Bonney Butte

I’ve been wanting to head up to Bonney Butte in the fall for several years now, so I decided to go on Saturday. There was no way I was going to tackle the miserable access roads that get you to the foot of the butte. My Outback could have handled it, but it would have been a VERY slow and jarring drive and I’d rather spend that time on the trail. So I parked on Road 48 and hiked up Bonney Meadows Trail #471.

The hike up is totally uninteresting. The only thing worth noting is that right around the spot when I was below the end of Road 250 I smelled exhaust fumes. It was overpowering and nauseating and lasted for about five minutes worth of hiking. I don’t know who was up at the end of that road or what they were doing, but the fumes were BAD (and I don’t even have a very good sense of smell!)

The trail pops out on Road 4891. I turned left and walked down the road for about half a mile. It is indeed as awful as I’d heard, with rocky ruts and large boulders. I turned and walked up gated Road 130, the spur that gets you to the summit.

The Forest Service has built a nice vault toilet off to the side.

It was crazy windy at the top. I met several staffers from Hawkwatch International. They are up here August 27 through October 31 every year, counting hawks and banding birds. You can read more about what they do here It’s pretty cool!

There weren’t so many birds around that day because of the wind. But the views were still pretty nice. Looking down on the White River:

Mt. Jefferson just visible through the haze:

Mt. Jefferson and (just right of center) Frog Lake Buttes:

Mt. Adams:

Badger Butte on the left. Not sure, but maybe the hump on the right is Flag Point:

Grasshopper Point:

Looking down on Bonney Meadows:

More hikers arrived and one of them had a 10-week-old puppy with her. Cute! I’m a total sucker for puppies. This little gal was named Juniper and she flopped down on her back between my feet and chewed at my boot laces while I rubbed her tummy. It was pretty freakin’ adorable.

And of course lovely Mt. Hood (and the not-so-lovely scar of Mt. Hood Meadows):

There used to be a lookout up here, but like so many others it was deliberately burned down in the 1960s.

After enjoying the summit for awhile I headed back down. On my return route I popped over to check out the tiny Bonney Meadows Campground. This is the not the first time I’ve seen a place name spelled incorrectly on a Forest Service sign.

A few hundred feet down the road is the correct spelling:

Most of the sites were taken (much to my surprise, considering the horrible road). I even saw a low-clearance sedan in one site! Brave soul. The USGS map shows Trail 472 and Trail 473 heading out from the south side of the campground. I wanted to pick up 472 which would connect me with 471 and take me back down to my car. But I couldn’t for the life of me find either of these trails, so I just set off cross-country across the dead meadow. This was an incredibly un-fun off-trail trek through leg-scratching grass (should have zipped the pant legs back on) and boggy areas. On the other side I crashed around in the trees until I found 471. In retrospect I should have just gone back to the road and picked up 471 there.

An hour later I was back at the car and heading home. Next time I go up to Bonney Butte I’ll start at the Boulder Lake Trailhead. Although it’s more driving, it would be a far more interesting hike.

Olallie Lake Weekend

Greg and I spent the weekend hanging around Olallie Lake. I drove out Friday night after work and grabbed a spot at Paul Dennis Campground, setting up the tent in the dark in VERY windy conditions. I didn’t stake it down well enough and a strong gust of wind sent it cartwheeling, even though I had my sleeping bag and other things inside. I had to stop cooking dinner to grab the tent and stake it back down.

Despite the strong wind I set up the tripod for some shots of the night sky. A full moon meant that the stars weren’t as bright or as numerous, but it was still pretty nice.

Greg joined me on Saturday and we headed up to the Sisi Butte Lookout. There is no trail to the summit, but there is a road. The road is gated at the bottom to keep out the vandals (which only works some of the time, I’m afraid).

It’s 2.8 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gain on this road hike, which is fortunately mostly shady. The road is in terrible shape (as are most lookout access roads, in my experience). It is very rough and rocky and rutted in spots. I’m not entirely sure my Outback would have made it up even if the gate had been open.

Not too far up the road we saw an RV parked. (We later learned that the guy staffing the lookout sleeps here and not in the tower.)

We made it! This particular tower was built in 1997. It is 50 feet tall and has an unusual eight-sided cab that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The previous tower that stood here was built in 1940.

A nice man named Floyd Walker was manning the tower and invited us up to enjoy the views. Unfortunately the views were pretty smoky thanks to smoke drifting up from the Lizard Fire. Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Hood:

The bump in the foreground is part of Sisi Butte. You can see the layer of smoke beyond it.

Looking west:

Floyd said the forest didn’t keep a full-time lookout up here, just when the fire danger was high. He also told us that despite the locked gate vandalism is still a problem, even in winter (thanks to people coming in on snowmobiles). He said the lookout had been broken into in the past and items had been stolen. Vandals also stole the copper wire that grounds the tower in a lightning storm. Ugh. People like that are nothing more than pond scum.

Going down is always a little trickier than going up.

Back at camp that evening we were plagued by yellow jackets at our campsite. This area is notorious for mosquitoes in July and August but I didn’t know yellow jackets were such a problem later in summer.

We managed to camp right next to some morons who were listening to a football game on the radio Saturday evening. They apparently wanted the WHOLE campground to hear the game. Dude, that is TERRIBLE campground etiquette. if it’s that important to you, stay home. Don’t inflict it on the rest of us who are trying to enjoy nature.

The skies were nowhere near as clear that night as the previous night because of all the smoke that had blown in. But it was still pretty. Mt. Jefferson was beautifully illuminated by the moon.

Sunday morning we took a short walk along the shore of Monon Lake to find a geocache. Nice views of Olallie Butte from there.

We also did the short jaunt down to Lower Lake, which looks like it would be good for swimming.

We tried to get to Horseshoe Lake. I had heard the road was bad but passable up to that point, and that the road beyond Horseshoe was utter crap and pretty much impassable. However we discovered the road actually deteriorates much sooner than we thought and becomes utter crap after you pass Monon Lake. About 0.2mi beyond Monon we reached a bit that looked something like this stretch of road we walked down in the Willamette Forest last fall:

No thanks. I backed down the road until I could execute a five-point turn.

Beautiful weekend! Wish there had been less wind and smoke, but that’s par for the course this time of year.

Matthieu Lakes

After a cloudy weekend, the sun finally came out on Labor Day, so I squeezed in one hike before driving home. The loop to Matthieu Lakes is only six miles and is very pretty.

There were SO MANY CARS at the Lava Camp Lake trailhead. Lots of backpackers, I assume. The first part of the trail is in trees until you reach North Matthieu Lake. This is a really pretty lake that is a popular backpacking destination, despite the fact that it’s only about two miles from the trailhead.

This area is so popular that the Forest Service only allows camping in seven designated spots at this lake, and three spots at the southern lake. Same situation as you’d find at Jefferson Park, except that the Deschutes National Forest is WAY better at informing hikers than the Willamette NF is. There is a map at the trailhead and a map at each end of both lakes to let you know about the camping regulation and where you can find the sites. Wish Willamette would do this at Jefferson Park.

Onward to South Matthieu Lake, which is less than a mile away. This lake is smaller but even prettier, with a partial view of North Sister.

These lakes, by the way, were named after Francis Xavier Matthieu, who came to Oregon in 1842.

While looking for a private tree off the trail I discovered a view to the east. I think that’s Millican Crater on the left.

After enjoying the lake for awhile I headed back. This part of the loop is on the PCT and has some pretty great views.

Along with the views I could also see down to North Matthieu Lake:

Then the trail re-enters the trees and it’s all forest back to the car. While driving the short dirt road between the trailhead and the highway I saw a guy in his 50s walking along the road (away from the highway, towards the trailhead or campground). As I got closer I saw that he was stark naked except for shoes and socks. He didn’t appear to be in distress; he was just moseying along in his birthday suit. If he was walking from the lake back to his campsite, that would have explained the lack of attire, but that’s not the direction he was coming from. How random!

Scott Mountain

On Sunday my plans called for a hike up Scott Mountain in the Mt. Washington Wilderness. The weather didn’t look very promising but I crossed my fingers and hoped the clouds would burn off.

On the way to the trailhead I stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory for a view. Nope.

It was a balmy 45 degrees when I arrived at the Scott Lake trailhead at 9:20am. My normal trailhead routine involves bare arms and sunscreen but today it involved putting on a long-sleeved shirt and my down jacket. When I was planning my weekend I had originally considered camping at the small campground there (elevation 4,800 feet) and was glad I decided against it. Bet it was pretty cold the previous night! The mountains were not visible and I hoped the clouds would burn off before I reached the summit of Scott Mountain.

The trail heads off through the forest where I saw A WHOLE LOT of dead beargrass stalks. Looks like it was a fabulous beargrass year here!

After 1.5mi is Benson Lake, which is pretty big. It was very calm and quiet when I stopped. I rested here for awhile with my book, killing time and giving the clouds time to burn off.

If you scramble around the shore a bit you can see down on the lake and see Scott Mountain nearby.

This area is dotted with all manner of ponds and lakes. I bet the mosquitoes are horrid in July.

After 2.5mi there’s a side trail to a group of lakes called Tenas Lakes. What a pleasant surprise that spot was! The lakes were quite pretty, with these rocky cliffy shorelines that reminded me a bit of the Lakes Basin in Eagle Cap Wilderness (without the soaring mountain backdrop). I saw one couple camped here, but no one else.

Onwards through the forest and up to Scott Mountain. The summit is open and meadowy.

There was once a weird-looking fire lookout here (never seen this style before).

Scott Mountain

All that’s left is parts of the foundation and some other bits and pieces.

Looking east from the summit.

Behold the magnificent view of the Three Sisters! (or not)

Totally disgusted with the uncooperative weather, I got out my book and waited to see if the clouds would burn off, even though it was pretty chilly on the summit. It took awhile, but I finally got to see evidence of the Three Sisters before heading down.

I could go back the way I came for an 8.2mi hike or loop back for a longer 9.7mi hike. I opted for the loop, heading downhill on the Scotty Way Trail (chuckling “beam me up, Scotty!” as I went). The berry-picking along here was fabulous so my progress was slow.

Not sure which fire this was, but it looks like it was in the last few years.

I picked up the Hand Lake Trail and walked along the edge of the lava for awhile.

Hand Lake was all dried up, to my surprise.

For comparison, here is what it looked like on August 30, 2008. The only commonality here are the view-obscuring clouds!

After Hand Lake there are a few snowmelt ponds.

Then I was back at Scott Lake by 4:15, where the mountains were FINALLY making an appearance! About time!

During the cold, quiet, sleepy morning I had thought that Scott Lake looked like a nice place to camp. But in the sunny afternoon I changed my mind. There were people and canoes and kayaks everywhere. I think this place would be best on a weeknight.

On the way back to Cold Springs CG I stopped for a mountain view from Highway 242:

Also made a brief stop at Dee Wright Observatory, where it was cold, windy, and VERY CROWDED.

Back at the campground I ate dinner and hung out until dark. Then I headed back up to the pass for some star photography. Unfortunately a gigantic cloud was parked right above the pass, blocking out the mountains and the stars. So I went back a few miles to a place called Windy Point, which was living up to its name that night. Managed to get a few photos before I couldn’t take the bone-chilling wind anymore.

I was so happy to crawl into my warm sleeping bag back at camp, feeling very tuckered out after a long full day!

Alder Springs

With a three-day weekend I wanted to drive someplace a little further than I normally would, so I picked the area along Highway 242 just west of Sisters. I grabbed a spot at the Cold Springs Campground around lunchtime then went into Sisters to grab a quick slice of pizza before doing the Matthieu Lakes loop. (Holy cow, Sisters was a MADHOUSE that afternoon!)

It quickly became apparent that the weather was not going to cooperate. It was cold, rainy, and overcast. No mountain views. Of course, what else did I expect on Labor Day Weekend? After my pizza I sat in the car flipping through the Sullivan book looking for an alternate hike. I briefly considered Proxy Falls, but there was A LOT of very curvy road between here and there. It made me carsick just thinking about it.

So I decided on the short Alder Springs hike, which is NE of Sisters in the Crooked River National Grassland and which follows along Whychus Creek. On the drive out there I discovered that parts of the access road are quite rough and rutted. It started to pour down rain right around the time I got to the TH so I sat in the car and waited, pondering how this area boasts 300+ days of sunshine and less than nine inches of rain annually. I managed to hit one of the other 65 days, I guess.

Black Butte’s summit obscured by clouds:

The Three Sisters are out there somewhere in the clouds:

Dramatic clouds above the canyon of Whychus Creek:

Some of the rock formations reminded me of Leslie Gulch or southern Utah:

At Alder Springs the trail crosses the creek, which is an easy wade this time of year. Since it wasn’t exactly warm I opted out of the wade and made this my turn-around point. If you were to cross the creek, the trail keeps going another mile and a half down to the Deschutes River where the trail ends.

A good spot for camping is just out of frame on the left. I could see a few tents through the bushes. Even though campfires are discouraged here, someone was whacking away at some firewood during the whole 20 minutes I sat here enjoying the scenery.

On the hike back out the clouds were trying to break up a little bit.

This would make a great early-season backpack (albeit a short one) and it would be a lot prettier too, when the landscape is still green and not brown and dried out like it is now.

That night at the campground the woman camping next to me invited me over to enjoy her campfire with her, so I figured why not. We have a very nice chat. She’s from Colorado and has been traveling all around the west in her RV this summer, with her cute little dog Molly for companionship. She likes to ski and will head back to Colorado in the fall just in time for ski season. It was fun talking to her and I’m glad she invited me over. Fifteen years ago I never would have pictured myself carrying on a conversation like this with a stranger. I was too shy.