Back in mid-August Greg and I spent a week exploring the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains of northeast Oregon. What a beautiful place! We plan to go there again next summer.
We met up with friends for a one-nighter backpacking trek into Paradise Park this weekend. None of us had ever been there, so we were looking forward to seeing this place we’d heard so much about!
It was a gorgeous morning at Timberline Lodge.
We picked up the Timberline Trail and headed west.
Entering the wilderness.
Looking happy before we begin the LONG descent into Zigzag Canyon.
It was at that spot that we came across Barry, a very nice Forest Service volunteer who was counting hikers. Turns out that about 40-50% of hikers don’t fill out the mandatory wilderness permit, so the FS isn’t able to get an accurate count of how many people are hiking the trails here. Unfortunately this negatively impacts the funding that MHNF gets. So that’s why Barry was out there counting heads.
Crossing the Zigzag River wasn’t a problem. But I would NOT attempt this without poles!
After the long climb back out of the canyon we finally broke out of the trees and started hiking through the most awesome wildflower meadows. This place isn’t called Paradise Park for nothing! (Oh yeah, and we’d been munching on huckleberries along the trail as well. Double happiness!)
More wildflowers, more views!
Just after crossing the south fork of Lost Creek we came across the remains of the old Paradise Park shelter. I thought it was strange that none of the stones were laying around. According to William Sullivan, the shelter was “smashed by a falling tree in 1994 and painstakingly removed.” Why would they do that? Why not let the pile of stones just be?
We set up camp a little ways downhill from the shelter remains and then set off to explore. Here Brad and Greg approach the crossing of the north fork of Lost Creek.
The wildflowers love it down in this creek bottom.
We hiked up to the big broken rock.
We had great views to the south and west. I think that might be Rushingwater Creek way down there.
Dead center in this photo is East Zigzag.
Weird to see autumn colors here and 20 feet down the trail see summer wildflowers!
Back at the big meadows at the junction with the Paradise Park Trail, the guys followed a trail north up to Mississippi Head.
Greg took this photo at 7,200 feet. Mississippi Head is just off-frame to the right.
Dawn and I relaxed by the beautiful creek near our campsite while the boys were off exploring.
After the boys got back we made dinner as the sun started to set. The light on Mt. Hood was beautiful light!
Sunset behind the trees.
Morning was clear and beautiful and chilly. No rainclouds in sight! As we hiked out we stopped to enjoy the wildflower meadow a bit moret. Awesome!
Down below it was quite cloudy, but we were high above the clouds!
After the long descent, river crossing, and ascent out of Zigzag Canyon we stopped for a break on the canyon rim.
The trail was REALLY dusty in places.
As we neared Timberline Lodge we got another view to the south and a giant cloud to the left of Mt. Jefferson that hadn’t been there two hours ago. Only it wasn’t a cloud, it was smoke from the Pole Creek Fire, which we would later learn. Yikes.
Yay, we made it!
There was a lineup of cool old cars at the lodge. I’m not a car person by any stretch of the imagination but even I found all these old cars pretty cool.
We had worked up quite an appetite so we stopped at the Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp for delicious beer and food before heading home. OH YUM!
Great hike, great views, great wildflowers, great company!
I wouldn’t have thought that the flowers at Elk Cove would still be looking nice by Labor Day, but my sister hiked there on Saturday of that holiday weekend, sent me a picture, and I was sold. So that’s where I hiked on Labor Day. And wow, I cannot believe I have never been here before! What took me so long? Better late than never. Holy moly!
Out of all the routes available I decided on Vista Ridge. The Elk Cove Trail and the Pinnacle Ridge Trail sounded like they had too much elevation gain and not enough views. Getting to the TH took even longer than usual when I missed the turnoff from Road 16 to Road 1650 because there is no sign, and then at another junction I accidentally ended up on 650 because the Road 1650 sign (which is in the process of falling over) is right in the middle of the fork and doesn’t indicate if the left or right fork is 1650. (It annoys me that the Forest Service will take the time and effort to drive up there and remove trail signs, but they can’t be bothered to maintain the road signage to a popular trailhead!)
Shortly after leaving the signboard on the Vista Ridge Trail I entered the burn area from last year’s Dollar Lake fire and for about two miles it was all burnt forest. This section is pretty disheartening and tedious, so I put in my earbuds and powered through as fast as I could.
That said, life is starting to come back already.
And there is some beauty to be found here, like this twisted curving tree trunk.
Finally my first view of Mt. Hood.
AND the first of many many lupine I would see.
I hit the Timberline Trail and turned left. From Wyeast Basin I could see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. (Mt. St. Helens too, but it didn’t end up in this photo.)
Hiking on, I crossed a gurgling creek where the lupine were flourishing.
I looked for the side trail to Dollar Lake, based on descriptions from Bill Sullivan’s book and from the field guide. This was the closest match, but it wasn’t actually a trail, dead-ending at those trees there. Hmm…. Well, next time, maybe.
Got a great view out to the Hood River Valley and Laurance Lake.
I came around a corner and POW! There’s Mt. Hood in all her glory. Ooooh!
The fire burned right up to the edge of Elk Cove, but only scorched some of the trees surrounding the meadows, thank goodness!
There’s a whole hillside carpeted with western pasque flower and lupine. It’s a sight to behold!
A gorgeous gurgling creek runs through the meadow and it’s a wildflower paradise. I was completely and totally enchanted with this awesome little creek.
But I also checked out the meadows too.
Where the trail crosses the creek I sat and enjoyed the pleasant nature noise and the awesome wildflowers, soaking my feet in the ICY cold water, letting them dry, then repeating. It was incredibly awesome. But eventually it was time to go and I had to tear myself away. One last view before turning the corner above Elk Cove.
On the way out I checked out the lupine meadows just beyond the turn-off for the Vista Ridge Trail. They didn’t disappoint.
After my hike I stopped at a roadside viewpoint a short ways from the trailhead for one last view of Mt. Hood. I love this spot.
AWESOME hike. I don’t know what took me so long to do this one but I’m glad I did and I’ll definitely be coming back next year!
2,000 feet elevation gain
Hiked up to the top of Olallie Butte yesterday. Saw a little bit of early fall color along the trail. Fall is beautiful but I’m not ready yet!
After climbing through the trees for a long time we finally broke out into the open.
The vegetation is a lot different up here than down below and there are a lot of tree skeletons.
Views were awesome even before we reached the summit. Here’s Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Lake.
Up on the summit we headed over to the site of the fire lookout that once stood here. Here’s what it looked like in 1932.
The lookout was abandoned in 1967 and the cupola collapsed through the roof in 1982. In the past 30 years the various pieces of the old lookout have scattered far and wide across the summit and down the slopes of the mountain.
Here is the site of the lookout.
Looking south across the big wide summit towards Mt. Jefferson, which is enveloped in smoke from the nearby Waterfalls 2 fire.
Although the southern view was smoky the northern view was very clear. We could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams.
Looking northeast from the summit.
Looking due east.
Looking west. The foreground bump just right of center is Potato Butte, which I hiked up in 2007. To the left of it you can just barely make out the string of lakes that you hike past if you approach Potato Butte from the west.
Here is the reverse view from my 2007 hike, looking at Olallie Butte from Potato Butte.
We headed over to the other part of the summit for better views of Mt. Jefferson. It was a pretty smoky view, but we could make out Broken Top and the Three Sisters.
Plenty of smoke from the Waterfalls 2 fire. We had checked Inciweb before our hike and we checked it again last night. Despite how it looks the fire is contained.
Here’s some of the burned area from the 2010 View Lake fire. Man, this area just keeps getting hit hard by fires!
Looking back across to the other part of the summit where we just were.
There was some kind of temporary radio equipment up there. It appeared to be there because of the nearby wildfire.
On the summit we saw these roots, although I’m not sure what they are roots of. They looked like evil creeping tentacles from some underground creature!
Stopping to admire the view again on the way back down.
About 20 minutes before reaching the car we could hear target shooting. Great. It sounded like it was coming from the direction of the TH. Sure enough just down the hill from the car were these guys shooting at….the hillside? I hope they cleaned up after themselves, but based on past experience I doubt it.
We drove down to Olallie Lake to get a cold drink. In addition to a cold root beer I was able to buy an Otter Pop. AWESOME! We sat on the store’s porch and admired the view. It’s so peaceful here. THANK GOD motor boats aren’t allowed. We were imagining what a nightmare of noise nearby Detroit Lake must be at that moment.
Here’s the view of the butte from the lake. I climbed that?? No wonder I’m tired.
On the way out we stopped to check out the cabin at Olallie Meadow. Anyone know the story of this cabin? It doesn’t appear to be in the rental program and is pretty grody inside. Lots of mice/rat poop and bird poop and bird’s nests. Too bad they don’t maintain it because it’s a cute little cabin.
2,500 feet elevation gain
2 hours up, 2 hours down