Fuji Mountain

After our camping trip with Dawn and Brad they headed home through Bend on Sunday, and Greg and I headed home via Oakridge so we could hike up Fuji Mountain. As the crow flies it wasn’t far from our hike the day before up The Twins, but as the car drives we almost did a big long loop. (There are two approaches to Fuji Mountain. You can start from Gold Lake for an 11+ mile round-trip hike, or you can tackle most of the mileage by car on Road 5883 for a short 3-mile round-trip hike to the summit, which is what we did.)

The trail started out in a tiny meadow before entering the trees:

We passed through several patches of lupine that were past their peak:

The rest of the hike is through the forest, but in no time at all we were up on the summit of the mountain. Here is the view looking north out over Waldo Lake and all the Cascade peaks beyond:

Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Washington:

The Three Sisters:

Looking south to Diamond Peak:

A slightly better view of Diamond Peak can be had back on the trail just before before reaching the summit:

The view to the southwest is partially obscured by trees:

Looking east at Maiden Peak (on the left) and Gold Lake:

We could see The Twins, where we hiked the day before, and beyond it we could see a wildfire. It wasn’t close enough to affect us but we knew how very dry the forest was and that any new fire was bad news. We later found out it was the Brown’s Creek Fire near Wickiup Reservoir. There had been no thunderstorms the night before, so we knew it had to be human-caused:

Fuji Mountain has two viewpoints. There’s the second one as seen from the summit:

Looking back at the summit from the other viewpoint:

Looking west at Bunchgrass Ridge (on the left) and part of Koch Mountain (on the right). There is a 25-mile-long mountain bike trail that goes along Bunchgrass Ridge. We were intrigued by the look of the meadows up there and want to come back and explore. A little right of center here you can see a tiny lake. It’s not identified on the topo map, but on my Oakridge trail map it’s called Deer Camp Lake. No trails go there:

Looking north out over the Waldo Lake Wilderness. Somewhere out there out of view are two lakes named Bingo Lake and Bongo Lake:

Zoomed-in on the tiny unnamed lake in the previous photo:

We could have sat here admiring that view all day long:

There was once a lookout here. The first one was built in 1925 and the second one was built in 1959:

Now the summit is just a nice flat place to hang out on a beautiful summer day.

With a very long drive home to Portland ahead of us we finally tore ourselves away and started heading back down. I highly recommend this hike. The route we took wasn’t hard, so if you want a challenge you can take the longer route. It’s definitely worth it either way. We encountered plenty of mosquitoes on this hike. Bug spray and headnets were essential, although I didn’t have my headnet on for part of the time and now I have about a dozen bites on my forehead and neck.

The Twins

Greg and I spent a great weekend camping with Brad and Dawn (a few miles from Waldo Lake. Greg wasn’t able to take Friday off, so the rest of us drove to the campsite and set up and he joined us later. Timmy and Buddy took turns keeping me company in the backseat on the drive down.

It’s very satisfying sitting around in the woods on a beautiful summer evening after a long week at work! And where we were camped was VERY quiet. As a bonus we got some pink-tinted clouds at dusk which looked really pretty. This was after the pink was mostly gone.

There were some bats flying around too. Here are the boys admiring the bats from the safety of the bug tent (the bugs weren’t horrible, but they were definitely out and about).

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful. Timmy celebrated the new day by peeing on my tent. But the guys got it cleaned up fast with no harm done, plus how can you be mad at that sweet Timmy face?

Our hike for the day was up to the summit of The Twins. This shot was taken from a distance on Sunday and you can see how the mountain got its name:

On the topo map this mountain is called The Twins, but the Forest Service seems conflicted about the name:

The first part of the trail is relatively level, traveling through the forest:

The trail crosses the PCT and starts climbing. We passed some snowmelt ponds. The water is pretty stagnant, though. You’d have to be desperate to swim in there or drink from there (even filtered):

The last push to the summit is exposed with no tree cover. It had been nice and cool in the forest but out here in the open it was pretty dang warm:

This is also where we started getting some views. There’s Maiden Peak and Diamond Peak.

The trail gets a little less steep for the last push to the summit.

Oh the views up there! Spectacular! The BLUE BLUE waters of Waldo Lake:

Numerous Cascade peaks.

Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters:

The Three Sisters and Broken Top:

Diamond Peak and Gold Lake:

Pointy Mt. Thielsen and snowy Mt. McLoughlin:

Crane Prairie Reservoir:

Wickiup Reservoir:

Davis Lake:

Brad and Dawn waited in the shade with the hot dogs while Greg and I visited the other summit:

Looking back at the first summit where Dawn is taking a picture:

Maiden Peak in the foreground and pointy Mt. Thielsen way in the distance:

Diamond Peak again:

There were some really old gnarled and weathered tree skeletons intertwined in the rocks. Cool!

Greg followed a boot path below the summit to find a geocache. See him?

How about now?

Back at the other summit we managed to tear ourselves away from the views and head back down. On the way up we had seen this strange pile of cinder blocks:

On the way down Brad decided to summit cinder block mountain:

Dawn followed suit!

The trail was VERY dusty. This picture I took on the way down shows the dust cloud around the dogs and Brad.

Back at the trailhead there was a large group about to head out on the trail. They weren’t interested in chit-chat and just wanted to know how far it was to the summit. We asked if they had a map and they showed us their “map” which was a hand-drawn thing. Dawn gave them her photocopy from the Sullivan book. None of them carried packs. Most of them carried just one small water bottle. They seemed very unprepared for a hot uphill hike during the warmest part of the day. I wonder if they made it.

After the hike we drove down to the Shadow Bay area of Waldo Lake to cool off. We took a spin through the campground so we could fill up our water containers, but every single water faucet was taped up and unavailable. Also, there were only about a dozen campers in the whole place. Most of the 90-some sites were weirdly vacant. It was like a bizarre campground ghost town. We stopped at the camp host to ask about the water situation and two other campers who were already there asked on our behalf. The camp host told them that the pumps were down and until the system was online and properly tested there would be no water. They gave the campers a $2 discount as a result. Of course nowhere on the Shadow Bay Campground web page does it say that the water is off. And of course there were no signs at the entrance to the campground either. Not a big deal for us, but a rude awakening for anyone stopping in to camp there!

We continued down to the boat ramp area and cooled off in the lake. Ah that felt good!

Buddy had a very good time fetching a stick over and over and over again:

Timmy doesn’t like being in the water, but he’s happy to drink it:

He’s also happy to get attention from Greg. I love this shot:

We chilled out at the campsite for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. Brad serenaded us through the evening with his impressive belching skills and we played a rousing game of Catch Phrase. (Love that game!)

We had lots of fun this weekend! It was great to spend time with friends and happy dogs and it was cool to explore an area I’ve never been to before. Can’t wait to go back and do more hiking in that area!

Silcox But

After my short hike up to Barlow Butte Sunday morning I decided it was too beautiful a day to go home just yet. So I headed up to Timberline Lodge to do the short trek up to the historic Silcox Hut.

When I arrived at the lodge it was a ZOO. I barely found a place to park. I asked a parking lot attendant if there was an event going on. He said this was just how things were on nice summer weekends.

There was lupine blooming all over the place around the lodge.

The hike up is about a mile long, but you gain 1,000 feet in that mile AND you’re hiking above 6,000 feet, which is hard when you live at an elevation of about 300 feet! Fortunately there were plenty of views to be had for the frequent rest stops I had to take.

Getting close!

The Silcox Hut was built in 1939 and it served as the upper terminus of the Magic Mile chairlift. The Magic Mile was moved a bit west in the 1960s and the hut eventually fell into disrepair. It has since been restored and is now available for events such as retreats and weddings.

The views, of course, were sublime. Looking south to Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.

The chaos of the lodge far far below me.

Trillium Lake.

White River.

Looking southwest out over layers and layers of mountains. On the left you can see the alpine slide at Skibowl (I gotta do that someday; it looks fun!)

The Palmer Snowfield was above me, but there was a half-pipe right next to where I was sitting and admiring the view. I was amazed at the number of skiers and snowboarders who were up here. Maybe it’s because I’m not a skier, but I just don’t equate summer with skiing.

Someone got injured up on Palmer and was being brought down. That would be a bit of a scary ride, I think.

This little guy came searching for handouts. Sorry buddy. You have to learn to fend for yourself.

So he went and started munching on penstemon.

I sat and enjoyed the view for a long time before finally heading down. Sullivan suggests a different return route going down the service road below the chairlift terminals. I would have done that except it would have required crossing the snow in the path of skiers and snowboarders. Uh, no thanks.

About halfway down two women asked me if they were on the Timberline Trail. I said that they were quite aways above that trail. They had gotten confused by the maze of trails below and at one junction where it pointed the way to the Timberline Trail they thought the trail crossed the snow where the skiers were coming down. It DOES look that way depending on where you’re standing, but it’s easy enough to avoid the snow.

Obligatory Timberline Lodge shot.

By now the day was pretty warm so I stopped at the Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp before heading home. Great day!

Barlow Butte

On Sunday I did a short hike that’s been on my to-do list for awhile. I’ve never seen a trip report for Barlow Butte and I wanted to see what it was like, so I headed up there. Turns out the views up there ain’t too shabby!

I started from the Barlow Pass Sno Park. The Barlow Road is closed off because the bridge one mile down the road is failing.

Also failing are the spiffy new Barlow Road gates. I’m guessing winter snow and/or vehicles are to blame.

I headed down the road a short ways and then picked up the trail heading east. I soon came across this. Is this bear scat? It was huge. 😯

A sturdy bridge crossed Barlow Creek, which was barely more than a trickle. Just an hour before I had been camped beside this very creek about seven miles downstream and it looks a lot different down there!

The trail starts climbing and eventually enters the wilderness.

I’ve never seen this on a trail before but there were several old trail signs along the way, even when there wasn’t a junction. Some of the signs have been there so long they are being swallowed by the trees that they’re nailed to.

At some point the trail suddenly stops the gradual climbing and starts getting very steep. I huffed and puffed my way up, up, up until I came to a junction where the summit trail goes straight and the main trail goes off to the right. First I headed straight and immediately came to this ridge with a view to the east looking out over the White River.

Looking south along Barlow Ridge.

Distant views to the southeast.

Then I turned and hiked the short jaunt up to the summit.

The summit has two flat areas, neither of which have any views.

There was a lot of sedum blooming there, though.

I headed back to the junction and picked up the trail heading south along the ridge. After a short trek through the trees the trail came out into a big rocky open area.

Looking south to Mt. Jefferson.

The views of Mt. Hood from here are not good.

I’m pretty sure this is Frog Lake Buttes.

Looking southwest.

Following directions in the Afoot & Afield book, I continued following the trail south in search of the better views to be had. After hiking through the trees for about 10 minutes I came to a small open area with a huge rock outcropping on the right and nice views of Mt. Hood on the left. Not totally unobstructed, but good enough.

I could just see the White River Bridge through a gap in the trees. Looks tiny!

I didn’t feel safe climbing up to the very top of the rock outcropping (which I now realize I didn’t get a picture of). I climbed up as far as the base, though, where I discovered this sad plaque. I went hunting through the Oregonian archives and found out that this guy died in a fall in Provo Canyon in Utah.

View from the plaque.

I sat by the trail and admired the view of Mt. Hood for awhile before heading back. The hiking book said there wasn’t anything to see on the trail further along Barlow Ridge and that it was poorly-maintained so I made the viewpoint my turn-around point.

The trail is a bit steep in places and this is only about four miles round-trip, but still a pretty satisfying hike. I don’t think it sees much use. One downside is that because of its proximity to Highway 35 there is traffic noise almost the whole time. It wasn’t so bad at the viewpoint, but the rest of the time it was like hiking in the Gorge, although at least there was no train noise.

Clackamas Lake and Other Explorations

I spent the weekend camping up on Mt. Hood (I discuss the difficult camping situation at the end) and one of the things I wanted to do was explore the Clackamas Lake area since I’ve never been there.

I took a stroll along the PCT for about a mile, circling around Clackamas Lake.

There are these big old-fashioned trail signs. This one, however, was obviously wrong. There’s no way the border of the reservation was 8 miles from here. I’m wondering if there was a missing decimal point there. By the way, I thought about hiking the PCT out to Buckskin Butte, but since I didn’t have any information about it and wasn’t sure if there would be views, I decided not to.

The lake is really more like a shallow marsh, but it’s still quite lovely. This spot is where some kind of underground creek or spring flows into the lake. It was the most delightful sound!

From the campground a boardwalk goes out to the water. Such beautiful clear water!

I took a look around the historic Clackamas Lake Ranger Station, which was built by the CCC in the early 1930s.

I’m sure there hasn’t been money for new brochures for quite some time.

The place is neat as a pin and the buildings are in good shape, but everything is shut up tight. This appeared to be a former bathroom building, but it was all locked up.

The former ranger’s office is now a visitor’s center, although it didn’t look like it had been staffed in awhile.

As you step through this padlocked door….

In 2003 a fire destroyed the Protective Assistant’s Residence (also known as the Honeymoon Cabin). All that remains is the chimney.

Roads and Trails Warehouse:

Gas & Oil House:

Mess Hall:

This strange row of cabin-like structures were clearly modern, but what their purpose was I couldn’t tell. Maybe residences for seasonal workers? No one was staying there now.

Across the road is the former ranger’s residence, which is now part of the rental program. I didn’t get a picture of it since it was partially screened by trees and there were people staying there. But here’s the image from Wikipedia.

I then headed over to the other side of Highway 26 for some explorations of old lookout sites. I drove up Road 4860 to get to Grasshopper Point. The road gets you close, then you have to hike a quarter mile up to the point. There is a trail, which appears to be an extension of Rocky Butte Trail #475.

It took me a little bit to find the lookout site, which is hidden in the trees. I had been hoping for halfway decent views up here, but as is often the case with old lookout sites the area looks NOTHING like it does from the old photos. The trees have grown up a lot.

1963:

2013:

There is a very old overgrown road that goes up and over the point. I followed it north for a short distance and found an old Forest Service signpost along it. The placement is pretty random though, since it’s not at any junction and is not near the lookout site.

There must have been quite a beargrass show here a few weeks ago.

Just a tiny glimpse of Mt. Hood from the beargrass meadow:

There was also a large amount of lupine in bloom on Grasshopper Point. It was quite lovely, although none of my pictures turned out. I considered following the trail the other direction out to Rocky Butte, but the day was getting quite warm and I didn’t know the condition of the trail, so I skipped it.

I drove over to Post Point where there is now a quarry just below the lookout site.

Without the benefit of a lookout tower you can only see the tippy-top of Mt. Hood.

Evidently in 1994 the Forest Service tried to move the cab and upper part half of the tower to another location, but maybe they didn’t do their weight calculations correct because it was too heavy for the helicopter and was dropped. From the looks of things they simply said “Ah screw it” and walked away, because there is lumber EVERYWHERE. It looks like every scrap of wood from the tower is scattered all over the summit.

Here is the lookout in better days:

Because it wasn’t that far I decided to go check out the Rock Creek Reservoir. It was very hot over on this side of the mountains, at least 90 if not higher. I felt bad for the people in the campground roasting in the hot sun. The water looked inviting but I wasn’t about to pay the $6 day use fee to stay.

So the camping situation… Because Mt. Hood is in my backyard I’ve never tried to camp there over the weekend before and if I ever do it again I’ll definitely have a different strategy. Like many people I drove up after work on Friday and started trying to find a campsite. I stopped in at Still Creek, Trillium Lake, Frog Lake, and Clear Lake before giving up. All those campgrounds were full and not a single one had a sign out on the highway stating that fact. I found a spot in the woods just off the Clear Lake access road and camped there for the night. (Of course this was the ONE time I didn’t bring my portable camp table, doh!)

In the morning when I was packing up a very nice couple stopped and asked if they could claim the spot for that night. I said sure, not a problem. Then they told me their finding-a-campsite story from Friday night, which was far worse than mine. They had spent THREE HOURS going from campground to campground along Highway 26 looking for an open site. They even went as far as Timothy Lake. Of course everything was full. They said they camped near Trillium Lake and based on their description I think they were camped near that old airstrip, where I’ve seen people camping before. Unfortunately a large group of people had a raucous all-night party. They played loud music through concert-sized speakers and drank lots of booze. I was very surprised that the cops and/or the Forest Service didn’t put a stop to such a party. I’m guessing there aren’t any rules on the books against raucous forest parties, but considering the large amount of people in that immediate area, with the Trillium Lake and Still Creek Campgrounds and Government Camp, I would think they would put the kibosh on that. Maybe not.

Saturday night I camped at Barlow Crossing Campground and had a very lovely spot along the gurgling creek.

My neighbors across the creek, however, were not there to enjoy nature but to conquer it. There were three or four families with a large sprawling camp with at least six vehicles, rafts, floating mattresses, more camp chairs than you could shake a stick at, toilet tents (!), a generator, chainsaw, motorized cars for the kids, and a plastic kiddie pool. Despite all that they didn’t make an excessive amount of noise until 9:15pm which is when the stereo came on and country music was blasted across the forest. I gave them until 10:00 then I waited for a break between songs before I hollered across the creek that I was trying to sleep and would they please turn off the music. I was fully expecting any variation of “f*** you” or “Mind your own business” or “Go to hell” but to my amazement none of that happened and they turned the music off without complaint. I had been pondering what I would do if they DID give me grief, my favorite idea being an accidental press of the Subaru panic button on my key fob at 6am. But since they didn’t give me grief I declined to follow through on that plan. Also I didn’t want to get shot. Everyone over there was still sound asleep when I drove away at 7:30.

I really think the Forest Service needs a better campground strategy. I realize they don’t have the funds or resources that the national parks have, but when I visited Glacier a few years ago you could find out which campgrounds were full if you checked at any visitor’s center. If I remember correctly, there were also up-to-the-minute digital signs at the park entrance that said which campgrounds were full and which were not. I feel bad for families who drive up after work on a Friday and waste precious time and gas going from campground to campground looking for a spot and coming up empty-handed. Even if the highway campgrounds were required to put out “full” signs on the main drag that would help a lot. I was fortunate that I had the flexibility to camp off the side of a forest road. Many families wouldn’t have been comfortable with that. I also cringe to think about families who are new to camping who might experience the kind of loud neighbors I had the second night and think that is the norm. I think most people do go out to the forest to enjoy it, not to drown it out with partying and loud music, but there are a few bad apples who ruin it for others.

Mule Mountain and Spring Prairie

I was undecided what to do with the second day of my weekend of camping in the Willamette National Forest, but while paging through Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” book at the campground I came across a hike northeast of Oakridge where he had a picture of beargrass backdropped by a view of the Three Sisters. Since this is turning out to be such a good beargrass year in many places I decided I’d do that hike on Sunday.

The Blair Lake Trail starts near (not at) Blair Lake and begins by passing through Blair Meadow, which reminded me a lot of Echo Basin. The birds were singing, butterflies and bees were flitting about, and it was quite lovely.

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Among the many different kinds of wildflowers blooming here were tiger lilies, elephant’s head, columbine, and spirea:

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After leaving Blair Meadow the trail climbed gently through the forest…

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…before emerging into a large rock garden area (minus the garden; I didn’t see anything blooming here). I could see Diamond Peak from here.

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And then the trail entered the HUGEST beargrass meadow I’ve ever seen. It was utterly enormous. I was also surprised by the large amount of tiger lilies in bloom here.

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According to the topo map that big meadow I hiked through is known as Beal Prairie.

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There were some beargrass in bloom here. But not all beargrass meadows peak in the same years, and it appears that unlike many spots in the Cascades this year, this spot is not having an “on” year.

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The trail reaches a road and on the other side is the historic Spring Prairie Shelter. According to a sign posted in the shelter, this area was first developed by the Forest Service in 1930 as a lookout site which included a cabin, corral, and the shelter which was used as a mule barn for the pack strings. Today the shelter is the only one of its kind left on the Willamette National Forest. In July 1997 volunteers helped rehabilitate the shelter.

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Just beyond the shelter is Spring Prairie, another enormous beargrass meadow. Views were all around. It was pretty spectacular. Diamond Peak:

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Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington:

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The Three Sisters and Broken Top:

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Old lookout foundation:

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I added on the one-mile side trek out to the second Mule Mountain Lookout site. I’m not sure why they moved the lookout from Spring Prairie to the new site in 1953. Also neither lookout site is the true summit of Mule Mountain (perhaps the true summit is too forested). I hiked down the road and picked up a trail that headed into the woods, all the while being accosted by mosquitoes (they were bad here).

The trail soon split, with Blair Lake Trail #3553 headed to the left and the trail to the lookout side headed to the right. The trail was getting pretty overgrown in spots; I don’t think it’s traveled much. But with sharp eyes it’s possible to still follow it.

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The old lookout, like so many others, was deliberately burned down in 1968. The area is getting pretty overgrown now and all that’s left now is a concrete step and some footings.

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The views to the west are totally overgrown, but there is a nice view east to the Three Sisters!

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I enjoyed the views for awhile then headed back. On the hike back to the car I passed three hikers who had turned around before reaching Spring Prairie. They knew they had to cross a road at some point but they hadn’t reached it so they turned around. Since they were only about 10-15 minutes from the road and Spring Prairie I encouraged them to turn back around and head up there. I hope they did.

After my hike I stopped at nearby Blair Lake where the Forest Service operates a small campground with walk-in sites. What a delightful spot! I would totally love to camp here sometime (not during mosquito season).

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I soaked my sore feet in the water, ate some blueberries, and watched a cute little newt swimming around.

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7.6 miles. Great day!