Sahalie and Koosah Falls

October 8, 2017

Getting caught up on my backlog here. A month ago we went to Sahalie and Koosah Falls and did the loop hike. Very pretty! I haven’t been there in a very long time and it was nice to see these two beautiful waterfalls again.

We started at Sahalie Falls:


Then hiked downstream along the McKenzie River:



Next stop, Koosah Falls:


We crossed the road bridge at Carmen Reservoir:


Then we picked up the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail and headed back upstream on the other side of the river.



Sahalie Falls again:


Man, I LOVE that blue!


There was some fall color to be seen:



Crossing the footbridge back across the river:


On the drive back we stopped to gawk at the beautiful vine maple in the lava field along Highway 22:






A lovely day! It’s a long drive from Portland, but with beautiful sunny skies and gorgeous color along 22 it helped distract from the many hours in the car.


Lewis River Waterfalls

On Saturday we headed to the Lewis River hoping to see some nice fall color. We were WAY too early, though (by 2-3 weeks, I’d guess) and it was still pretty green. It was still a lovely hike, though. Shockingly enough I have never done this trail, despite a decade of hiking around here!

A quick note about access. It seems that guidebooks direct everyone to drive up I5 then head east through Woodland on 503. That’s the way we went, but we came back by heading south on Road 30 then down to Carson. That route is much prettier. Both routes are equally curvy. Bring the dramamine!

We started off at the Lower Falls then headed upstream.










Apparently there’s a landslide past this point, so the trail detours up to the Middle Falls Trailhead. Instead of a clear sign explaining this, the Forest Service has opted for a mess of pink flagging. Ugh.


This is what it looks like at the other end on the lower bridge over Copper Creek:



Copper Creek Falls:



Middle Falls:




The trail has slumped away near Middle Falls and is quite a mess. I don’t know when this happened, but it doesn’t look recent:


Upper Falls:




We didn’t go any further than Upper Falls because it was starting to rain. So we turned and headed back for the car. Lovely trail! Can’t believe it took me this long to hike it.


Salmon Butte

With sunny weather in the forecast Greg and I talked about doing the Rimrock Trail to Mt. Mitchell. Greg spent the morning waffling on whether or not he wanted to go. By the time I figured out that he wanted to stay home and just wasn’t saying so, it was already 10am. I couldn’t do Rimrock by myself (IMHO the Clackamas Ranger District is not a safe place for a woman to hike alone) so I decided to do another hike on my bucket list: Salmon Butte.


In 2010 the Forest Service decommissioned Road 2816 starting from a point just after it crosses the Salmon River. Unfortunately this added 2.5 miles onto the hike and an additional 800 feet of elevation gain. Here is the new trailhead:


The trail crosses a bridge over the South Fork Salmon River:



Then it was a climb up the decommissioned road. I was surprised at how trail-like this stretch felt. They removed the culverts, and the vegetation has really grown in, so it didn’t feel like a road at all.


Finally I reached the spot where the old trailhead used to be, although you would never know it now. The alders are growing in thick:


There isn’t much to see on this hike. It’s just a long hike through the forest. The trail was in great shape, though. Well-graded with very little blowdown. I had my earbuds in listening to the Dirtbag Diaries podcast and was able to keep a steady uphill pace.





About halfway to the top is an opening in the trees where you can see across to Salmon Mountain (not to be confused with Salmon Butte).


And you can just barely see Salmon Butte poking up above the trees:


There were several trees that had old telephone line hanging from them, a remnant from the lookout days.


Besides a couple of golden-mantled ground squirrels (see video below for footage of them) the only wildlife I saw all day was a gray jay:


Spotted some flagging noting that I reached 4,000′. My GPS agreed.


Still climbing:


With less than a mile to go before the summit, I got a peek through the trees at Mt. Hood. What’s this? Clouds? Not what I was expecting, considering that on the drive up Highway 26 there were no clouds whatsoever in the vicinity of the mountain.


The trail hooks up with the old road that goes from Road 4610 (aka Abbot Road) to the summit. Looking down the road:


Looking up:


Now just a short jaunt up the road, as it curls around and up to the summit. Almost there!


I finally reached the summit at 2:30, after 5.7 miles and 3,000′ elevation gain. I had the place all to myself! I remember reading about the group of dirt bikes and ATVs on the summit that someone got photos of back in 2009, and I really hoped I wouldn’t find any OHVs or evidence of them. I didn’t. I wonder if the Forest Service has blocked access at the bottom of the spur road at the intersection with Road 4610?


I love the old panorama photos from lookout sites. It’s fun to compare and see how things have changed. North:






84 years later the view is now partially obscured by trees in several directions. South:




Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson close-up:




Looking north:


Close-up of Mt. Adams:


Mt. Rainier:


Mt. St. Helens:


There was some nice fall color on the summit:




I stayed at the summit for an hour, but Mt. Hood refused to come out of the clouds all the way. I tried to see if I could spot the fire lookout on Devils Peak but the trees have grown up too much, and in any case I don’t have binoculars (really need to get some):


I looked all over the summit for the benchmark and couldn’t find it. On my way down I finally found it, on the side of a rock below the summit. I’m guessing this rock used to be up on the summit and tumbled down at some point. Someone incorporated it into a fire pit area:


I got back to the car at 6. Here’s a parting shot of the lovely South Fork Salmon River:


On the way home I looked in my rearview mirror to find Mt. Hod once again totally free of clouds. Figures! I’m glad I crossed this one off my bucket list. I would definitely NOT recommend this hike unless it’s a crystal clear day. Also, if you can go during the rhododendron bloom in summer, that would certainly spice up the long hike a bit.

Salmon Butte Map


Tumala Mountain and Plaza Lake

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Greg and I wanted to do Tumala Mountain and Plaza Lake in the same day. We could have parked at the Old Baldy Trailhead on Road 4610, but that would have required driving 10 miles of rough road. So we parked on Road 4614 where the Old Baldy Trail and Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail intersect. (By the way, 4614 is paved and passable in any vehicle, but is getting quite overgrown. It’s like a tunnel in some spots.)

Our friend Matt joined us today. We donned our packs and set off on the Old Baldy Trail towards Tumala Mountain. We passed a wilderness sign right away (the trail serves as the wilderness boundary), but there was no wilderness permit box (indeed, we did not see a permit box at any of the three trailheads we visited today). The clouds had not burned off yet and the forest was a bit foggy:

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

I remember coming across this last time I hiked here, and I still don’t know what kind of structure this once was:

Tumala Mountain Hike

We passed the junction with the spur trail to Tumala Mountain, but it was still cloudy so we decided to visit the summit on our way back. We continued on the Old Baldy Trail, now losing elevation as we descended to 4610.

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

We crossed a scree slope with a view to the south where we could see Tumala Meadows below. That looks like a cool spot to explore.

Tumala Mountain Hike

Looking back at Tumala Mountain from the scree slope:

Tumala Mountain Hike

The trail was in pretty decent shape except that it’s getting a big overgrown:

Old Baldy Trail

Matt tackled one small blowdown with his portable saw:

Old Baldy Trail

After a little more than three miles of hiking we reached the Old Baldy Trailhead:

Old Baldy Trail

Looking down the road in the direction we would have come if we had driven here:

Road 4610

The former entrance to the now-decommissioned Twin Springs Campground:

Decommissioned campground

Road hiking:

Road 4610

Saw this along the road near the Plaza Lake Trailhead. Something logging-related?

It was 0.8 miles from the Old Baldy Trailhead to the Plaza Lake Trailhead:

Plaza Lake Trail

It’s all downhill from here!

Plaza Lake Trail

There were a few open slopes where the vine maple had started turning:

Plaza Lake Trail

Plaza Lake Trail

Plaza Lake Trail

Still going down. There are some big trees here!

Plaza Lake Trail

We kept seeing the lake through the trees but the trail is so well-graded that it takes awhile to hike the numerous switchbacks down the hill. Finally we arrived, and we had the place all to ourselves:

Plaza Lake

The hiking books refer to a campsite at the lake. I think we found the spot, but it’s not a campsite anymore. It looked like someone’s campfire got loose and started a small brush fire. The ground was all chewed up and a big swath of brush had been cut at ground level. The smell of charred wood was still pretty strong so I think this happened not too long ago. I can’t find any “before” photos of this spot online, but here’s what it looks like now:

A fire burned here

A fire burned here

A fire burned here

We sat and enjoyed a snack, then explored the brushy trail that followed the shore on the north side:

Plaza Lake

A really really old trail blaze along the brushy lakeshore path:

Trail blaze

The trail abruptly stops at a wall of trees and brush:

End of trail

A long time ago the trail continued down the hill to the South Fork Salmon River and followed that river all the way over to the Salmon Butte Trail. Incredibly, someone bushwhacked the route in 2007. The trail shows up on the 1966 Mt. Hood National Forest map (below) and then the USGS 1980 Rhododendron quadrangle, but after that it’s gone.


On the hike out we saw a newt!


Road hiking back:

Then we hiked back up the Old Baldy Trail to Tumala Mountain. The view over the meadows was slightly less cloudy and now we could see the mountains in the distance:

On our way back up Tumala, just past the scree slope, we spotted an old trail heading downhill. Anyone know where this goes?

We reached the top of Tumala Mountain where the old concrete steps from the fire lookout still stand:

To my great disappointment, Mt. Hood remained stubbornly in the clouds:

Looking east:

Looking southeast:

Looking north with the base of Mt. Adams visible. Also, I believe that is Tanner Butte, left of center:

It’s downtown Portland!

Looking south:

Mt. Jefferson barely visible:

It was a long day with a lot of up and down. About 10.2 miles with 2300′ elevation gain. But a fun hike!



Salmon River

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rain was forecast for the next day – desperately-needed rain with all these wildfires everywhere – but in the meantime it was still pretty smoky. No point in doing a hike with views today, so we opted for the first few miles of the Salmon River Trail.

Salmon River Trail

Fall colors hadn’t started yet and the forest was still pretty green, albeit bone dry.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

They really don’t want you to camp here:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail is at river level for the first couple miles:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

There are some big trees back in here!

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail ambles along through the forest with occasional glimpses of the river. There are numerous campsites.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail climbs up above the river and after about 3.2 miles there is a viewpoint looking down into the canyon. It’s pretty brown this time of year:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The canyon is deep and rugged here. Can you believe that there was a proposal in the 1960s to dam the river and build a highway through here? Now the river is a Wild & Scenic River and this area is part of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

We sat and enjoyed a snack, although it was VERY windy here.

Salmon River Trail

Looking down on the viewpoint before heading back down:

Salmon River Trail

There are some waterfalls down in that canyon. It’s rugged terrain down there and the falls are inaccessible. However in the summer of 1963, a subcommittee of the Oregon Geographic Names Board made a trek here and somehow managed to get down to those falls. (Read more about it here.) Final Falls:

Frustration Falls:

A few years ago some kayakers ran the canyon and Oregon Field Guide set them up with cameras to film the expedition. Here’s the segment:

Here’s my video of this hike:

Backpacking to Bear Lake

With HOT weather in the Labor Day forecast and no AC at home we wanted to head to the mountains to literally chill out. We thought about backpacking to Wall Lake (west of Olallie Lake) but thought there might be too much smoke, so headed to Indian Heaven instead, even though we knew it would be packed there. When we arrive at the East Crater Trailhead at 11am Saturday morning the car said it was 78 degrees, but it felt hotter than that. On the plus side, there were huckleberries available! We had hoped to find some on our hike, but didn’t expect to be able to pick them from the car. Sweet!


We hit the trail at 11:30, noting that there were no signs about a fire ban at the trailhead. That’s odd. It’s way too dry for campfires. We were glad for the cool shady hike as the temperatures continued to climb:



Sometimes our pace slowed to a tasty crawl as we picked huckleberries:


After 2.5 miles and an hour and 15 minutes we reached the PCT and turned north, passing Junction Lake. The lake was low enough that the outlet was bone dry:


In fact, every single creek crossing was dry:


We had planned to camp at Acker Lake, having read that there was a lovely campsite there. But we couldn’t find the trail down to it and in any case when we saw Bear Lake we decided that was a fine place to camp.



That little peninsula at the east end of the lake has “day use only” and “no camping” signs:



We managed to snag a campsite nearby, though:


Then we went for a swim. Ah, that felt good!


We spent the afternoon sitting in the shade by the lake, eating snacks and reading and staying cool. We saw several dozen backpackers arrive throughout the afternoon. There weren’t nearly enough campsites for all of them, so I don’t know where they ended up going. Some people just set up camp on the lakeshore where there were was plenty of dry land since the lake level was low.

In the late afternoon Greg took a nap while I went exploring. I hiked to trail’s end at Elk Lake, where there seemed to only be a handful of campsites. This lake only didn’t seem as good for swimming due its somewhat inaccessible shoreline.



Back at Bear Lake I read until dinnertime. The sun disappeared behind the tree tops at 6, and we enjoyed a long dusk sitting by the lake eating dinner and drinking wine. It was warm enough that we were sitting there in short sleeves and I was SO glad we were not back home in our sweltering house. Despite all the people that we could see and hear, we were all dispersed enough that it didn’t matter. No one brought along a bluetooth speaker (thank god) and all the noises were just usual camp noises. Several people had campfires, though, which seemed crazy to me. Not only because the forest was SO dry, but because who wants a campfire when it’s 80 degrees out? I just don’t get it. If you need a campfire when you go backpacking, then don’t go during a drought.

Sunday morning our blue skies from the day before were gone (we didn’t know it yet, but the skies were hazy due to the Eagle Creek Fire that started the previous afternoon). We couldn’t smell smoke, though, and the lake was calm and peaceful. It was nice to just sit there enjoying our breakfast, tea, and the quiet morning. One of my favorite aspects of backpacking!



Since we were staying two nights, today we decided to hike over to Lemei Rock and the nice viewpoint above Lake Wapiki.


Along the way we checked out Deer Lake:


And Clear lake:


Now that we were out and about we could see just how bad the smoky haze was. The sunlight was orange.


Along the last stretch to the viewpoint we got a view north to Mt. Rainier, whose summit was obscured by the smoky haze:



Lemei Rock:


We got to the viewpoint above Lake Wapiki. Mt. Adams was visible, but definitely shrouded in smoke:


Lake Wapiki:


Smoke and haze:


At this point we had a signal and although I normally try to stay unplugged in the wilderness I thought I’d check the forecast. That’s when I learned about the Eagle Creek Fire that started the previous afternoon and about the 150 hikers who had been trapped overnight and had to hike out to Wahtum Lake in the morning. The whole story was horrifying. And now we knew why it suddenly got so very smoky overnight.

Greg did the crossword while I read on my Kindle, then I decided to pick some huckleberries further along the trail. I turned around to bring some berries back to Greg and saw a huge plume of smoke rising up to the west.



The fire looked to be in the general direction of Bear Lake, so we quickly started hiking the three miles back there. From information we gathered from other hikers we figured out that the fire was near Blue Lake (which turned out to be slightly inaccurate; the fire was at East Crater), that it had just started this morning, and that everyone had to evacuate. Everyone at Bear Lake had already left. My guess is that they got the evacuation order shortly after we left on our day hike. Our afternoon plans for swimming and relaxing lakeside were not to be. As we packed up our site and the temperatures rose, I grumbled about the irresponsible jerk who didn’t properly put out their campfire and started a wildfire (they haven’t proven that’s what happened, but that’s my guess).

A firefighter we encountered told us the East Crater Trail back to our car was closed because the fire was pretty much on top of it. He told us to hike out to Cultus Creek Campground and a shuttle would take us back to our car. So we retraced our steps back up the Indian Heaven Trail, and when we passed Clear Lake we got a good view of the smoke. Holy crap.


At Cultus Creek Campground they had closed the trail:


Other backpackers also evacuated here, but there weren’t as many as I expected. I think most of them had already come out earlier in the day. After 90 minutes at the campground a FS guy admitted our best bet to get back to our car was with a member of the public, so we did just that. A huge thanks to Jack and Sydney, who were headed to Trout Lake and went out of their way to take us to our car. They couldn’t go the last 1.5 mile due to a ditch in the road that their low-clearance car couldn’t cross, so I ran the last stretch with just my keys and phone. I got to the car at 8pm after a long stressful day. So much for a relaxing day in the wilderness. But it could have been worse. We were safe, we were able to retrieve our gear, and our car didn’t burn up.

An hour later when we crossed the Bridge of the Gods, we got our first look at the Eagle Creek Fire and it was devastating. By then the news sites had reported that the fire was started due to teens playing with fireworks and we were shocked how big the fire got in such a short amount of time.

As for the East Crater Fire, it was intially reported to be 1,000 acres but once they got a look at the perimeter they revised that and today it’s listed as 467 acres. Cause is still listed as “under investigation”. I asked the GPNF on Facebook why there was no campfire ban in effect but they didn’t respond.


Slate Rock Lookout Site

Greg and I spent the third weekend of August in Detroit waiting for the solar eclipse. It was too smoky to hike on Sunday the 20th, so we crossed the Detroit Dam and geocached our way up Kinney Creek Road. The final cache of the day was at a feature called Slate Rock, and hey, it happens to be a former lookout site! We had done zero research on this ahead of time; I had just dumped all the geocaches onto my phone when I had a signal and now here we were.

The parking coordinates were about a mile down Road 640, off of Kinney Creek Road (2212). The person who hid the cache said the old trail was followable for part of the way, but you had to get to it first. From the roadside waypoint it looked pretty daunting, a thick wall of small trees and brush.


But once you pushed through that initial screen, it opened up into a mature forest, so we decided to go for it. At the “trailhead” we spotted an old road or trail signpost with the numbers 1, 2, and then a 6 or a 9. Cool artifact.


We headed generally uphill towards Slate Rock, hoping to pick up the old trail. There were a number of downed trees and – although they’re not present in this photo – a whole heck of a lot of rhododendrons:


We could not find the old trail, so we just pushed our way straight uphill. It was not fun. We reached a rocky prominence that turned out to be not quite Slate Rock, but we had some views:


We could see Slate Rock so we made our way over to it. Along the way we got a view of Mt. Jefferson’s summit poking up above all the wildfire smoke.


The Cascades south of Jeff:


Slate Rock, just ahead:


We found a buried stash of old bottles.


I was wary of climbing up Slate Rock because getting up isn’t the hard part; it’s getting down that can be tricky. But Greg headed up and took some shots on his iPhone. The views are still great up there, which is often not the case at abandoned lookout sites. Here, though, big tall trees cannot grow on the rocky summit:



Looking north. Mt. Hood towards the left; Olallie Butte towards the right:


Looking down:


A panorama:


Greg coming down:


At Slate Rock we could clearly see the old trail so we decided to follow it and see it where it took us:



Looking back at Slate Rock from the trail below:



The trail kept going. It was in surprisingly good shape considering how long it’s been abandoned. Sometimes the rhodies had really grown in, but the trail was still easy to follow.


Until it wasn’t. Abruptly we lost the trail. It didn’t seem to go straight so we switchbacked, but it didn’t go that way either. We were close enough to the road, so we just went cross-country, never seeing any more remnants of the trail. When we got back to the car we were covered in pine needles, leaves, and spider webs. The summit is only about 0.3mi from where we parked, but it sure felt further! I’m glad we checked it out, though. It was pretty cool. We said to ourselves that if anyone wanted to bushwhack their way up there, they’d probably have the summit all to themselves for eclipse-viewing the next morning!

Here is our track. The line on top (or the left, depending on how you look at it) was our bushwhack up. The bottom line (or right line) is the route back, mostly via trail. The big X on the topo map is Slate Rock itself.


When I got home I looked up the history of Slate Rock. The lookout was built in 1935 and destroyed in 1965.




Back in the pre-road days  a side trail from the Volcano Trail (which I mentioned in this report from last year) led up to Slate Rock:


The trail network is still intact on the 1983 North Santiam River USGS map, but the 1985 Lawhead Creek USGS map shows the road, with no sign of a trail. So presumably the trail was abandoned sometime in the early 80s.

Seven Veils Falls

August 12, 2017

When we woke up this morning we discovered the winds had shifted overnight and the wildfire smoke had blown in. Oh man, it looked awful. We were SO grateful that it hadn’t been like that the previous three days:

Smoky Lake O'Hara

Smoky Lake O'Hara

Smoky Lake O'Hara

We packed up camp and had breakfast. Before we caught our shuttle bus back to the car we walked around the lake to visit Seven Veils Falls:

Seven Veils Falls

They recently redid the little side trail and constructed two nice stone viewing decks:

Viewing platform

We hiked back to the campground and caught the shuttle bus back to our car, then drove to Lake Louise for a bite to eat. The hustle and bustle of thousands of cars and tourists was jolting after three days at peaceful Lake O’Hara. We drove towards home via Kootenay National Park which was horrendously smoky:

Smoky drive

We got as far as Spokane that night. We saw sunset from the freeway and the sun was fiery red from all the wildfire smoke.

When all was said and done, we had a great trip. The smoke was definitely a bummer, and it was incredibly disappointing to miss out on some of the great hikes in the Kaslo area. We’ll have to go back there someday when British Columbia is not on fire. The most important think was that we had good clear weather while at Lake O’Hara. Reservations are hard to get and who knows when we’ll get back there again. That was the part of our trip where it was most important for smoke-free skies and we got it. Thank you, weather gods!

<< Day 9: Lake McArthur

Lake McArthur

August 11, 2017

The toddler at the neighboring campsite only woke up screaming once last night, so thank goodness for small mercies. That family packed up and left today.

Our plan was to hike up to Lake McArthur and then, if we felt up to it, circle back to the lake via the All Soul’s route over to the Opabin Plateau and then down the West Opabin Trail. We set off up the Alpine Meadow Trail and soon reached the meadow. The Elizabeth Parker Hut is located here. Visitors can stay there, but it’s so immensely popular that reservations are done by lottery. I can see why one would want to stay in the hut. Mountain views abound in all directions:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

After the meadow we passed Schaffer Lake:

Lake McArthur Hike

The outlet was all dried up:

Lake McArthur Hike

Around the other side of the lake a patch of snow still lingered:

Lake McArthur Hike

There were some wildflowers along the trail:

Lake McArthur Hike

The trail climbed up above Schaffer Lake and at one point we could look down on it:

Lake McArthur Hike

Mt. Owen and Odaray Mountain:

Lake McArthur Hike

What a view

Almost to the lake, hiking through pasque flowers:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

I see the lake!

Lake McArthur Hike

We found a nice spot on the shore to hang out, enjoy the view, and dip our feet on this very warm day. We heard loons a few times while we were sitting there, which was SUPER cool because we don’t have loons in Oregon.

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

We were quite entertaining by a determined ground squirrel who was determined to get some free food, but he struck out with us:

Lake McArthur bandit

Greg’s nice zoom shots of our visitor:

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

We had decided not to do the All Soul’s route and just make this an out-and-back hike to McArthur. So after a few hours hanging out by the lake we put our boots back on and headed back down:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Greg stayed behind at a rockslide on the trail to watch for pikas and I hiked back to Lake O’Hara


Schaffer Lake again, in afternoon light:

Lake McArthur Hike

I got a popsicle from the day shelter and sat on a bench by the lake admiring the scenery and reading:

Lake O'Hara

We ate our last dinner and then broke open the chocolate for dessert. After sitting in the hot bear-proof locker for several days it was a tad soft and we had to eat it with a spoot. Still tasted GREAT!

Melted dessert

After dinner we walked back up to the lake to hear a talk on grizzly bears at the shelter. I got an evening shot of the lake beforehand:

Lake O'Hara

The grizzly bear talk was SUPER fascinating. It was done by Steve Michel, a Resource Management Officer for Banff National Park. It was interesting to hear about the evolution of human attitudes towards bears. It used to be pretty much “kill all bears.” Now bears are threatened in Alberta and they do everything they can to protect bears. A lot of effort goes into educating the clueless humans so that bears don’t become habituated to human garbage, for example. He did a TEDx talk back in 2013 where he talks about some of this:

Day 8: Alpine Circuit | Day 10: Seven Veils Falls

Alpine Circuit

August 10, 2017

Rough night. To our surprise the baby at the campsite next door was not who kept us up. It was the toddler. He woke up screaming and crying at 2am. And at 3am. And several times after that. Sleep was elusive for everyone around.

Greg wanted to sleep in, so we didn’t hit the trail until late morning. Today our plan was to hike the Alpine Circuit clockwise (the Alpine Circuit utilizes sections of Lake O’Hara’s trail network to create a spectacular loop hike). We set off toward Lake O’Hara from the campground, hiking the road this time to avoid the root-plagued trail along Cataract Creek. It was a beautiful morning at the lake:

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

The Wiwaxy Gap Trail climbs steeply from the lakeshore, switchbacking up an avalanche chute. This means no shade, but it does mean good views. And we had beautiful smoke-free skies. Yay!

Alpine Circuit

After launching up the avalanche chute the trail traverses the slope for a bit:

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

The views were spectacular:

Alpine Circuit

We could see Lake Oesa where we were the day before (and we’d actually be passing by it again today). Lake Oesa left of center with Lake O’Hara on the right:

Alpine Circuit Hike

At some point along this stretch Greg got a good shot of the lake trio with his zoom lens. The trail we did yesterday can be seen snaking up between the lakes. The Yukness Ledges route we’ll be taking soon can be seen on the rockslide beyond the lakes:

Lake Oesa

Then the trail climbs up, up, up an open slope:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

And we made it to Wiwaxy Gap at 8,300′, after gaining 1700 feet of elevation in just one mile. Whew!

Alpine Circuit Hike

From the gap we had a nice view looking north. The valley down there is where the Lake O’Hara access road is:

Alpine Circuit Hike

An iPhone panorama from the gap. Lake Oesa on the left; Lake O’Hara on the right. The trail on the left is where we’re headed next:

Alpine Circuit Hike

After taking a breather, we continued on. This stretch of trail traverses the lower slope of Mt. Huber and is known as the Huber Ledges. Looking back towards Wiwaxy Gap:

Alpine Circuit Hike

You can see why they use the word “ledges” in this route’s name:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Greg got a shot of me hiking towards the lake on the ledges:

Tiny hiker

Descending to Lake Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

We didn’t linger long since we had been here the day before. We still had a ways to go yet and it was almost 3:00. But we did pause to take in the view:

Alpine Circuit Hike

We filtered water at the lake’s outflow, where the creek pooled a bit. Very pretty:

Lake Oesa

On the scree slope you can see the route we just came down:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Now we were on the Yukness Ledges Trail. Looking down on Lefroy Lake, which we saw yesterday:

Lefroy Lake

Alpine Circuit Hike

Looking back towards Lefroy Lake and Lake Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Across the way we could see the superb trail construction on the Lake Oesa Trail we had done the day before:

Looking across to where we were earlier. The lowest part is Wiwaxy Gap, and you can just make out the Huber Ledges Trail heading right from there:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Looking down on Lake O’Hara and Yukness Lake. The trail you see is the one we did yesterday to Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Yukness Ledges:

Yukness Ledges

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

Descending to the Opabin Plateau:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

The trail deposited us on the East Opabin Trail at Hungabee Lake. I took the quick side trip up to Opabin Lake while Greg stayed behind to photograph the flowers.

Opabin Lake

Heading back down to Hungabee Lake:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Wow, there were a lot of pasque flower here!

Alpine Circuit Hike

Originally we had thought about finishing the circuit by taking the All Soul’s Route over to Shaffer Lake, then taking the Alpine Meadow trail back Lake O’Hara. But we had gotten way too late a start and we were tired, so we decided not to do that part and just go back via one of the Opabin trails. Greg wanted ice cream back at the lake so he booked it down the East Opabin Trail to get to the day shelter before it closed. I wanted to see more of the Opabin Plateau so I took the slightly longer way back via the Opabin Highline Trail.

Another shot of Hungabee Lake:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Moor Lakes:

Moore Lakes

Alpine Circuit Hike

The light is TERRIBLE in this shot, but the scene is still pretty. This is looking down on Cascade Lakes:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Wildflowers near Cascade Lakes:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Then I hooked back up with the East Opabin Trail and descended very steeply to Lake O’Hara. Following the Lakeshore Trail back to the shelter where I planned to meet Greg, I was treated to a magnificent view of the mountains towering above Lake O’Hara.

Lake O'Hara

Lake O'Hara

Hard hike, but definitely worth it. Eight miles with 2,800′ elevation gain:


Time for dinner! Chedder herb pasta courtesy of Mary Janes Farm.

Dinnertime view

Dinnertime view

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