mile through the woods to its end at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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At the junction we turned left following pointers for Gillette Lake and Three Corner Rock.
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The PCT soon entered a series of clearcuts which provided some views of Table Mountain and a good amount of trail side poison oak.
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This area seemed popular with rabbits.
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The PCT did a little climbing through the clearcuts which revealed a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood to the south.
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Nearly 2 miles on the PCT brought us to a ridge where Gillette Lake was visible below.
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We followed the wide trail down passing by the lake and crossing the inlet creek on a footbridge.
IMG_6339Hamilton Mountain (post) to the left and Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks to the right beyond the lake.

IMG_6509Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks

IMG_6342Indian paintbrush

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Beyond Gillette Lake the PCT climbed gradually for a half mile through more clearcuts before passing a brushy unnamed lake.
IMG_6353Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Nesmith Point (post) is the rounded high point to the right on the Oregon side.

IMG_6356Unnamed lake through the trees.

After passing the lake the trail dropped to a bridged crossing of Greenleaf Creek then climbed via a series of switchbacks to Greenleaf Overlook.
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IMG_6487View east from Greenleaf Overlook with Dog Mountain (post) in the distance.

There was a nice little patch of chocolate lilies near the viewpoint.
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We continued past the overlook through the forest approximately half a mile to a four way junction (Two miles from the Greenleaf Creek crossing).
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IMG_6366Bleeding heart

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At the junction the left hand trail led to Carpenter Lake while the PCT continued uphill toward Table Mountain. We turned right onto the unsigned Two Chiefs Trail.
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One of the nice things about this trail was the lack of poison oak which we seemed to have finally left behind. The trail climbed through the forest gaining 500′ over the next couple of miles.
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After approximately 2.25 miles the trail emerged from the tress at a massive talus field made up of rocks from Table Mountain.
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IMG_6395_stitchThe Two Chiefs on the left and Table Mountain on the right.

From the open talus area we had another view of Mt. Hood which was a bit better given the higher elevation than our earlier view.
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A half mile after entering the talus section we arrived at Greenleaf Creek.
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Greenleaf Falls consists of a series of drops, some of which were visible from the trail.
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20190504_110326Left side

20190504_110520Right side

After admiring these lower cascades we decided to go ahead and attempt to reach the upper tiers. I hadn’t seen an actual GPS track or route up to the falls but had seen a 2015 video which showed that this was not going to be easy if it was even still possible. Seasonal rains have caused repeated mud slides and left the steep hillside gouged with channels filled with loose rock.
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We picked what appeared to be the most reasonable route and started picking our way uphill. We managed to get about two tenths of a mile uphill from the trail before deciding that there was no remotely safe way to even attempt continuing. I had gotten a little higher than Heather having had her stop while I attempted to see if there was any viable route to continue on. From what we can tell from the maps I was just below the upper falls, but it may have well have been 100 miles. We did however get over to a couple of views of other smaller tiers of the falls.
IMG_6434The highest tier that I was able to see.

IMG_6432A middle section of Greenleaf Falls

IMG_6430Cascades along Greenleaf Falls just above the ones visible from the trail.

We’d given it a shot and I probably got a little too far up the hill. I had to use my hands a lot and spent a decent amount of time crawling to get back down to where I had left Heather. Luckily I was able to make it back down. Ironically I wound up falling near the end of our descent on what appeared to be nearly level ground when a rock rolled out from beneath my heal. A scrapped elbow and palm where the only results though.

As we were making our way back down Heather spotted a frog which we named kamikaze frog due to it launching itself downhill and landing upside down in the rocks a couple of times.
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We were both concerned about possibly knocking a rock loose which might hit the frog since he was in the same channel as we were and kept hopping down ahead of us. Thankfully we were able to hop out of that channel and go around it before anything bad happened.

In addition to the frog I had seen a small garter snake while I was searching for a route up and Heather had seen some sort of lizard in the talus slope earlier. As we passed back by the talus we kept our eyes open but didn’t see another lizard or snake.

We did however see a western fence lizard back at Greenleaf Overlook.
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The rest of the hike back was fairly uneventful other than having to check for poison oak every time we stepped aside to let other hikers pass. Heather did manage to get a neat picture of a blue copper butterfly in flight while she was taking some photos of flowers.
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20190504_124117Wild strawberry

20190504_135949Butterfly landing on leafy pea

We were a little fatigued when we finally made it back to the car. The GPS clocked in at 15.4 miles for the day. That distance combined with the extra work of trying to climb up the steep, loose hillside next to Greenleaf Creek was a lot for a hike this early in our season but it had been a beautiful day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Greenleaf Creek

Throwback Thursday – Metolius River

Throwback Thursday is dedicated this week to one of the best wildlife hikes we’ve taken. On July 29th, 2012 on the way to Central Oregon we stopped at the Lower Canyon Creek Campground along the Metolius River. We parked at the West Metolius Trailhead at the far end of the campground.

West Metolius River Trailhead

An interesting thing here was the presence of a parking attendant.

Golden mantled ground squirrel

The trail begins along the banks of the Metolius River and stick close to it for the first 1.25 miles.

Metolius River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead a series of springs gushed from the far bank of the river.

Springs along the Metolius River

Springs along the Metolius River

Wildflowers grew along the bank and sometimes out in the river.

Metolius River

Scarlet gilia

Monkshod and hedge-nettle

Wildflowers along the Metolius River

Monkeyflower

Near the 1.25 mile mark the trail climbed away from the river just a bit as it wound through a steep canyon.

Metolius River

Soon we were back down along the riverbank though.

Metolius River

At the 2.7 mile mark we arrived at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Driving here is an option and can be a fun place for kids to watch and even feed the fish.

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Fish at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

The hatchery apparently has other fans as well.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

For a shorter 5.7 mile hike we could have turned around here and headed back but a 6.4 mile loop could be completed by continuing on from the fish hatchery to a bridge at the Lower Bridge Campground so after looking at all the fish we continued on. In the 3.2 miles to the bridge we spotted a variety of wildlife.

Robin

Robin

Yellow rumped warbler

Yellow rumped warbler

Western fence lizard

Western fence lizard

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel

Deer in a meadow along the West Metolius Trail

Doe

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Lorquin’s admiral

Mylitta crescent butterfly

Mylitta crescent? butterfly

western fence lizard

Another western fence lizard

Coronis fritillary

Fritillary butterfly

Osprey

Osprey

We crossed the Metolius on the bridge and headed back along the eastern bank.

Metolius River

East Metolius Trail

The 3.2 miles back to the bridge at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery also had its share of wildlife.

Junco

Junco

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Silver-spotted skipper on lewis flax

Silver-spotted skipper

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Chipmunk

Another chipmunk

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Another ground squirrel

Western tanager

Western tanager

The bridge to the hatchery offers a great view of Wizard Falls. Not exactly a waterfall, Wizard Falls is created by ledges in the lava rock below the river creating a colorful water feature.

Wizard Falls

Wizard Falls

After crossing the bridge we returned to the trailhead and headed to Sisters. This was a great hike for not a lot of effort. There was very little elevation gain making the 11.8 miles very manageable. Another nice aspect to this trail is that it is open most of the year (other than during winter storms). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Metolius River

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

We spent Memorial Day Weekend in Bend and on Saturday morning drove up to Cottonwood Canyon State Park along the John Day River. To get there from Bend we drove north on Highway 97 to Wasco then turned onto Highway 206 for 15 miles to the park entrance.

Just after turning onto the entrance road we forked right on a short gravel road to a parking area near the river. The Hard Stone Trail began here.
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This nearly level 1.5 mile path follows the river upstream to Big Eddy, a lazy whirlpool at a bend in the river. The park has very few trees which allows for some wide open views but it also means a real lack of shade. Considering it was already in the low 60’s as we set off on the Hard Stone Trail at 7:30 we knew we were in for a hot hike.
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We spent our time enjoying the views of the canyon cliffs and scanning the sagebrush for flowers and animals including rattle snakes which are seen with some regularity along the John Day. We didn’t see any snakes but we saw a few other critters and a nice variety of flowers.
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The trail, which followed an old road bed, officially ended at Big Eddy which was where we turned back, but the road continues on.

After returning to our car we drove further into the park following signs for the Pinnacles Trail parking area. We set off following signs for the trail. After a short walk through a camping area the path led to a gate with a signboard and trail register.
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A nearby walnut tree offered some cool shade.
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The Pinnacles Trail follows another old road bed along the river downstream a total of 4.3 miles. IMG_0728

The cliffs along the trail were captivating. It was hard not to turn off the trail just to see how far one could get up some of the gullies and side canyons.
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A short distance from the gate the cliffs crowded the trail.
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The cliffs hung over the trail and were home to countless American Cliff Swallows which sped to and from their nests as we passed underneath.
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Just under a mile and half along the trail brought us to a neat old walnut tree where we spotted a colorful lazuli bunting.
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A trail near the tree provides river access and another trail led slightly uphill away from the tree. The sign named this the D & H Trail and indicated that it returned to the Pinnacles Trail further downstream. We decided we’d take it on the return trip after realizing (after way too long a time) that those were our initials, D & H.

As we continued on we passed part of an old fence where we spotted an aptly named western fence lizard.
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We spotted many of the same types of flowers we’d seen along the Hard Stone Trail and a few we hadn’t including some sweet smelling mock orange.
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The Pinnacles Trail is named after some rock outcrops across the river near the 3 mile mark.
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Beyond the Pinnacles the trail bent to the left passing through an open area full of sagebrush before rounding a rocky ridge-end.
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The ridge bowed away from the trail.
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We had talked early about the possibility of spotting larger animals on the hillsides and imagined that most of them would be sticking the the brush filled gullies we had seen along the way. As we were scanning the cliffs below the ridge I spotted what might have been an animal or possibly another rock (I have a real knack for spotting rocks and tree trunks).
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Making use of the camera’s 30x optical zoom allowed me to confirm that is was indeed an animal, in fact it was several animals.
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Going from the optical to the digital zoom gave us a closer look (but grainier picture) of the first big horn sheep we’d spotted on a hike.
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Sure enough they were hanging out in the shaded vegetation. Then we noticed a few more of the sheep passing below the first group. They seemed to be grazing on balsamroot leaves.
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The official trail continued to a narrow area between the cliffs and river.
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A use path continued on but we didn’t see any reason to continue. It was well into the 80’s and we’d seen plenty of great sights already. The sheep had disappeared when we passed back by where we’d seen them but Heather spotted something that was almost as surprising to see as they had been, a mushroom.
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We forked onto the D & H Trail when we reached its eastern end.
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The trail led through the sagebrush just far enough uphill that we were able to avoid what had been a fairly active area for mosquitoes before dropping back down to the Pinnacles Trail by the walnut tree.
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One final sighting of note was a pair of Bullock’s Orioles which we had not seen before.
Bullock's Oriole

The one thing we didn’t see were any snakes which Heather was more than thankful for. I on the other hand was a little disappointed. I have no desire to be close to a rattle snake but at the same time I wouldn’t mind seeing one at a nice safe distance.

It was a great hike despite the warm temperatures but they were a good reminder of why summer may not be the best time for a visit to the park. Winter can also bring strong winds and freezing temperatures, so Spring or Fall probably are the best.

Hiking isn’t the only activity the park has to offer either. Rafting, fishing, mountain bike riding, and horseback riding opportunities exist as well. Whatever your reason for visiting it’s well worth the trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cottonwood Canyon