Barlow Pass and Devil’s Half Acre

My sister and I had attempted a loop of the Barlow Road and the Barlow Creek Trail while snowshoeing in January. We were unable to find the Barlow Creek Trail in all the snow, so one of my missions this summer was to find it sans snow. Since I still needed some exercise after the really short Lookout Mountain hike earlier in the day, I headed over to the Barlow Pass trailhead and set off on foot down the bumpy Barlow Road.

(Quick story: A guy who appeared to be a leader for a mountain bike touring company was talking to his group at the trailhead and told them to bring their “sunnies.” “Their what???” I thought to myself. Fortunately I wasn’t the only clueless person around since one of the group asked what “sunnies” were. “Sunglasses,” the guide replied. I have never heard this nickname for sunglasses before, and I hope I never hear it again. It reminds me of the ever-growing popularity of the nickname for lenticular clouds: “lennies.” DRIVES. ME. BONKERS.)

After a short distance, the Barlow Creek Trail heads off into the woods on the left (east) side of the road. There is a trail sign here (which we did see in the snow, although we were attempting to connect with the trail from the other end).

The trail came to a small meadow and a junction, where another trail headed north. There are signs here, although I didn’t think to take a picture of them, and I don’t remember what they said. I kept straight.

The trail crossed several lovely little creeklets. The forest was full of big hemlocks (thanks for the shade, hemlocks!), with some huckleberry bushes along the way (no berries yet, of course!)

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The trail ended in a lovely meadow at the edge of the Devil\’s Half Acre Campground. There’s a tall trail sign in the middle of the meadow.

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A ramshackle red outhouse sat on one side of the meadow.

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On the far side of the meadow is the campground and the access road. I hiked the access road a short distance down to the Barlow Road. This access road is in really crappy shape. There were several sketchy sections and some crazy-looking topography that would be hard to navigate in a low clearance car. You have to REALLY want to camp here.

Down at the road, there is a disintegrating sign. I never saw any sign of the Devil’s Half Acre trail that it mentions, although it does show up on the topo.

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I hiked west on the Barlow Road, crossed over bubbling Barlow Creek.

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No sign of the ubiquitous jays that followed us when we were here in January! I was hoping for good wildflowers in Devil’s Half Acre, but it doesn’t appear to be that kind of meadow. It was still pretty interesting to see it all lush and green, after having seen it buried under snow six months ago.

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I hiked back to my car via the Barlow Road. It’s A LOT different than snowshoeing up it in winter, of course. For one thing I was passed by several trucks heading down. It’s really amazing how drastically snow can change a landscape.

Here’s the GPS track from my Droid. The Barlow Creek trail on the topo is not accurate, which makes me think the placement of Devil’s Half Acre trail on the topo is also inaccurate.

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Even now that I know where the Barlow Creek Trail is, I’m still not sure I could follow it in the winter. The blue markers on the trees are too spread apart. Unless you were following in the tracks of someone who went before you, it would be pretty difficult to follow. Of course, you could just make your own path, I guess. With the GPS you could guess your way through the forest and back up to the trailhead.

Lookout Mountain

Inspired by this report from Gunsight Butte last week, my goal on Sunday was to hike up Lookout Mountain and continue on the trail out to Gumjuwac Saddle and Gunsight Butte, then back the same way, which would have been about ten miles. Didn’t quite pan out though.

I got up at 6 a.m. so I could have good morning light on the east side of Mt. Hood. Google Maps instructed me to take Hwy 26 instead of I84 and Hwy 35 (I think Google Maps was wrong). I needed a pit stop and rather than stop at Government Camp, I decided to take a small detour to Trillium Lake and use their facilities after admiring the morning view at the dam. The view was indeed very lovely and it was nice and peaceful there. Just some fisherman along the shore and none of the loud hoards that I’m sure were there later in the day.

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I continued on to the Lookout Mountain trailhead and hit the trail at 9:00. There were quite a few shooting stars blooming in High Prairie as I hiked through, but they were past their peak. But the meadows are snow-free and green!

Just after the meadows, about a quarter-mile from the trailhead, I hit the first patch of snow. It increased the further I went. But there were enough melted-out spots of bare ground combined with people’s tracks in the snow that I was able to find my way up the old road. The last bit to the summit was totally snow-free, as was the summit itself.

The views were, of course, insanely incredible. Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson:

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The Badger Creek Wilderness, including Badger Lake and Gunsight Butte:

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Dry central Oregon:

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Flag Point, with the fire lookout just barely visible, poking up above the trees:

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Mt. St. Helens:

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Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams:

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The Hood River Valley:

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And of course, front and center, Mt. Hood:

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This is such a short and easy hike, with such an amazing reward. I felt like I hadn’t worked nearly hard enough to get to this amazing spot!

I spoke with a nice gentleman who was at the top when I arrived. He said he had done the hike to Oval Lake once (recommended as an add-on to the Lookout Mountain hike in Sullivan’s older guidebook editions) and that it wasn’t worth the effort. He said the trail to Flag Point was nice, though. But we both figured there was probably too much snow out that way. He left about 10 minutes after I got there, and I had the place to myself for the next 45 minutes. Just me and the mountains and the wildflowers.

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Oh yeah, and bugs too. There were lots and lots of bugs. Fortunately only a few of them were mosquitoes and despite no long sleeves and no bug spray I only ended up with two bites.

I reluctantly left the summit to continue my hike over to Gunsight Butte. Although I think I found the right trail, it didn’t match up with the trail on the GPS and it seemed to peter out after about a quarter-mile. The day was getting warm, I was alone and not sure of my trail, so I decided to save it for another day.

I headed back to my car, slipping and falling hard in the mud while hiking through High Prairie. Ouch. I passed six other hikers on their way in (plus another hiker had arrived at the summit right before I left). And I saw a family getting ready at the trailhead and I passed four more cars on their way in as I was driving out. So I’m VERY glad that I got an early start and got to enjoy some solitude up there!

Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to go check out Brooks Meadow, which I read about recently. Unfortunately, the watershed warning sign is pretty prominent (I was hoping it wouldn’t be and that I could claim to have not seen it). So I just took some shots from near the road and didn’t venture further, even though the fields of lovely wildflowers beckoned me. Oh well.

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I needed some more exercise, so after Brooks Meadow I headed over to Barlow Pass. But that’s a different trip report, coming soon.

Sawtooth Rock and Mt. June

July 4, 2011

On the 4th of July, and day 4 of our trip, we headed up to the Mt. June Trailhead to hike the Sawtooth Trail, which promised to take us to both wildflowers and views on yet another gorgeous day.

From the trailhead the first 3/4 mile is through the forest before you reach the junction with the Sawtooth Trail. Going right will take you to Mt. June. Going left will take you to Sawtooth Rock and eventually Hardesty Mountain. We turned left.

The trail followed the ridgeline, which meant lots of up and down. It was a bit disheartening knowing we’d have uphill on the way back, but fortunately it wasn’t too much. The forest has a very healthy understory of rhododendron. We were too early for it, but there was TONS of it.

Just before reaching the big meadow at Sawtooth Rock, we spotted a patch of fairy slippers. There were more than 20 of them, which is about five times the amount I’ve ever seen growing in one place before. No picture; the light was too poor.

And then we reached the meadow. POW! It was bursting with wildflowers. Greg would end up counting more than 40 different kinds. Awesome!

From the meadow we had a nice view over to Mt. June, where we would be heading after lunch:

The meadow was long and we kept stopping to marvel at all the flowers and to take pictures. Although there weren’t any showy balsamroot like there are on Dog Mountain, this was one of the coolest wildflower meadows I had ever seen. We eventually reached the end of the meadow, where the trail headed into the trees to Hardesty Mountain. Sawtooth Rock, for which this trail is named, made a fine place to stop and eat lunch:

After lunch we hiked back across the meadow and retraced our steps to the junction so we could climb up Mt. June.

The trail up to Mt. June is very steep and very not fun. By now it was mid afternoon and very warm. It was a hard trudge up to the top. But oh man, was it ever worth it! The views were pretty freakin’ incredible. We could see snowy peaks from one end of the state to the other: the tippy top of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, Diamond Peak, and the snowy mountain we saw yesterday from moon Point that could be either Mt. Scott or Mt. McLoughlin. This panorama photo doesn’t even do it justice:

See the green meadow on the hill in the foreground? That’s the meadow we just came from:

We could see a little east towards Eugene too.

There used to be a fire lookout tower up here. All that’s left of it is the foundation:

It was such a nice day and such a nice view, it was hard to leave, but we had to go to Corvallis to get Greg’s car and then on to Portland, so we had many miles to go before day’s end. Still, this was a mighty fine end to a beautiful weekend!

Youngs Rock and Moon Point

July 3, 2011

On day 3 of our Oakridge weekend, we headed up to Youngs Rock.

Youngs Rock is in the hills southeast of Oakridge. Probably about a 45-minute drive. There’s a trail that starts up at Warner Mountain, off Road 439 and descends about six miles down to Road 21. It’s very popular with mountain bikers. We took a back door route onto the trail: Road 2129 loosely parallels the trail and a short side road goes up and intersects the trail. The side road has very deep tire ruts, so we parked on Road 2129 and walked the 0.1 mile up the side road to pick up the trail and head north to Youngs Rock.

The mosquitoes were absolutely dreadful on this hike. I had no headnet and we were very low on bug spray. It was very warm, but I had to wear my pant legs and long sleeves for a good chunk of the hike to avoid being eaten alive.

The trail climbs up and up, passing through several meadows, some with views:

After a few miles we could see Youngs Rock ahead of us:

And then the trail was passing right below it:

The trail doesn’t get any closer to the rock than you see in the photo, to my disappointment. You can scramble up to the base of it in some places, and there’s even a goecache somewhere up on it, but we were unable to find a way to reach it.

After a viewless lunch in the forest, we decided to push on to Moon Point. The trail wrapped around to the west side of the slope and the vegetation instantly became much more lush and green:

It was getting pretty warm, and the mosquitoes were making things worse, so we took temporary relief from a stream that we crossed, splashing our faces and necks with the cold water. Oh boy did that feel good!

After climbing up through the forest, we finally reached the side trail to Moon Point and we instantly hit some large patches of snow. (We were at about 5,000 feet). UGH. Fortunately they were fairly easy to navigate and other people had come before, so we didn’t lose our way. Where snow had recently melted we saw plenty of glacier lilies:

The trees here were big and tall:

And then the trail ended at Moon Point and finally we had some views! Here is the view looking back towards Youngs Rock. Beyond is the very tip of Mt. Thielsen and a snowy peak that is either Mt. Scott or Mt. McLoughlin (we could never figure out which):

The view to the west:

Here’s Greg right after finding the geocache hidden here:

And a picture of us, courtesy of my camera propped on rocks. A breeze here kept the mosquitoes away, hence our happy smiles and uncovered skin.

After enjoying the views we headed back, swarmed by skeeters once again. Back at the car we only did the quickest of stretches before we hopped in and sped away to flee the bugs. Our totals for the day: 7.1 miles and 2,300 feet elevation gain.

On the way home we stopped at Hills Creek Lake to use the restroom at the boat ramp and I took a quick picture because the water was SOOOO blue. Mighty fine weather.

Tire Mountain

July 2, 2011

After a rough night at the Black Canyon Campground, where we learned a tough lesson about how much louder trains are when the sound is contained in a canyon, we woke up to day 2 of our trip with warm weather and sunny skies. We met up with Tanya Harvey, local botany expert, and headed up to Tire Mountain.

The hike starts out on the Alpine Trail, a popular mountain biking route. After hiking through the forest for a little bit, you come out in this gorgeous meadow with views to the east. Our timing was PERFECT and the meadow was chock full of wildflowers, especially rosy plectritis.

Views to the east include Diamond Peak (the small white blob on the horizon)…

…as well as most of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor:

After the meadow, we left the Alpine Trail and headed down the Tire Mountain trail, which passes through some forest…

…and several different meadows with various different wildflowers until you get to one HUGE meadow:

Not used to seeing balsamroot blooming in July, but here it is:

And of course lots of other wildflowers. This place was absolutely packed with blooms!

Looking back across the meadow:

A group of about a dozen mountain bikers came through at one point:

From this meadow our view was to the south, out over the rolling forested hills:

We climbed up to the ridge at the top of the meadow, and found a rocky point facing west where we ate out lunch in the sunshine, which felt oh so good after all the months of cold gray weather we’ve had!

While we were here, we noticed these specks of white in the sky. As they drew closer, we saw it was a flock of pelicans. Cool!

After lunch we made our way back across the meadow along the top of it before dropping down to the trail to head back. We saw still MORE wildflowers up here:

We had a peek at what Tanya said was Fairview Mountain:

Another look at the meadow, with the trail below and the ridge above:

Back on the trail we were shaded by conifers and bigleaf maples:

After we got back to the campground, we cooled off in the Middle Fork Willamette River, which felt really great:

And after dinner we checked out nearby hidden Bridge Creek Falls:

All in all a great day in the sun!

Deception Butte

July 1, 2011

After spending hours pouring over books and maps trying to find a 4th of July weekend destination where we wouldn’t encounter too much snow, we settled on the Oakridge area southeast of Eugene.

We headed down there Friday afternoon and snagged a campsite at the Black Canyon Campground, a few miles west of the Middle Fork Ranger Station. We got there a little before 5:00 and were worried we wouldn’t get a spot, but we had no trouble and in fact the campground never got close to full over the weekend, much to my surprise.

Before dinner we headed up to Deception Butte for a quick hike. You can hike up from the ranger station, or take the much shorter trail from Road 549, which is what we did.

Mosquitoes hovered around us from the moment we got out of the car, and I discovered that I had not packed either my headnet or my bug spray. Ack! So despite the warm weather I kept my long sleeves on and zipped on my pant legs.

The trail is pretty flat for the first 3/4 mile, but then it climbs VERY steeply up to the summit. I had not brought my hiking poles and regretted that decision big time!

The trail brought us to a viewpoint looking south out over the forest. There were also rhododendron and a few beargrass in bloom here. (And a geocache!)

The trail continued faintly towards the west and we followed it, where five minutes later we reached a beautiful sloping meadow with views to the west. Although the meadow looks dead and brown in the photos, it was beautifully golden in the evening light, and there were actually quite a few wildflowers blooming here.

We had views to the west where we could see the town of Oakridge below and Diamond Peak straight ahead.

We lingered here for a little bit enjoying the beautiful evening, but then headed back to the car so we could enjoy our wine and pesto pasta dinner back at the campground.