Tag Archives: Willamette National Forest

Horsepasture Mountain

After our last two hikes coming from Matt Reeder’s 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region we went back to work on our goal of completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks. We are just over 75% through his 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades 4th edition and had our eyes set on checking off one more with a visit to the former lookout site atop Horsepasture Mountain.

The hike up Horsepasture Mountain provided a bit of a logistical challenge for a couple of reasons. First is our self imposed guideline of trying not to spend more time in the car than we do on the trail and the 1.4 mile length of the Horsepasture Mountain Trail meant we’d need to come up with some additional trail time. The second issue was the continued closure of a section of Forest Road 1993 which adds nearly 45 minutes to the drive to the Horsepasture Trailhead. Prior to the closure the drive to that trailhead would still have been over two and a half hours but with the detour Google put the time at three hours and fifteen minutes. We also have a rule against driving over three hours to any trailheads for day hikes so I began looking for alternatives. A little online research led me to a solution, the Saddle Trail which is part of the O’Leary Trail Complex.

The trail begins at the East Fork Upper Trailhead which brought the drive time from Salem under two and half hours. We parked at a small pullout on the right side of FR 1993 across from the signed Saddle Trail.
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There was a caution sign on the post regarding a burn area but that was referencing portions of the O’Leary Trail Complex burned in 2017 which did not include either the Saddle Trail or the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We were facing a nearly 1700′ climb over the next two miles to a junction at Horsepasture Saddle. Luckily the trail was well graded and in good shape as it switchbacked up through a green forest.
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Wildflowers in the forest included a few washington lilies, penstemon, northern phlox and tiger lilies along with the typical group of white flowers.
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As far as markers went on this trail it did cross closed Forest Road 590 after .4 miles and passed a single rocky viewpoint near the 1.75 mile mark.
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Near its end the Saddle Trail passed through a small meadow with a few remaining wildflowers.
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The trail ended at a signed three way junction with the Olallie Trail.
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Here we turned right passing through thimbleberry bushes for a little over 100 yards to a four-way junction.
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We turned onto the Horsepasture Mountain Trail which climbed gradually at first.
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Flowers here included lupine, lousewort, wallflower, valerian, and fleabane.
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After nearly three quarters of a mile of gradual climbing the trail steepened as it climbed through meadows with beargrass. It wasn’t quite the beargrass display we had been hoping for but there were some nice blooms along the way.
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Other flowers in these meadows included coneflower, owls clover, and cat’s ear lilies.
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After 1.2 miles the Horsepasture Mountain Trail began to climb the mountain’s south side through a drier wildflower meadow.
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The Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor were visible to the east as was snowy Diamond Peak to the south.
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IMG_8323Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor

IMG_8326Diamond Peak

There was a nice variety of wildflowers on display.
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A large cairn and remains of the old lookout marked the summit.
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The view from the summit included Cascade peaks from Mt. Hood to the barely visible tip of Mt. Thielsen.
IMG_8337Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington.

IMG_8381The Three Sisters (with the top of Broken Top over South Sister’s southern shoulder) and Mt. Bachelor.

IMG_8345Diamond Peak(Mt. Thielsen is out there too)

IMG_8385Cowhorn Mountain on the left and the tip of Mt. Thielsen to the right.

We took a nice long break at the summit enjoying the views and the flowers. Birds and insects were our only company.
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The only negative was seeing the fire scars left in the Three Sisters Wilderness from the awful 2017 fire season. We returned the way we’d come passing two other sets of hikers making their way up the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We also ran into a family of grouse. A single chick flew across the trail then mama landed in the trail.
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Her display of feathers and her posturing let us know that she had other chicks in the area so we stopped and waited until two more flew across the trail.
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She then flew up into a tree to let us pass. The remainder of the hike was uneventful as we descended the Saddle Trail back to the trailhead. The seven mile hike and extended stay on the summit kept us within our driving to hiking time ratio but more importantly the hike had been really nice. Good views and wildflowers combined with solitude made for another great day in the Willamette National Forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Horsepasture Mountain

Lookout Creek & Carpenter Mountain

We found ourselves doing some last minute schedule rearranging due to an ever changing weather forecast. After deciding against a possibly wet overnight trip along the Salmon River we chose a pair of hikes we had originally planned on doing in early June. We picked these because they gave us options. The Lookout Creek Old-Growth Trail wasn’t view dependent so it didn’t matter if it was raining or partly sunny. We did however want at least partly sunny skies for the shorter hike to the lookout tower atop Carpenter Mountain so our plan was to decide on our way to Blue River, OR which hike to start with. Worst case scenario was that it showered all day in which case we would just hike the Lookout Creek Trail and save Carpenter Mountain for another time.

It was a misty drive south to Eugene and more of the same as we drove east from there on Highway 126 to Blue River so we headed to the Lookout Creek West Trailhead. The trail passes through the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 16,000 acre portion of the Willamette National Forest supported by Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service. The trail begins and ends on Forest Road 1506 making a car shuttle possible.

From the west trailhead the trail descended quickly down to Lookout Creek.
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A small footbridge crossed a marshy area just prior to reaching a much longer bridge spanning Lookout Creek.
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The trail then climbed steeply away from the creek up a ridge for about a mile then began traversing the hillside several hundred feet above the creek. The old-growth forest was the star of the hike.
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Several types of wildflowers were either blooming or preparing to bloom along the way.
IMG_3722Red flowering currant

IMG_3723 Large solomonseal

IMG_3739Oregon grape

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IMG_3774Trillium and bleeding heart

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Wildlife was confined to the smaller varieties.
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Crab SpiderCrab spider on trillium

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A mile and a half from the west trailhead was the only real viewpoint along the trail. A rock outcrop there looked out over the Lookout Creek Valley.
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From the viewpoint we could see that the clouds seemed to be breaking up which gave us some hope that by the time we were finished with this hike it might be clear enough to warrant the visit to Carpenter Mountain.

Beyond the viewpoint the trail crossed several small seasonal streams. Only one of these crossing was a little tricky. The log over the stream was angled down which made it a little awkward to cross.
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The trail dropped back down to a second crossing of Lookout Creek before climbing back up to Road 1506 at the eastern trailhead. The bridge and the creek where much smaller at this end.
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Our guidebook had described the trail in part as “A woodsy 6.3-mi trail….” (since corrected in subsequent printings) so we had been thinking that hiking the entire trail out-and-back would be 12.6 miles but a sign at this trailhead indicated that the trail was only 3.5 miles one way.
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We returned the way we’d come passing a handful of hikers on the way back to our car. Since the hike wound up only being 7 miles instead of 12.6 we made it back to the car at a quarter after eleven. The sky above seemed clear enough to give Carpenter Mountain a try. The trailhead for Carpenter Mountain is located on Forest Road 350 which we had passed on Road 1506 less than a quarter mile from the Lookout Creek West Trailhead. We drove back to Road 350 and turned onto it heading uphill (north) for approximately 5 miles to a pullout at a saddle. Even though the snow pack is below normal this year, we weren’t entirely certain that we would make to the trailhead which was at an elevation just over 4400′. We knew from our Patterson Mountain outing just two weeks prior that there was still some snow present in areas starting around 4000′ feet and we had even seen one very small patch of snow along the Lookout Creek Trail around 3400′.
IMG_3770Snow in the bushes along the Lookout Creek Trail

The road was in pretty good shape, it appeared that the Forest Service had taken care of the trees that had fallen over the winter and aside from a few rocks here and there the drive was fine. Near the trailhead there was some snow present along the shoulder of the road but that was it. We parked at the saddle which had a decent view east to several mountains.
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A short walk up the road brought us to the signed trail.
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The trail climbed up through huckleberry bushes just beginning to get their leaves.
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It wasn’t long before we hit the first section of snow covered trail.
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For a short while the trail occasionally popped out from under the melting snow.
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We had micro spikes with us but never needed them. The trail actually became snow free after about four tenths of a mile and at the half mile mark passed through a hillside meadow with a few yellow glacier lilies.
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The meadow allowed for views SSW to Diamond Peak.
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Beyond the meadow the trail wound its way up Carpenter Mountain through a forest that had lots of debris down from the winter.
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A little under a mile from the car the trail passed an opening where we could see the basalt cliffs of Carpenter Mountain’s summit and the lookout tower atop them.
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The trail took us around to the east side of the mountain where we climbed up the rocks to the lookout tower.
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IMG_3924Looking back down at the route up

The tower wasn’t staffed yet for the season so we had the summit to ourselves. There were still some clouds in the sky but overall the views were pretty darn good. Mt. Jefferson was a little obscured and Mt. Hood was completely hidden but the rest of the Cascades from Three Fingered Jack to Diamond Peak were on full display.
IMG_3884Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

IMG_3888Belknap & Black Craters, The Three Sisters & The Husband, and Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3886Diamond Peak

View from the Carpenter Mountain LookoutPanorama

One of the most interesting sights from the lookout is Wolf Rock, a monolith just to the north.
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We took a nice long break at the tower and tried to identify as many of the visible peaks as possible. Starting to the north:
IMG_3908Iron Mountain and Cone Peak (post) with Battle Ax Mountain (post) between in the distance.

IMG_3910Browder Ridge (post)

IMG_3883Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3893Maxwell Butte (post) and Three Fingered Jack

IMG_3894Mt. Washington

IMG_3896Belknap Crater (post) and Black Crater (post)

IMG_3897The Three Sisters and The Husband

IMG_3898Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3904Fuji Mountain (post) and Diamond Peak

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The thought of an actual meal finally tore us away and we headed back down. It was a great reward for a relatively easy two mile hike. Even though the trail gained over 900′ of elevation over the course of the mile it was a fairly gradual climb. The old-growth trail had also been very nice, it was a pretty forest with lots of bird song. All in all not a bad way to spend a day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lookout Creek & Carpenter Mountain

Three Sisters Wilderness Days 3 & 4

I am combining the final two days of our Three Sisters Backpacking trip because the last day was simply a 7 mile hike back to the trailhead along portions of the Louise Creek and Separation Lake Trails that we had done on the first day.

The day after our successful off-trail exploration of Linton Creek it was time to pack up camp and move on. We woke to find that the clouds had finally won out overnight and now covered the Three Sisters.
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We were once again visited by the deer who stayed back in the trees this time as they made their morning rounds. We packed our things and ate some breakfast then headed back toward Husband Lake. The frog situation around Eileen Lake seemed to have worsened with the arrival of the clouds. There were even more frogs on the trail and the going was pretty slow.
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We discovered that tapping our trekking poles on the ground in front of us got the frogs to start getting out of the way sooner so we tapped our way through the frogs and past the lake. The frogs weren’t the only animals out as we had spotted several different types of birds by the time we’d gotten to Husband Lake.
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We topped off our water at Husband Lake and then headed for the big trail junction where we would be looking for the Separation Creek Meadow Trail which would take us down to Indian Hole Falls. We had not seen the trail when we were at the junction on the first day and when we got back there we still didn’t see it. Heather thought it might be just a bit up the trail toward the James Creek Shelter and went to investigate. She was right and just over a little rise there was an unsigned but clear trail heading down to the right.
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The Forest Service described this trail as “a primitive trail that may be hard to find at times.” That sounded a lot better than the impassable due to heavy blowdown description of the Separation Creek Trail. There were a few downed trees but the path was easy to see and some trees had been blazed to mark the trail.
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The trail met Separation Creek in what must have been a spectacular field of lupine. Now it had all gone to seed.
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It had also been invaded by grasshoppers.
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As we walked they would all jump in unison and make all kinds of noise. I would have liked to get a better look at them but there were also plenty of mosquitoes present and whenever I stopped they landed. We were just about to Separation Meadow and we hadn’t had any issues following the trail up to that point. Then the trail just disappeared. We knew it was to the right of the creek and we noticed a tent set up at the far end of the meadow so we simply aimed for the trees between those two things.
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We had to hunt for a couple of minutes to find the trail again once we arrived at the trees. We managed to follow it fine after that all the way to a trail junction with the trail from Buck Meadows. This junction was also unsigned but it was marked with a rock cairn.
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We turned left at the junction and began to descend toward Cole Chuck Meadows. Views included Sphinx Butte and The Wife.
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The trail went around Cole Chuck Meadows without ever entering it then headed steeply downhill. There was a large meadow below to our left and we could hear Separation Creek roaring in the distance. The trail had loose rocks and dirt and it also passed below the Indian Holes, springs that flowed across the trail and down toward Separation Creek.
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The trail then entered the large meadow at a narrow point. The grasses were tall enough to hit us in the face as we passed through. We then entered another treed area before arriving at Separation Creek.
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The creek was much wider and deeper than it had been in Separation Meadow. Several other creeks and springs had fed into it since then. We crossed on an old log and and quickly arrived at another unsigned trail junction with the “impassible” Separation Creek Trail.
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We could hear Indian Hole Falls from the junction. It was only a couple hundred yards to the top of the falls. This was another impressively massive waterfall. An upper viewpoint allowed for a close up view of the top portion of the falls while a steep scramble down along the creek led to a lower moss covered viewpoint where the entire cascade was visible.
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The Three Sisters Wilderness had managed to wow us again and we sat on the mossy ledge of the lower viewpoint in the cool breeze of the waterfall. We climbed back up from the lower viewpoint and decided to head out the the upper one.
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After checking out that view we headed back up to the trail to pick up our packs. It was my turn to get stung by an angry yellow jacket. Just as I was about to step back onto the trail I felt a sharp pain on my ankle bone. It took me a minute to figure out what was causing it but once I realized what it was I was able to knock it out of my pant leg. I took a moment to be a bit of a baby then we resumed our hike and head back toward the creek crossing.

As we were passing back through the tall grasses of the meadow we heard some strange noises ahead. It was a family of grouse. The adult stood watch as the young made their way into the safety of the trees.
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She stood guard until they were all safe then headed into the trees herself.
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We climbed back up the steep trail past the Indian Holes and went straight past the rock cairn. Our plan was to stop at Honey Lake to fix an early dinner and fill back up on water for the final day since we knew there were no sources from Buck Meadows on. We weren’t sure what we’d find at Honey Lake because none of the maps or the Forest Service showed a trail going to the lake but we had seen the pointer for it at the junction by Buck Meadows. As we were looking for the mystery trail we spotted various wildlife along the way.
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Sure enough we came to a side trail with a pointer for Honey Lake.
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We momentarily had second thoughts about our plan when we saw how far below us the lake actually was.
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We knew we needed water though and the lake looked very pretty so we headed down the steep path to the lake shore. It really was a pretty lake and larger than we had been expecting.
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We noticed a tent back up in the forest on the far side of the lake and headed around the lake counter-clockwise looking for a good spot where we could set our things down and cook dinner. We found a pair of spots where people had obviously camped, fire rings and all, both of which are illegal within 100 feet of water in the wilderness. One of the fire rings was full of cigarette butts. Yay for people, not 😦 We took off our packs and wandered out to a little peninsula where the breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay.
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We took a nice long break at the lake and felt recharged after having our dinner and we were ready to tackle the climb back up from the lake.
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The climb back up turned out to be a lot easier than we’d expected and we were soon back on the trail to Buck Meadows. We stuck to the trail this time when we arrived at the meadows and wound up going right around the area we had considered camping in. Once we saw that we had passed it we decided to just keep going and we’d look for a spot further along the meadows. The view from the meadow was changed a bit from our first day with clouds now hiding The Husband.
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There wasn’t a viable spot to camp anywhere else along the meadows that we saw so we just kept going keeping our eyes open for an acceptable site. About 1 1/2 miles from the junction at Buck Meadows we came to a dry pond. On the opposite side of the trail was a flat area perfect for setting up camp.
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We woke up so early the next morning that we needed our headlamps as we began packing up. We ate breakfast at the edge of the dry pond and then set off down the trail. The 2 man trail crew had done a fine job clearing the trail and we were making great time since we’d just been on this trail a few days earlier and weren’t distracted by many new sights. There are always some new things to see though and we noticed a few flowers we’d missed on the first day.
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We reached the Separation Lake Trail a few minutes before 9am and according to our Green Trails map we then had 1.2 more miles to go to the trailhead.
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We figured we’d be back at the car around 9:45 based on our normal pace so we were surprised when we saw a familiar wooden bridge that we remembered being near the trailhead sooner than we expected.
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We actually wound up back at the car before 9:15. We were moving pretty fast but not that fast. Checking another map it showed the distance from the trailhead to the junction as 0.9 miles which made a little more sense. We were happy to be able to change into some clean clothes and different shoes, but we were also sad to have the trip end. We were already thinking about our next backpacking trip, wondering what new adventures awaited us. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157654071670793

Three Sisters Wilderness Day 1 – Separation Lake Trailhead to Eileen Lake

We just started backpacking last year and we really enjoyed it so we were looking forward to our first outing of the year which we recently completed. I plan on covering our trip over three entries starting with this post featuring our first day.

We had originally planned on spending a long weekend in the Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods Wilderness areas, but with the early snow melt in the mountains we changed our destination to the Three Sisters Wilderness. I had been wanting to check out the waterfalls along Linton Creek since seeing a trip report that was posted on Portlandhikers.org in 2013. There is no official trail to any of the falls along the creek and in most places there is no trail at all. The few reports I found on the area all began their hike at Linton Lake along Highway 126 and climbed up toward Linton Meadows. In the report on Portlandhikers they had hiked up the creek then over to Eileen Lake for the night then returned to Linton Lake the next day. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of carrying our full packs while bushwacking uphill so I came up with a different plan.

The solution was to start the exploration of Linton Creek from Eileen Lake where we would already have established our campsite. This would allow us to explore down stream as far as Upper Linton Falls using daypacks. I began studying our maps trying to plan the trip. The three closest trailheads to Eileen Lake are the Obsidian Trailhead, the Foley Ridge Trailhead, and the Separation Lake Trailhead. I quickly settled on the Separation Lake TH since it was the closest to us, didn’t require a limited entry permit, and offered a couple possible return loops.

We had been to the Separation Lake Trailhead in May 2014 when we hiked to Separation Lake so we were familiar with the trail when we slung our packs on and set off into the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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This time we took the Louise Creek Trail when we reached the junction just under a mile from the trailhead.
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Our plan was to follow the Louise Creek Trial for 7.2 miles to another trail junction at Buck Meadows then continue up to the Foley Ridge Trail which would take us to yet another junction. From there we would take the Linton Meadows Trail to a final junction where we would head for Husband Lake and our ultimate destination of Eileen Lake.

As we climbed up the Louise Creek Trail we met a couple that were hiking out after having camped at Sisters Mirror Lake. They had come down a portion of the Separation Creek Trail from the James Creek Shelter to Indian Hole Falls and reported that the trail did indeed have many downed trees across it. This confirmed what the information on the Forest Service website which called the trail “impassible due to heavy blowdown”. We had planned on visiting Indian Hole Falls then taking that trail down to Separation Lake where we would camp on our third night but had nixed those plans after seeing the information on the website. The other couple said the falls were beautiful and we still planned on visiting them but by using the Separation Creek Meadows Trail instead.

They also reported that there were a couple of people doing trail maintenance just up the trail and that they had not seen any water along the trail for quite some time. We had plenty of water for the day but it was good information to have for our return trip so we didn’t short ourselves hiking out.

The Louise Creek Trail was indeed dry and most of the flowers had long since passed although a few stragglers could be found here and there. There was also the remains of what must have been an impressive beargrass display lining much of the trail.
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The meadows of Buck Meadows were also dry as far as we could tell. There were some patches of green but no visible water. Purple aster dotted the dry grasses and were popular with the butterflies.
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We got our first look at The Husband from the meadows. We knew Eileen Lake was on the far side of the rocky mountain.
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The final meadow was surprisingly long and we wound up losing track of the trail near the far end and just headed cross county to a small knoll with trees. We were now planning on staying somewhere in the area of the meadows on our final night and this seemed to be a viable spot. We picked up the trail again near the signed trail junction.
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The pointer to the left was for the Foley Ridge Trail and the right was for Honey Lake. Oddly none of our maps or the Forest Service website showed a trail going to Honey Lake, instead the trail passed by on its way to the Separation Creek Meadows Trail. It was also unclear if either or both forks were still considered the Louise Creek Trail. Our two maps indicated the right hand fork was the Louise Creek Trail but the Forest Service showed it as the left fork. Either way we needed to get to the Foley Ridge Trail so we headed left. The trail switchbacked uphill offering a brief view of Diamond Peak to the south before arriving at the Foley Ridge Trail junction.
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It had been a tough climb up for us not being used to carrying full packs so we rested a bit at the junction where we were joined by a hummingbird.
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Shortly after setting off again we passed the first water we’d seen all day, a few small ponds that still held some water.
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We followed the Foley Ridge Trail for almost two and a half miles to the next trail junction.
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Four trails met at this junction. The Foley Ridge Trail we had come up and on its right was the trail to the James Creek Shelter. To the left were two trails one to the Pacific Crest Trail and to the immediate left the trail to Linton Meadows. We had expected to see a fifth trail at the junction, the Separation Creek Meadows Trail, which appeared to also meet here according to the maps. We thought it was odd but it was a question for another day and headed toward Linton Meadows.
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We had been on this portion of trail during our backpacking loop around the South Sister the previous year. The trail passes through a pumice plain which manages to support a good amount of colorful vegetation.
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Just .3 miles from the big junction the Linton Meadows Trail split again. The right fork headed down to Linton Meadows while the left fork pointed to Husband Lake. The left fork then passes Eileen Lake before rejoining the right hand fork at Linton Creek.
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We stopped at Husband Lake for a moment to take in the views before continuing on our way.
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We finally came upon a creek with flowing water between the lakes coming down from The Husband.
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On our previous visit there had been tons of frogs along the shore of Eileen Lake and we had been wondering if we would find the same thing this time. That question was answered upon arriving at the lake.
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There were more this time than before and we slowly made our way around the lake being careful not to step on any of them. We were planning on setting up camp on the far side of the lake where we would be able to set up at least 100 feet away from the water and the trail per wilderness regulations. We found our spot on a small rise with a small meadow behind us and no frogs to have to watch out for.
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After setting up camp we decided to hike down to Linton Creek to have dinner in the same location we had eaten at the year before and to fill up on water from the creek. We tried going around the lake on the other side hoping the frogs would be less but it proved just as challenging and slow. On our way down to the creek we spotted 4 deer also making their way down the meadows.
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We arrived at Linton Creek to find it flowing strongly. It is primarily fed by Linton Springs so the dry year apparently hadn’t effected it as much as the other creeks. The springs also mean the water is cold and we had forgotten just how cold until we tried to soak our feet. The water was too cold to keep them in for more than 10 or 15 seconds.
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After having dinner and filling up on the wonderfully cold water we returned to Eileen Lake where we explored the area behind our campsite then sat by the water watching the frogs along the shore and small fish occasionally jumping from the water disrupting the reflection of the mountains.
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It had been a great start to our trip and the adventure had just begun. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157656374056692

Donaca Lake – Middle Santiam Wilderness

We recently returned from our final overnight backpacking “test run”. Our destination for this round was Donaca Lake in the Middle Santiam Wilderness. The wilderness, established in 1984, consists of 8900 acres in the Willamette National Forest. There were several potential trailheads that we could have started at and we chose to park at the Pyramids Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/null/recarea/?recid=4334&actid=64

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This trailhead left us with the least amount of driving time, but it was by no means the shortest hike to Donaca Lake. That was okay with us since we were wanting the extra distance to get used to hiking with our packs over 12 miles at a time, and coming from this trail we would be able to do the majority of the Middle Santiam River hike described in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades. After crossing a little footbridge we turned left on the South Pyramid Creek Trail which traversed the SE flank of the South Pyramid for 1.5 miles where it briefly joined road 572 at a trail junction. On the opposite side of the road was the Crescent Mountain Trail. This was the opposite end of the trail we had taken up to the top of Crescent Mountain earlier in the month. The South Pyramid Creek Trail picked up about 10 yards down the road reentering the trees on the same side that we had just exited.

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The trail soon began following an unnamed stream downhill toward South Pyramid Creek. We crossed over this stream a couple of times, sometimes on a bridge and other times not.
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As we neared South Pyramid Creek the forest showed signs of logging activity on our left. This meant a lack of trees and shade, but it also meant there were tons of berries that had taken advantage of the sunlight and disturbed soil. We noticed several different varieties of huckleberries/blueberries, trailing blackberries, and what turned out to be Gooseberries.
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Gooseberry

Since we didn’t know what they were for sure we didn’t sample the gooseberries, but the rest of the berries were thoroughly tested. 🙂

The trail crossed road 2047 where a sign indicated it’s continuation 800′ to the right.
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We turned up the road, passed over the creek and started looking for the continuation. We hadn’t really thought out just how far 800′ was and at first we thought we’d passed by the trail since we felt like we’d gone plenty far. We backtracked looking for an sign of the trail and tried pushing through some trees thinking that we might have seen it. Once we stopped for a minute and really considered that 800′ is nearly three full football fields we realized we hadn’t gone far enough so we headed back up the road. I spotted a sign ahead just around a bend and announced that I’d found it, then looked to my left to see I was standing next to a trail and hiker sign. What I had seen was actually a sign for the South Pyramid Horse Camp and I had completely missed the trail.
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The trail was much fainter and overgrown in this section. It appeared that the trail had been rerouted at some point which would explain why my maps and Garmin did not show the 800′ road walk and instead showed the trail continuing directly across the road. It would also explain the trail junction that we came to not far from the road. It wasn’t on the Forest Service Topographical Maps I had nor was it shown on the Garmin (in fact both showed that the South Pyramid Creek Trail ceased to exist before reaching the Chimney Peak Trail which was the one we needed. Sullivan’s map showed the trail connecting and so did the Willamette National Forest trail description, but standing at this junction we became a bit confused. There was only one sign at the junction.
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It was on a tree facing away from the direction we’d come. It was a “Y” junction so one trail went up and away to the right and the other headed down to our left. The distances didn’t match up with anything I had seen or read about but I knew we wanted to head toward Shedd Camp. The map in Sullivan’s book showed the South Pyramid Creek Trail intersecting the Chimney Peak Trail .3 miles from the Middle Santiam River and the Shedd Camp Shelter and we had planned to turn left at that point to visit a small waterfall on the river. The 2.4 mile distance listed on this sign just didn’t make any sense though. We headed left wondering if we would magically arrive at the river in .3 miles but after walking for awhile it became apparent that that would not be the case. After approximately 1.5 miles we spotted what I thought was a really random sign pointing back up the trail we’d just come down identifying the trail as the South Pyramid Creek Trail.
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After a moment pondering why there would be a sign here we noticed another trail and sign. We had finally arrived at the Chimney Peak Trail.
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This time there really was only .3 miles to the Middle Santiam River. We took a break there to look at the falls and enjoy the river.
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After the break we headed back up to the trail junction and took the Chimney Peak Trail. We were now following the route described in our 100 Hikes book which put an end to the trail surprises. It was 2 miles from the junction to our next marker, Pyramid Creek. Along the way we spotted a couple of very interesting patches of Indian Pipe.
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There was a nice camp site at Pyramid Creek which was my backup plan just in case there were no sites available at the lake. The creek itself was fairly wide with no bridge, and there was no way we were going to get across dry.
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After fording the creek we crossed road 2041 which was abandoned years ago due to numerous washouts and entered the Middle Santiam Wilderness.
Road 2041:
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Edge of the wilderness:
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It was obvious that the trail doesn’t get a lot of use as the vegetation was encroaching on most of it.
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The trail was joined by the Gordon Peak Trail 2.3 miles from Pyramid Creek and shortly after we came to Swamp Creek. I had expected a swampy bog here given the name but found a nice little creek that required another fording.
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After crossing Swamp Creek we were only about three quarters of a mile from Donaca Lake. I had read somewhere that there was only one camp site at the lake and we had just passed a couple who had been staying at the lake so we were anxious to get there to make sure we could get a tent site. They told us the lake was lovely and it did not disappoint. From the first view through the trees we could see it was a very pretty little lake.
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As we were passing along the lake we spotted a trail up to a small camp site away from the lake so we headed up and claimed our spot. After dropping off our gear we headed back down to the trail to explore the rest of the lake. The trail came to an inlet creek where we found another bigger campsite and a nice little gravel beach.
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Just a little further up the trail was a third campsite but we decided to stay where we had dropped our packs because we didn’t want to be in the path of the lake access. Before going back and setting up camp though we sat on the gravel beach and watched as Newts and fish swam around in the lake while birds and bugs zoomed over the water.
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After watching the wildlife for awhile we headed back to our packs and set up camp.
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While we were setting up another group arrived and settled down at the big site so when we were ready to go back down to the lake we took our dinner and headed to the third site we’d found and followed a little path to a different gravel beach. After dinner we hung out for awhile before turning in for the night.
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I woke up a little before 5AM and headed down to the lake to see if I could get any sunrise pictures. There wasn’t enough light for my camera to pick up much but there was a colorful stump that Heather had remarked on after dinner. It’s reflection in the water was eye catching.
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After Heather woke up and we’d eaten breakfast we packed up and started our return trip. It was going well until we hit the 3.8 mile sign. It was the longest section of trail I can remember hiking. We kept thinking we were going to arrive at road 572 and the Crescent Mtn. Trail junction but instead we just kept climbing. Even when we finally spotted the road it seemed as though we paralleled it for miles. We had a mini celebration when we did finally pop out on the road before tackling the final mile and a half. The final stretch went much quicker as it was primarily downhill and we eventually arrived back at the Pyramids Trailhead.
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In 27.7 miles of hiking we had seen only the two groups totaling five people over the two days. If you’re looking for a nice quite forest where you can have the trail to yourself the Middle Santiam Wilderness may just be the place for you. Happy Trails!

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The hikes of 2013 – A year in review.

What an amazing year of hiking it was! As we reach then end of 2013 we thought we’d make one final entry recapping the beautiful areas and unique features we were blessed enough to encounter while out on our “wanderings”. We began the year in February at the Oregon Coast, hiking at Gwynn Creek and Cape Perpetua then finished up just a couple of weeks ago, once again on the Oregon Coast at Tillamook Head, 140 miles north of where we had started. Sandwiched in between these two hikes were 40 other adventures in which we climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and scrambled cross-country to explore a small sampling of the trails of NW Oregon and SW Washington. We put together a map of the approximate location of the trailheads for each of the hikes.
2013 Trailheads
An interactive version can be viewed on mapquest using the following link.
http://mapq.st/1bQXoXo

I’ve always been interested in numbers so I have kept quite a few statistics regarding these 42 hikes. Here are some of those that I found most interesting. We visited 10 wilderness and 2 scenic areas in 8 different national forests. In addition to the national forests we hiked in 4 state parks and at a national volcanic monument. Some of the other numbers are as follows:
Total Miles (according to the Garmin) – 515.2
Cumulative Elevation Gained (approx.) – 88,000′
Minimum/Maximum Elevation – sea level/10,358′
Total Moving Time (per the Garmin) – 240hrs 36min
Total Time on the Trails (per the Garmin) – 280hrs 6min
Total Miles Driven (approx.) – 7550 miles

For the most part the weather was good. We had a warm, dry end to Winter which carried into Spring clearing many trails of snow earlier than normal. This allowed for some earlier visits to some of the higher elevation areas and also an early bloom for most of the wildflowers including the bear grass which only blooms every 2nd or 3rd year. A mild summer kept temperatures bearable and despite the dry beginning to the year the fire season wasn’t too bad. Fall brought an early snowstorm and left an early winter wonderland at mid-elevations and some unusually cold temperatures of late created some interesting ice displays.

Words can’t do justice to the beauty of God’s creation that we experienced this so year I’ll try to keep them to a minimum and attempt to let pictures show what they can.
I have to start with the Cascade Mountains. The most awe inspiring creations, these steadfast beacons that on clear days dot the horizon always seem to draw our attention.

From the rim of Crater Lake in the south to Mt. Rainier in the north they rise above the other ridges, rooted in their positions, yet ever changing in order or varying in appearance depending on what our location was. Some of the views we had were amazing.

Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Baily, & Diamond Peak from the South Sister Summit
View from the South Sister
Cascade Peaks from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood (minus the North Sister which was hidden behind the Middle) from Mt. Fuji
Waldo Lake
Mt. Washington to Mt. Hood from the Pacfic Crest Trail near Yapoah Crater
Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson & Mt. Hood
Mt. Washington to Mt. Bachelor from Three Fingered Jack
Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and The Husband
Mt. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams from Wildcat Mountain
Mr. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams from Silver Star Mountain
View from Ed' Trail

Individual peaks working from the south to the north.
Mt. Thielsen:
From Fuji Mountian
Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Peak:
From Waldo Mountain
Fuji Mountain and Diamond Peak
From Fuji Mountain
Diamond Peak

Mt. Bachelor:
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Bachelor
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Mt. Bachelor

Broken Top:
From above Moraine Lake
Broken Top and Moraine Lake
From Fuji Mountain
Broken Top and Ball Butte
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Broken Top

South Sister:
From above Moraine Lake
South Sister Climbers Trail
From Tam MacArthur Rim
South Sister
From Fuji Mountain
South Sister

Middle & North Sister
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Middle and North Sister
From Scott Meadow
North & Middle Sister and Little Brother from Scott Meadow
From the South Sister
South Sister summit view

Mt. Washington
From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Mt. Washington
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater
From Three Fingered Jack
Mt. Washington and The Husband

Three Fingered Jack:

From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Three Fingered Jack
From Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack from the upper meadow

Mt. Jefferson:
From Fuji Mountain (Dwarfing Three Fingered Jack)
Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack
From Hanks Lake
Hank's Lake
From Three Fingered Jack
Looking back down
From Bays Lake in Jefferson Park
Bays Lake in Jefferson Park

Mt. Hood:
From Barrett Spur
Mt. Hood from Barrett Spur
From Table Mountain
Mt. Hood from Table Mountain
From Elk Meadows
Mt. Hood from Elk Meadows
From Lamberson Butte
Mt. Hood
From Youcum Ridge
Mt. Hood from Yocum Ridge
From Timothy Lake
Mt. Hood from Timothy Lake

Mt. St. Helens:
Mt. St. Helens
From the Loowit Trail on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from the Loowit Trail
From Johnston Ridge
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. Adams:
From Silver Star Mountain
Paintbrush, penstemon and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier:
From Wildcat Mountain
Mt. Rainier

From the giant rock towers of the mountains we move on to the delicate meadows full of wildflowers that often times call the mountains home. We visited amazing wildflower displays near Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack but the Cascades were possibly outdone by Silver Star Mountain in Washington.
Bear Grass on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from a beargrass meadow along the Loowit Trail
Balsam Root and Paintbrush in the Ochoco National Forest
Paintbrush and balsamroot
Clearcut on Silver Star Mountain
Tarabell Trail
Meadow on Salmon Butte
An arnica in  a meadow of plectritis, larkspur and monkeyflower
Elk Meadows
Elk Meadows
Near Heather Creek on Mt. Hood
Wildflowers along the Timberline Trail at Heather Creek
Mt. Hood Meadows
Wildflowers in Mt. Hood Meadows
Lupine in Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack
On Coffin Mountain
Aster, penstemon and paintbrush
Avalanche Lilies on the Timberline Trail
Avalanche lilies
Western Pasque flowers and Paintbrush near Elk Cove
Mt. Hood from the Timberline Trail near Elk Cove
Barret Spur on Mt. Hood
Lupine and monkeyflower
Gentians in Jefferson Park
Gentians
Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitbenbush Trail
Along the South Brietenbush River in Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitenbush River
Aster on Yocum Ridge
Aster field on Yocum Ridge
On Yocum Ridge
Wildflowers along the Yocum Ridge Trail
More from Yocum Ridge
Paintbrush and aster

There weren’t many hikes where the presence of water was not felt. We encountered it in various forms and in an array of colors. There were lakes, creeks, rivers, waterfalls, springs, and the Pacific Ocean adding sights and sounds to our hikes.
Roaring Creek
Roaring Creek
McKenzie River
Mckenzie River
Tamolitch Pool
Tamolitch Pool
Russell Lake
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake
Umbrella Falls
Umbrella Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Heather Creek
Waterfall on Heather Creek
South Matthieu Lake
South Mattieu Lake
Benham Falls
Benham Falls
Carver, Camp, and the Chambers Lakes
Carver, Camp and some of the Chambers Lakes
Lewis Tarn
Lewis Tarn
Creek near Pamelia Lake
Waterfall near Pamelia Lake
Timothy Lake
Timothy Lake
Little Crater Lake
Little Crater Lake
Frozen pond near Fuji Mountain
Half frozen pond
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Ramona Falls
Ramona Falls
Pacific Ocean at Tillamook Head
View from Ecola State Park
Pacific Ocean from Cape Perpetua
Looking south from Cape Perpetua
Last but not least the most unpredictable of the sights out on the trails are the creatures that call these places home. From flying ants on Coldwater Peak to the black bear who left its tracks in the snow on Fuji Mountain we were the tourists traipsing through their neighborhoods. We spotted our first elk, snow shoe hare, and sooty grouse this year. We also had the mysterious case of “mouse rain” on Salmon Butte which you can read about here:https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/salmon-butte/
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Tide pool at Cape Kiwanda
Snail
Rough skinned newt
Snake
Tree frog
Spider along the Tam McArthur Rim Trail
Bug on Fuji Mountain
Frog
Butterflies
Zerene fritillary butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Edith's checkerspot
Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly on the way up Coldwater Peak
Hoary Comma
Hoary Comma
Mountain parnassian
Birds
Bald eagle
Seagull buffet
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Owl
Gray jay taking a bath
Duck family
Northern Flicker
Osprey
Hummingbird
Red Crossbill
Osprey flying over ducks on Timothy Lake
Hummingbird
Canada geese
Pelicans
Ducks on Wall Lake
Great Blue Heron
Little guys
Chipmunk
Pika
Douglas squirrel
Golden Mantled Squirrels
Snowshoe hare

Big Guys
Our first elk sighting. Near the Observation Peak Trailhead
Columbia Black Tailed Deer
Elk herd on the far shore of the Deschutes River
Elk
Deer near the Lower Black Butte Trailhead

We’d like to leave you with what each of us found to be their favorite hike and the most difficult. For myself Elk Meadows was my favorite. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/elk-meadows/ The variety and beauty we encountered on that hike put it atop my list. As for the most difficult I chose Silver Star Mountain https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/silver-star-mountain/ which was also in the running for my favorite. The heat on that day made it the hardest one for me.

After much deliberation Heather chose the same hike as I did her favorite, Elk Meadows; something about that day had her mesmerized as we traveled up Gnarl Ridge towards Mt. Hood. For the most difficult she picked Observation Peak due in part to having fallen shortly after we stared the hike and spraining her hand and wrist. It made for a more challenging and uncomfortable hike as she endeavored to keep her injury elevated above her heart during most of the journey. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/observation-peak/

Dominique chose Fuji Mountain for his favorite. There was snow and a great view with a reasonable amount of distance. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/fuji-mountain/ For the most difficult he picked Table Mountain and the climb up Heartbreak Ridge. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/table-mountain/

I am already hard at work putting together a 2014 itinerary which will include some overnight backpacking trips and hopefully visits to the Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Adams in Washington. If all goes as planned we will kick things off in January, take things slow until we’ve recovered from our April half or full marathons, and then be ready to crank things up in May. Until 2014 here is a link to a 2013 hikes in pictures album on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157635497870439/

Merry Christmas & Happy Trails!

Goodman Creek to Eagles Rest

500 miles! Heather and I reached that hiking milestone for 2013 this past weekend. We hadn’t started out with that accomplishment in mind but as the year progressed added hikes and added distances (What’s down that trail?) made it a reachable goal. It’s amazing to us to think that all that hiking isn’t even 1/5 of what it would take to complete the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Even so it was a nice feeling to hit that mark before the year was over.

On to the hike that put us over the top. We headed back down to the Eugene area for another creek hike. We had hiked both Larison and Fall Creek in the same area back in March, and this time we had our sights set on Goodman Creek in the Willamette National Forest. This trail offered a chance to climb up Eagles Rest to a viewpoint overlooking the Lost Creek Valley. We woke up to some pretty heavy morning fog and weren’t sure what we would find at the trail head, but shortly after leaving Eugene on Highway 58 we rose above the fog to a nice bright morning. The Goodman Creek Trail actually starts on the Hardesty Mountain Trail near milepost 21 on Hwy 58.

The trail set off in an old growth forest full of moss and mushrooms and soon split with the left fork heading up to Hardesty Mt. and the right fork to Goodman Creek.

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The trail slowly climbed at a distance from Goodman Creek for 2 miles where a small creek joined the main branch of Goodman Creek. Just before the confluence there was a side trail at the back of a campsite leading down to the small creek and a pair of scenic small falls.

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After visiting the falls we crossed Goodman Creek on a log footbridge and continued another 2.2 miles to another trail head on Goodman Creek Rd.

Goodman Creek Crossing
Goodman Creek Crossing
Trail leading to a log crossing on a branch of Goodman Creek
Trail leading to a log crossing on a branch of Goodman Creek

From the road the trail then continued to climb through the forest to the Ash Swale Shelter. We saw several rough skinned newts in this section. The shelter was in good shape and offered a nice spot to sit and have a bite to eat.

Approaching the shelter
Approaching the shelter
View from the Ash Swale Shelter
View from the Ash Swale Shelter

From the shelter it was another mile to the former lookout site atop Eagles Rest. The trail crossed paved Eagles Rest Road just .3mi from the shelter. The forest changed dramatically after crossing the road. Until then the forest had been damp and full of moss, ferns, and various mushrooms and fungus. On this side of the road the forest was much drier and the undergrowth more sparse. Sunlight began filtering through the trees and soon we reached a viewpoint overlooking the Lost Creek Valley.

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We continued up the trail to the better viewpoint atop Eagles Rest. Here we could see Hardesty Mountain and Mount June to the east (A hike we had done at the beginning of June). To the west the valley still appeared to be fogged in. There were several burns taking place in what looked to be clear cut areas in the valley leaving a bit of a haze but it remained a decent view.

Hardesty Mountain and Mount June (from left to right)
Hardesty Mountain and Mount June (from left to right)
Valley clouds
Valley clouds
Lost Creek Valley
Lost Creek Valley

We hadn’t seen any people all day and the forest had been full of peace and quiet up until the target shooting began down in the valley. With that we decided it was time to head back down the trail and make our back to the car. The forest had brightened as the Sun passed overhead making the forest colors even more striking.

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The trail was in good condition and well used although we didn’t run into very many people until the final two miles. Given it’s low elevation (starting @ 1000′ and topping out @ 3024′) and easy trail head access this hike is an option much of the year making it a good choice for late fall or early spring.

Our other goal for the year was to do at least one hike a month (January was lost due to our passing the flu around) so we’re hoping to get out at least once more this year. Until then Happy Trails.

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