Grasshopper Mountain

Saturday, July 7, 2018

This morning I attempted to make omelettes for breakfast before. They tasted ok, but I had trouble getting them to cook evenly, which I think was due to the fact that the stove was a teeny tiny bit off-level:

Campsite breakfast

We drove up to the Skimmerhorn Trailhead on good gravel roads. A curious side note: In Art Bernstein’s 76 Day-Hikes Within 100 Miles of the Rogue Valley (1987), he says this: “The Skimmerhorn trailhead is the most elaborate I’ve seen, with parking for at least 50 cars, a picnic ground and pit toilets.” It’s not THAT big, and I saw no toilets. I wonder if he’s talking about a larger area next to the road a short distance before reaching the trailhead. It looked like a dispersed camping site and was pretty grassy, indicating it wasn’t used as much.

We headed up the Lakes Trail:

Lakes Trail

After 0.6 miles in the forest we entered a burn. This is from the same 2002 Tiller Complex Fire that burned the Beaver Swamp Trail we hiked yesterday, but unlike that patch of forest, this one got totally roasted. For a long half mile there’s no shade. This section is also very brushy in parts:

Lakes Trail

Lakes Trail

Re-entering the shady forest was a relief:

Lakes Trail

At 1.6 miles this sign was the indication that we had reached the spur trail to Buckeye Lake:

IMG_2268

Calm and quiet:

Buckeye Lake

Grasshopper Mountain, our destination:

Buckeye Lake

Down the trail a bit further, the next lake is Cliff Lake, right at the base of Grasshopper Mountain (the spur trail is unsigned but obvious):

Cliff Lake

Cliff Lake

We met an elderly gentleman here who was backpacking. He planned to day hike over to Fish Lake and said that back in the day before this was wilderness he used to work as a guard at the Fish Lake Guard Station, which is long-gone.

At Cliff Lake there is a very old decrepit dock or raft or something:

Cliff Lake

More brushy trail after Cliff Lake:

Brushy Trail

At 2.7 miles we reached a junction and turned right on the Grasshopper Trail (the trail to the left goes to Fish Lake). We saw this vivid Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea):

DSC_2315

It was obvious that this trail didn’t see a lot of use, but the tread was good and it was in pretty decent shape for a wilderness trail. There were a few spots with downed trees, but it could have been worse:

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Finally after 3.75 miles we reached another junction and turned right on the Grasshopper Mountain Trail, which started out in the trees and then started passing through some nice meadows:

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Hiking up Grasshopper Mountain

Wildflowers

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

Incense cedar:

Cedar

4.5 miles from the trailhead we reached the top, where four concrete footings remain from the fire lookout days:

Grasshopper Mountain

A D6 cupola lookout was built here in 1925, followed by an L4 tower in 1933, built by the CCC:

In 1958 the Forest Service used a helicopter to deliver 3,800 pounds of building material to build a new lookout up here:

The lookout was removed in 1977 and in the intervening years a cedar tree has grown up tall next to one of the footings, hiding it from view. We utilized the shade of that cedar on this very warm day:

Grasshopper Mountain

Below us we could see Buckeye Lake and Cliff Lake:

Grasshopper Mountain

On the other side far below us was Grasshopper Meadow (if we had stayed on the Grasshopper Trail and not taken the spur trail to the summit, we would have passed through that meadow):

Grasshopper Mountain

Little Black Rock at center of photo (with exposed rock on its slope):

Grasshopper Mountain

Highrock Mountain, which we saw part of from Fish Lake the day before:

Highrock Mountain

We marveled at the clear blue skies all around us after experiencing such hazy smoky weather on Wagner Butte two days ago:

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

This mountain has some interesting geologic history. About 1,000 years ago half of Grasshopper Mountain fell away in a huge landslide with debris spreading out over four square miles. You can see in these photos how the mountain just drops away abruptly and is still slowly eroding today (I bet that several decades ago the cliff edge was at least 10 feet further out than it is now):

Grasshopper Mountain

Grasshopper Mountain

There is an option to make a loop on the way back, passing Grasshopper Meadow and Little Fish Lake, but the gentleman at Cliff Lake said that route had a lot of blowdown so we just returned the same way we came up. On the way back we stopped at Cliff Lake again to get photos in better light. We had been way over at the far right up there:

Grasshopper Mountain

Cliff Lake

And we stopped at Buckeye Lake again too. It doesn’t look like the high point from down here, but we were over in the area of open trees at far right:

Buckeye Lake

Grasshopper Mountain

Back through the burn. So hot.

Lakes Trail

We went home the next day. I had wanted to do the short Little Black Rock hike (less than a mile one way), but we didn’t break camp until 10am and we had a three-hour detour ahead of to visit Marys Peak near Corvallis so Greg could see the wildflowers. Here is Little Black Rock as seem from the road up to Skimmerhorn Trailhead. Hopefully we can visit this one another time!

Little Blackrock Mountain

Fish Lake

Friday, July 6, 2018

Last night we left our campground and got a hotel room, so instead of waking up to the sound of birds outside our tent we woke up to the sounds of our AC unit. We walked next door and got in line for a delicious waffle breakfast at the Morning Glory Cafe. YUM!

Morning Glory Cafe

In an effort to escape the wildfire smoke that now blanked the Ashland area, we decided to head to the Umpqua National Forest. After driving for several hours we reached the Tiller Ranger Station and stopped in to get some information and a map. Then we drove Road 28 along the South Umpqua River and pulled in at the Camp Comfort Campground where we grabbed a site. (The Forest Service website says this campground has five sites, but it only has four because one of them has been closed due to safety issues.) We were not happy to discover that we had traded one annoyance (smoke) for another (mosquitoes).

Fish Lake Hike

We had some lunch and then set out for a short hike. We drove good gravel roads up to the Beaver Swamp Trailhead and set off for Fish Lake.

New sign:

Fish Lake Hike

Old singed one:

Fish Lake Hike

This forest was burned in the 2002 Tiller Complex Fire, which consisted of eight large and many small fires. These big trees survived the fire but are still blackened on the outside.

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

This tree’s center burned out:

Fish Lake Hike

Yet it’s still alive!

Fish Lake Hike

The forest is actually pretty lush in many places:

Fish Lake Hike

Entering the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness:

Fish Lake Hike

We saw hundreds of butterflies on this hike:

Fish Lake Hike

There are a lot of incense cedar in this forest:

Fish Lake Hike

After descending the Beaver Swamp Trail, at 1.3 miles we turned left onto the Fish Lake Trail. Another 0.3 miles later we reached the lake outlet and this old broken sign. (Of course, even if the sign was new and in-your-face people would still not follow the 200-foot rule)

Fish Lake Hike

Highrock Mountain towered above the lake:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Another 0.3 miles down the trail we reached a nice peninsula where we dropped our packs and enjoyed a nice long rest. Bonus: no mosquitoes!

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Greg noticed this tenacious fireweed growing on a log:

Fish Lake Hike

Greg stayed by the lake while I went exploring further along the trail. There’s a nice campsite just beyond the peninsula:

Fish Lake Hike

I went another quarter mile down the trail, which was very muddy in spots. I came to an illegal lakeside campsite and was dismayed to see quite a lot of trash that had been left behind:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

Someone had hauled in a very heavy cast iron griddle and then just left it here. It was too heavy to haul out, so I grabbed what I could of the other trash and carried it back to where Greg and I were hanging out. I had left my trash bag with Greg or else I would have been able to pack out everything. As it was we had trouble getting everything to fit in the bag, especially since we had also found trash at the peninsula:

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake Hike

We started hiking out at 5:30. I noticed this log munching on a branch!

Fish Lake Hike

A note: later I would learn that Fish Lake was once the site of a guard station. I can’t tell for sure from the old maps, but I believe it may have been at the east end of the lake where Highrock Creek flows in. I didn’t go that far to explore, although I would have if I had known. Here’s a photo from 1944:

Fish Lake Guard Station, 1944
USFS

Back at our campground I made dinner with my headnet on. We couldn’t get our new Thermacell to work (after some testing at home it turns out you need a COMPLETELY full fuel canister for it to work. Half-full is not good enough.) Throughout the evening the whine of mosquitoes was drowned out by the very obnoxious sounds of dirt bikes racing up and down the road on the other side of the river. It went on for hours.

Tomorrow we hike Grasshopper Mountain!

Wagner Butte

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Greg and I had breakfast at our campsite at the Mt. Ashland Campground then drove up Road 20. We passed the point where snow had blocked our progress last year (no sign of snow this year) and continued on to Road 22, which we followed to the Wagner Butte Trailhead.

After switchbacking up the hill, the trail then follows the route of a long-abandoned road, passing the occasional collapsed berm from back when this road was decommissioned.

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

The trail reaches the Sheep Creek Slide and a sign explains what it is:

Wagner Butte Hike

I tried to find photos from 1983 showing the slide right after it happened, but I had no luck. What a sight that must have been! Now, 35 years later, it just looks like a huge grassy meadow with some wildflowers:

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

The trail takes it’s sweet time getting to the summit, taking a weirdly indirect route. After hiking south for 2.4 miles the trail abruptly turns uphill and starts switchbacking up.

We saw plenty of wildflowers on this hike, which was a nice treat:

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

We reached Wagner Glade Gap and a four-way junction, and there were some pretty new-looking signs here, including one that pointed to something called Split Rock:

Wagner Butte Hike

When I got home I looked it up. Here’s a report from last year from that trail.

Looking southwest from Wagner Glade Gap:

Wagner Butte Hike

We stopped for a rest here, then pushed on for the final two miles to Wagner Butte:

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Old cattle watering trough?

Wagner Butte Hike

The summit is in sight!

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Some scrambling is required to get to the top:

Wagner Butte Hike

We made it!

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

As you can see, this is a former lookout site. A D6 cupola lookout was built up here in 1923. Explosives (100 pounds of picric acid) were used to level the top of the mountain, and 40 horse and mule loads of building material had to be hauled up there to construct the lookout.


USFS

In 1961 a pre-fabricated R6 lookout cabin replaced the cupola cabin, although it was only used for a few years (in 1971 it was burned down):


USFS

The views were smoky in all directions. Smoke from the Pawnee Fire and Yolo County Fires 200+ miles away had drifted north and made for hazy views, which was a pretty big bummer:

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

Mt. Ashland:

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

The town of Ashland:

Wagner Butte Hike

When we first got up there we couldn’t see Mt. Shasta at all, but either the sun’s progress or a slight clearing of the smoke later resulted in us being able to see it a tiny bit:

Wagner Butte Hike

This is the true summit of Wagner Butte, being a bit higher than where we were:

Wagner Butte Hike

We signed the summit register of course. I was AMAZED at the large number of entries in there, dating all the way back to January! I guess this must be a popular hike.

Wagner Butte Hike

Wagner Butte Hike

We hung around on the summit for awhile, having it all to ourselves after a couple with two dogs left. Then we headed back down.

Wagner Butte Hike

When we got another view again a bit later it seemed like the smoke had cleared a bit. That’s Mt. Ashland on the left:

Wagner Butte Hike

When we got back to the car we were pooped! 10 miles and 2000′ elevation gain.

Wagner Butte Track map

My phone picked up service again as we drove on Road 20 back to the Mt. Ashland Campground. I had a text from my mom that said “I-5 south of Ashland is closed because of wildfire.” Less than a minute later we pulled up to the Willamette Meridian viewpoint and sure enough, we could see the fire. Well THAT’S not good.

Klamath Fire

Klamath Fire

It was 5:30 and the fire – we later learned – had been going for five hours already. We gave a ride to a PCT hiker (hey, Snowman!) and when we arrived at the campground several people were standing around gawking at the enormous plume of smoke. I had a signal so I did some quick searching and found out that the fire had started in the vicinity of Hornbrook, California, which was just ten air miles away. The northern edge of the fire looked closer than that:

Klamath Fire

Klamath Fire

I was tired and hungry and we were not in immediate danger so I suggested we cook dinner. I had been looking forward to sitting around the campsite with a cold beer and a book, but it was clear that we were going to have to leave. Even if the fire didn’t get close enough to threaten our campground, the smoke was going to become a problem by morning. We’ve had our fill of smoky camping trips and wanted none of that, so even though we had only been there one night and had planned to stay for three more, we started packing up. The sound of our neighbor’s RV generator – which had been running ever since we arrived – droned on as we loaded up the car. It grated on my nerves and made the situation even more tense than it was. The only silver lining to having to leave was getting away from that racket.

IMG_2182

With the car loaded up I took a final shot before we left at 7:40, Mt. Shasta framed by the wildfire smoke:

Klamath Fire

Later we would learn what happened. The fire was reported around 1pm on Thursday and according to the California Highway Patrol Yreka incident page, a caller reported that they had “started (a) small fire on friend’s property and it is out of control.” As of today (July 10) 2,800 firefighters are working on this fire which has killed one civilian, injured three firefighters, and destroyed 82 structures, including many homes. It is 36,000 acres. People have lost their homes, their vehicles, and their animals.

Interstate 5 was closed between Ashland and Yreka and our exit was between those two points. We were allowed to get on the freeway going northbound away from the fire but the freeway was deserted of course, which was incredibly weird. That night we got a hotel room in Ashland and went to bed, glad that we were safe, disappointed at having to pack up and leave, and thinking of the residents impacted by the fire. It was a somber ending to an otherwise good day.

Mt. Ashland

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

This year the 4th of July fell on a Wednesday so Greg and I decided to make it into a five-day weekend. I suggested we go backpacking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness but Greg wanted to see wildflowers and suggested we go to the north side of Olympic National Park instead. Sounded good to me, but then the weather forecast for that area looked cold and damp so I suggested we go back to the Mt. Ashland area. We camped there last year over the 4th of July hadn’t been able to access most of the trailheads due to a large snowbank on Road 20.

So this morning we loaded up the car and after a long delay in getting out of the house we finally hit the road at 10am. We arrived at the Mt. Ashland Campground at 4:45 and got the second-to-last campsite. The last campsite was snatched up 10 minutes later. After many trips from the car to the site, we finally got everything set up:

Mt. Ashland Campground

We couldn’t see Mt. Shasta like we could last year. A ranger came around checking on everyone to make sure they were being responsible with campfires and he told us that the air was hazy because of the Pawnee Fire and Yolo County Fires down near Sacramento. Jeez, that’s over 200 miles away!

Too Smoky

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and because I worked the late shift we didn’t get to celebrate. So we had a celebratory dinner at our campsite with pesto gnocchi and white wine. YUM.

Anniversary Dinner

After dinner we drove up to the Rabbit Ears area on Mt. Ashland and did some exploring. Nice sunset!

Mt. Ashland Sunset

Mt. Ashland Sunset

Looking up at Mt. Ashland.

Mt. Ashland

Tomorrow we hike Wagner Butte!

Ed’s Trail on Silver Star Mountain

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Greg and I hiked up Silver Star last weekend via the Grouse Vista Trailhead. Mom and Dad wanted to see the grand wildflower display on Silver Star Mountain. They don’t hike at all anymore and they wouldn’t have been able to handle the rough trail from Grouse Vista, so we knew we had to take them to the north side, even though the road is utter crap.

On Sunday Karl, Deb, Dad, Mom, and I piled into Karl’s truck and drove up there. Road 4109 is even worse than last year. I got my Outback up that road last year, but I probably wouldn’t have made it up this year. This is what the road looks like now, as photographed on our way down. This is the worst of the ditches:

Road 4109

Nice driving, Karl! We made it! There was only one other truck there when we arrived at 8:30.

Silver Star Mountain

Unfortunately we were very much in the clouds with no views:

Silver Star Mountain

We headed up the trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

There were wildflowers all over the place:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Visibility was very limited:

Silver Star Mountain

The vegetation was sopping wet (we ran into some backpackers who said it rained pretty much all night), which had some beautiful effects:

Silver Star Mountain

We turned off of the old road and headed up Ed’s Trail. We were lucky to be here during a good beargrass year:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The wildflower show continued:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

I love this part, where the trail crosses a huge meadow:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

We cut over to the old road from Ed’s Trail in order to avoid some scrambling sections coming on Ed’s Trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Shortly after that we stopped for a break on some rocks above Ed’s Trail, which you see at the bottom of this photo:

Silver Star Mountain

Then we continued hiking the old road towards the summit:

Silver Star Mountain

Almost to the summit! (Notice the two switchback-cutters popping out onto the trail up there):

Silver Star Mountain

We made it! The “views” were pretty cloudy:

Silver Star Mountain

Here’s Karl looking out over Star Creek. Normally you’d be able to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams out there, but not today:

Silver Star Mountain

We followed the old road all the way back to the car, hiking past thousands more wildflowers:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Sturgeon Rock:

Silver Star Mountain

On the way down the clouds lifted a bit, but not enough for us to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

As we neared the end, though, a bit of Mt. St. Helens came out:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Hood hiding in the clouds:

Silver Star Mountain

Mom wasn’t a fan of these really rocky sections, but she and Dad did great!

Silver Star Mountain

We got back to the trailhead at 2:30 and then we bumped our way down the road. There were seven cars parked along the road, having bailed on their way up when it got too rough. Some of the cars were partially blocking the road.

We stopped in Battleground at Double Mountain Brewing for some post-hike food and beer:

Double Mountain Brewing

I could have done without the clouds, but the flowers were beautiful. So glad we were able to get Mom and Dad up there to see them. Great day!

Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista

June 24, 2018

The first time I visited Silver Star Mountain in 2006 I went with my sister and we took our Dad’s pickup because the road was described as being pretty rough. Back then we drove Road 41 and Road 4109 from Sunset Campground and it was a bit of an adventure, with rough potholed roads.

I’ve been back numerous times since then, eventually switching to a slightly different route via Road 1100 (much better road) that connected up with Road 4109 for the last 2.7 miles. Those last 2.7 miles have been getting worse and worse over the years, and after driving it last year in our Outback, Greg and I vowed we’d never drive that road again. (I actually traveled on that road the next weekend, but not in my car.)

So Greg and I headed to the Grouse Vista Trailhead today to hike up that way (here is a description of the hike). The road access is much better. We got up very early to avoid the crowds and the heat and started hiking at 7:30am. The trail is an old road and it starts out steeply, climbing up through the trees. Large rocks litter the old roadbed.

Silver Star Mountain

This cute rabbit was on the trail ahead of us. He held still for a surprisingly long time before finally hopping away.

Silver Star Mountain

After gaining 600′ in three-quarters of a mile the trail leveled out a bit for awhile:

Silver Star Mountain

Around the one-mile mark we emerged out into some open areas and we could see ahead to Sturgeon Rock (left of center):

Silver Star Mountain

Looking back down the trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Ugly clearcuts:

Silver Star Mountain

Then we were back in the trees:

Silver Star Mountain

And back into the open. The wildflowers were nice on this stretch:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The steep rockiness continued. This trail is in very bad condition.

Silver Star Mountain

After 3.1 miles and 1700′ elevation gain we reached the junction with the summit spur trail. Last push to the summit!

Silver Star Mountain

We lucked into a clear day with views of the Cascade volcanoes. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Hood:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Sturgeon Rock with yucky haze on the horizon beyond:

Silver Star Mountain

After leaving the summit we took the side trail towards the Indian Pits hoping to see beargrass, but there wasn’t much there so we didn’t go all the way. Mt. Hood loomed in the distance:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Back on the main route we descended back to our car, passing numerous people heading up. It was really warming up by this point and I was glad to be going down, not up. Here’s a shot looking back up the trail (that’s Sturgeon Rock in the background):

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

We got back to the car at 1:30. The final mile was pretty grueling. It was impossible to maintain any rhythm on the descent because of all the rocks on the trail. I had to pick my way along, navigating the rocky obstacle course. It was as mentally challenging as it was physically exhausting since I had to concentrate on every step so that I didn’t fall on the rocky trail.

Although this route has better road access, the trail doesn’t even compare to the route on the north side, which is MUCH more scenic, with way more views and flowers. But of course that trailhead requires driving on a wretched road.

Here’s video of our hike:

Iron Mountain Loop

June 23, 2018

Greg suggested we do the Iron Mountain loop hike today. It’s a very long drive from our home in Portland, so we got up at 4am, left at 5:10, and arrived at the Tombstone Pass Trailhead at 7:40. Despite the forecast (“Sunny, with a high near 64″… no mention of clouds) it was very cloudy:

Iron Mountain Hike

We hit the trail at 8am. There were signs of recent trail maintenance:

Iron Mountain Hike

The trail crosses Highway 20 and then switchbacks up through a forest with some pretty big trees. We emerged into one flower meadow and then a bit further came the big showy flower meadow. Awesome!

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

We started getting views of the surrounding peaks. Here is Browder Ridge (we hiked up there in 2011):

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain, where the trail will take us in a few hours:

Iron Mountain Hike

And still more wildflowers…

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

Iron Mountain Hike

The trail leaves the meadow and heads over to Iron Mountain, circling around the north side over to the west side of that peak:

Iron Mountain Hike

On the west side of Iron Mountain we picked up the spur trail to the summit and started climbing. Views started becoming abundant:

Iron Mountain Hike

We could see the trailhead at the end of Road 35, which is an alternate place to start this hike:

Iron Mountain Hike

Then we arrived at the summit! The last time I was up here was 2007 when the old fire lookout was still here:

Fire lookout

Shortly after that visit the Forest Service removed it. Then they put in this nice viewing platform:

Iron Mountain Hike

There were still a surprising number of clouds considering that the forecast didn’t call for any clouds. Fortunately we could still see some mountains. Mt. Jefferson:

Iron Mountain Hike

Mt. Jefferson, Cone Peak, Echo Mountain, and South Peak:

Iron Mountain Hike

Three Pyramids:

Iron Mountain Hike

The Three Sisters:

Iron Mountain Hike

A wider shot that includes Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters:

Iron Mountain Hike

They’ve installed a map and mountain locater in the center of the viewing deck (although people were leaning on it like they were at a bar, so it was mostly unusable):

Mountain locater

We hung out for awhile at the summit enjoying the views, but it was far from peaceful up there. There were quite a few people and most of them were pretty loud. There was one large group celebrating a birthday with champagne and they were basically having a party up there. We eventually decided we’d had enough of the din and started heading back down:

Iron Mountain Hike

After we got back to the car we headed to nearby Echo Basin to do that short hike. The trail starts out by climbing steeply up an old logging road. Then it leaves the new growth from that logged area and enters the trees that surround the edge of Echo Basin. There was evidence of recent trail work here:

Echo Basin

Yellow cedars grow here, which is pretty far south for this tree:

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

The trail splits to make a loop through the meadow. We crossed a stream and after climbing up through the trees the trail emerged into the meadows of Echo Basin:

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

We stopped on one of the boardwalks in the meadow, beneath which a little creek gurgled. Very pleasant And we spotted this little frog hanging out!

Echo Basin

Echo Basin

The trail heads back into the trees, but not before passing through some horrifically muddy areas. I ended up with mud above my ankle. We finished the loop then headed back to the car.

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Monday, May 18, 2018

Last day of our trip! This morning we packed up and left our pretty little cabin at Unity Lake State Park.

Unity Lake State Park

We headed west to John Day and stopped at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.

Kam Wah Chung

Kam Wah Chung was a was a Chinese-owned mercantile and apothecary store run by Lung On and Ing Hay from 1988 to 1948. When Ing Hay died the place was closed up and everything left where it was. Years later when it was opened back up, everything was mostly as it had been left and now visitors can take a tour of the place and learn about the history of the Chinese in Oregon. You can read more about the story of Kam Wah Chung on the Oregon Encyclopedia site.

Kam Wah Chung

Kam Wah Chung

Kam Wah Chung

Kam Wah Chung

Our next stop was Cedar Grove Botanical Area. It is 26 acres and contains the only isolated stand of Alaska yellow cedar east of the Cascades in the United States. The cedars are left over from the Pleistocene era when the climate was cooler and wetter. A 2006 wildfire burned right up to the edge of the grove but firefighters managed to create a back burn to keep the fire from burning the cedars here.

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

We saw some wildflowers:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Passed through a gate:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

And a homemade sign:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

We got a peek at the John Day Valley:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area
The trail crosses Buck Creek twice before heading back:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

You get a good look at the various parts of Fields Peak to the east:

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Cedar Grove Botanical Area

Then we headed to Big Summit Prairie. It is all private land except some spots around the edges. In the southeast corner you can see the North Fork Crooked River:

Big Summit Prairie

Down Road 42 a bit we passed this huge patch of wildflowers and we had to get out to gawk:

Big Summit Prairie

We stopped for dinner in Madras then continued heading home via Highway 26. Unfortunately we didn’t make it very far. Traffic came to a standstill and when I got on the Waze app I learned there was a grass fire where the highway crossed the Deschutes River. Traffic was stopped in both directions. Someone up ahead posted this on Waze:

IMG_1662

We waited awhile to see if traffic would start moving, but it didn’t, so we turned around, headed back to Madras, then headed north to go home via The Dalles, which is a longer route. I noticed on Waze about 15 minutes after we turned around the traffic started moving on 26. It’s always a gamble what to do in those situations! We got home late and went straight to bed.

Video:

Bullrun Rock

Greg and I spent Memorial Day Weekend in eastern Oregon. After hail and lightning on Friday followed by cold cloudy weather on Saturday, we finally had sunny weather on Sunday, and what a freakin’ gorgeous day it was!

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Our destination for the day was the Monument Rock Wilderness. As the crow flies it was pretty close to where we were staying at Unity Lake State Park, but as the car drives it was not. We debated on our route. We could drive west on 26 to Prairie City then drive south to get to the trailhead via Road 13 then 1370. That seemed circuitous so we considered a shortcut from Unity via Road 6005, then to 2652, which connects up with 1370 to the trailhead. But we were worried that 6005 (which appears on topo maps but not the big Forest Service map) would be too rough. So we decided to go east from Unity on 26, head west on Road 16, then north on 13 to 1370. Not sure if this saved us any time over the Prairie city route, as it took us two hours of driving time from campground to trailhead. The last few miles of 1370 are pretty rough. High clearance and good tires are recommended. (That being said, some geocachers in a Kia made it up to the lookout after we left, we later learned!

A few miles before the trailhead we got a view of Table Rock and it’s lookout from Road 1370.

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This area was scorched by the 2016 Rail Fire which burned 41,000 acres and cost $34.9 million to put out. (It was human-caused, by the way.) We were surrounded by blackened trees as we bumped along, finally reaching the Table Rock South Trailhead.

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On the left: the way we came up. On the right: the road keeps going up to the lookout.

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It’s always nice when you get views right from the trailhead. Those snowy peaks are in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

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We set off down the trail, which follows the path of an old road. This wilderness was designated in 1984, so it’s been at least 34 years since this was an active road, maybe longer:

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We saw a few wildflowers:

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And some scorched trees:

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But the fire didn’t burn everything along this trail, and in fact we saw a good number of intact trees and vegetation:

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At one point I looked back and could see the lookout on Table Rock:

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There are some neat-looking rock formations in this wilderness:

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We passed a sign for the Amelia Trail, but according to the topo map that trail doesn’t intersect here. I wonder if the map is wrong or if this sign is leftover from an old trail alignment:

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We came across a few patches of snow on the trail in a shady spot, but that was the only snow we encountered on the trail itself. Considering our high elevation, we were surprised by the lack of snow. In his Atlas of Oregon Wilderness Sullivan says “The John Day Valley funnels winter storms and summer thundershowers eastward to the mountain ridges here. As a result the area receives 40 inches annual precipitation, twice as much as the surrounding lowlands. Expect snow to block trails over 6000 feet from November to late June. Summer brings hot days and chilly nights.” Well, it was only late May and nearly all the snow was gone, which goes to show what a low snowpack this area had.

We reached this signless signpost where you can go right towards Monument Rock or left towards Bullrun Rock. We went left:

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Now we were on another old track as we headed over to Bullrun Rock:

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More wildflowers:

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At this old fence we left the trail and started scrambling. The trail continues another four miles or so down to the Amelia Trailhead on the north side of the wilderness:

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We made it to the top!

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The views up here were AWESOME! 360-degree views stretching for many miles. It was amazing.

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Looking north to the Eklhorns:

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Northeast to the distant Wallowas:

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Looking southeast (obviously that area is outside of the wilderness boundary):

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Table Rock Lookout to the northwest:

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Looking south to Monument Rock:

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A panorama from Monument Rock to Table Rock:

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The tiny town of Unity, NNE of us:

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We saw some elk down near the trail we had hiked to get up here:

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We were pleasantly surprised to see thousands of ladybugs up there:

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We were NOT pleasantly surprised by the ticks, though. As I described on this thread, ticks seemed to be appearing out of thin air. There was almost no vegetation up there and we were the highest things around (in other words, there were no trees or bushes on a slope above us). We never saw ticks on what few little shrubs grew in that rocky place, but they appeared as if from nowhere on our clothing and our packs. One even appeared on Greg’s hat, which had been on his head the whole time. We saw several dozen of them in this way, yet never saw them on ourselves prior to climbing up there or after we climbed back down. It was pretty horrifying. We would have loved to linger up there a little longer, but with a new tick appearing at least once a minute, we decided to head back down. We didn’t head over to Monument Rock. The views wouldn’t be any better over there than they had been up on Bullrun, and we had to go cross-country on some snow to get up there.

Looking back at Bullrun Rock (aka Tick Rock) from the trail:

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I got some nice trail shots on the way back now that the sun was at my back:

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The hike ended up being 4.5 miles with about 600 feet of elevation gain. Not at all difficult, even with the scramble up the rock. Before driving back we drove to the end of the road to visit the lookout. It was built in 1937 and is staffed in the summer:

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The Rail Fire came up here. They had to wrap the lookout and the outhouse to save them (I wrote about it on my lookout blog at the time), which you can see in these photos:

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The news reported that the outhouse burned down, but it was actually this old garage and the old not-in-use outhouse, pictured here in 2008 and 2013:

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Ron Kemnow

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Geocaching user deulist

The garage foundation now:

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We had a great view looking out over the territory we’d just covered today. That’s Bullrun Rock on the left and Monument Rock at far right:

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This might be the coolest shot I’ve ever gotten of our Subraru.

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Here’s that same shot (without the car) in 1935

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More ladybugs:

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It was CRAZY windy up there, or we would have stayed longer enjoying the views. That might be the most exposed lookout site I’ve ever visited.

Great day with beautiful views and no people! It was fun exploring a new area and I hope we can go back someday and see more.

We drove through Prairie City on our way back and passed the beautiful old Riverside Schoolhouse that has been converted to a B&B. Would love to stay here next time we visit!

Riverside Schoolhouse B&B

There was a friendly horse right next to the place:

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Canyon Mountain

May 26, 2018

The wild weather was gone today and left cold overcast weather in its place. After breakfast we stopped in Unity to get a signal and check the weather. While we were there we stopped at the Unity Ranger Station to see the fire lookout there:

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Lookout at Unity Ranger Station

We stopped at the Sumpter Valley Interpretive Trail. “The trail overlooks the historic Dixie switchbacks that were used and abandoned by the Sumpter Valley Railway. The switchbacks were built to maintain acceptable grades into the John Day Valley. At 5,277 feet, it was the highest point on the original Sumpter Valley Railway mainline.” We headed down the short interpretive trail, where it appears a fire burned in the not-too-distant past:

Sumpter Valley Interpretive Trail

Sumpter Valley Interpretive Trail

There are some tracks here, along with signs explaining the history of the railroad:

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Sumpter Valley Interpretive Trail

Old equipment:

Sumpter Valley Interpretive Trail

Continuing west on Highway 26 we stopped at a viewpoint near Prairie City. We should have been able to see Strawberry Mountain and Canyon Mountain, but they were hidden in the clouds:

Viewpoint near Prairie City

There is a firefinder in a locked metal box by the side of the road south of Prairie City so we stopped to check it out:

Prairie City Firefinder

The view from this spot was cloudy today:

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Getting to the trailhead involves driving up, up, up a fairly decent road above Canyon City to the Canyon Mountain Trailhead. No signs here except this one warning about hazards:

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This was no surprise as we knew that this area was burned in the 2015 Canyon Creek Fire. In fact we were fully expecting to encounter some blowdown on the trail. I had called the ranger station the week before asking if they knew what conditions were like. The recreation manager told me that his summer trails crew wasn’t being deployed until the day after Memorial Day, so he had no intel. We hoped for the best and set off down the trail.

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For a short time we could turn around and see Little Canyon Mountain through the burned trees:

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A road goes up there and we were treated to the incredibly obnoxious sound of about a dozen ATVs climbing up the road from below and the continuing up to that summit. I was glad when we rounded a corner and left that noise behind.

We came around a bend in the trail and found that Canyon Mountain’s summit was hiding in the clouds:

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Despite this trail’s name, it doesn’t go to the summit of that mountain. It just curves along the north flank before continuing in a generally easterly direction. Despite not getting to a summit, we were already seeing views thanks to the lack of trees. Here’s a peek at the John Day Valley below:

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This forest was burned pretty badly. It was an intense fire, started by lightning on August 12, 2015. It burned more than 40 house, about 100 other buildings, and thousands of trees over 110,000 acres. In some places the fire reached temperatures of 2,000 degrees:

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Despite the burned trees, the vegetation was coming back:

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We were pleasantly surprised by the numerous wildflowers we saw:

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The arnica was especially awesome:

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Although I’d been told that no trail crew had been through here yet this season, there were several cut trees that looked pretty recent. Maybe a local?

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As we got closer to Little Pine Creek we saw more alive trees on the slopes:

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At 1.6 miles the trail crossed the creek:

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I sat and ate a snack and waited about 25 minutes for Greg to catch up. He was busy with the wildflowers, though, and it was too cold to keep waiting, so I kept going:

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This was the first significant obstacle:

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At 2.1 miles the trail emerges into a meadow where there are great views to the west, north, and east:

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We could see the trail we’d hike in on:

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And there’s the town of John Day:

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This meadow also had a nice big patch of shooting stars:

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Still waiting for Greg, I took the trail a bit further as it switchbacked up through the meadow. At the top of the meadow I could see that the trail was about to re-enter the forest, so I went off-trail a very short distance to this pile of rocks:

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The views from there were pretty similar to what I’d seen in the lower part of the meadow. It should be noted that I was now at about 6,400′ and had not seen one patch of snow so far:

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Looking back towards the trail over there by the trees:

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I turned around here and headed back, finally catching Greg, who lingered for awhile with the shooting stars. I got back to the car at 5:20 and Greg got back at 5:45. The hike was about five miles with 1100′ elevation gain. Canyon Mountain Trail #218 stretches for 37 miles though the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness to the Skyline Trailhead on Road 101. In his book Sullivan mentions that the trail is faint on that end, and his book was written before the fire so who knows what condition the trail is in. We were pleasantly surprised to not encounter ONE SINGLE TREE across the 2.5 mile stretch we explored.

We headed down to John Day and decided to have dinner at 1188 Brewing:

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We got back to Unity Lake at the tail end of sunset:

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I LOVE camping and sleeping in a tent, but on this trip we were happy for four walls and a roof. We had all manner of weather (except heat) including A LOT of wind, so we were glad we weren’t in a tent. These cabins go for $56 a night, for which you get two tables, four chairs, a bunk bed, a futon, and a porch overlooking the lake (which we weren’t able to enjoy due to the high winds). There’s also a picnic table and fire ring outside. Ours was the Bass Cabin:

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Our neighbors had the Trout Cabin (that one allows pets):

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