Dry Creek

On Sunday the weather forecast was too iffy to do a hike with a views so I opted for a forest hike and headed up to the Trapper Creek Trailhead to do the Dry Creek Trail. It’s almost totally flat the whole way and although there are no sweeping views or wildflower meadows, this is still a very pleasant woodsy ramble along a lovely gurgling creek.

34862497470_92e16c6d4a_c.jpg

There was this newish-looking sign at the trailhead promoting leave no trace principles and wilderness ethics. I have no idea how many people pay attention to this sign and follow these guidelines, but I applaud the effort. I wish a sign like this could be at every trailhead, regardless of whether the trail heads into designated wilderness:

34405469974_89ba814b98_c.jpg

The forest is incredibly lush and green after the wet winter we had. This forest has plenty of nurse logs/stumps:

34862420520_eac0690f27_c.jpg

35209589266_c92d42ab91_c.jpg

34440491613_f7cae6e3fa_c.jpg

35249684945_2769f3749b_c.jpg

35084322982_efdf04059c_c.jpg

34405789624_2cfde335a7_c.jpg

The Forest Service website says “5/05/2017: Trail has not been cleared yet of downed trees.” Well at some point since then a crew has come through and cleaned things up. I saw numerous freshly-cut logs. It must have been quite a mess before they cleared the way!

34862645180_42603565e2_c.jpg

Numerous little side trails led down to the creek:

34862408250_92c7e8ffd6_c.jpg

34862404910_fa0269d211_c.jpg

35119765121_33278b7820_c.jpg

34862493910_c08ce8e48f_c.jpg

34862490080_a54e9ed38d_c.jpg

35084342162_fbb98fd5bf_c.jpg

34862639240_a6c9498882_c.jpg

Looking down on the creek from above:

35084440202_593b07b6a8_c.jpg

For awhile the trail is unusually straight. This stretch is along an ancient railroad bed from the old logging railroad days:

34862486270_398bf057fc_c.jpg

34440495923_fd8acb1476_c.jpg

There were several stands of bigleaf maple along the way. I also saw plenty of vine maple. I bet this is a nice hike in the fall!

35209573506_d9646853eb_c.jpg

34862629880_7430f22ba9_c.jpg

34405783964_5f999f14e7_c.jpg

34405777094_20cf6c40a4_c.jpg

Not too many wildflowers here, but I did see a nice patch of columbine by the creek:

34862635080_e0d43c3674_c.jpg

This was cool. The top of this tree broke off and some of the bark peeled away in one big long strip!

35084317592_d7edee5396_c.jpg

Inexplicably there were two sturdy bridges over two unnamed dry creeks:

34862621000_08280f886e_c.jpg

34862619090_961d67d4cd_c.jpg

But at Bourbon Creek there was no bridge at all:

34440655113_e572b98be7_c.jpg

I had read that there was no bridge and had planned to make Bourbon Creek my turnaround point so that’s exactly what I did. 8.5 miles total for the day.

This was a great alternative to the Eagle Creek or Dog Mountain hiker freeways. I saw probably a dozen people all day. There was a trio of adults with two off-leash dogs, one of whom growled and barked at me when we met on the trail. His owners called his name several times before he finally retreated. They apologized to me as they hiked past, but they did not leash either of the dogs.

Video:

Gray Butte Trail

On Memorial Day Greg and I hiked part of the Gray Butte Trail. What a great little hike! Easy and level with a lot of views and wildflowers.

35089137221_d1b213e5ec_c.jpg

Following directions in Sullivan’s hiking guide we parked at the base of Gray Butte and hiked south towards Smith Rock State Park. The trail starts off in the trees:

35089158421_11acfe5184_c.jpg

But then quickly pops out into the open. We could see Gray Butte itself towering above us. There are no trails that go up there, but there is a road:

35053595312_41553c3cee_c.jpg

You get a lot of bang for your buck on this hike. The views are stupendous almost right from the beginning.

35089155081_ec10f42497_c.jpg

And there are plenty of spring wildflowers too:

35089145011_52aa6c0e78_c.jpg

34410278443_95dffb8610_c.jpg

35179361846_a3656309d2_c.jpg

35053885492_617b23734d_c.jpg

35053869612_69869c127d_c.jpg

34375252504_744085f47c_c.jpg

It was REALLY hot, so this area where a bunch of bitterroot were blooming was our turnaround point:

34410267683_4d6fc5d84c_c.jpg

However, while Greg was taking hundreds of bitterroot photos I hiked a tiny bit further to a high point just ahead where I could see the tippy top of Mt. Hood:

35089454571_89c83f4265_c.jpg

As well as all the mountains spread out before me. Yowza!!

34410260003_b207a5ea47_c.jpg

Looking back at Gray Butte. The trail we hiked in on can be seen on the slope on the right:

35089448601_87defe0e5f_c.jpg

We would have gone further, but it was just too hot. We had also originally planned to do a short stretch of a different trail described in Sullivan’s book, but we were sapped of energy from the heat, plus the clouds were gathering quickly, so we headed home. This is a cool area with a number of trails. We’d like to explore around here more, preferably when it’s not so hot.

Painted Hills

Greg and I spent the holiday weekend in Central Oregon where it was HOT and sunny. On Saturday we visited the Painted Hills late in the day so we could get the nice evening light.

34973293706_eddb6da1cb_c.jpg

First stop: Painted Cove Trail.

34830528612_24c6b5c2f3_c.jpg

34830525132_185450e6ae_c.jpg

34953976266_d54753a4ee_c.jpg

34953968686_8dc4bdaf57_c.jpg

Then we drove down the gravel road and did the short Leaf Hill Trail.

34880409271_d65054e662_c.jpg

And then the Red Hill Trail, which leads Рwait for it Рto a red hill. As with all the colorful hills around here the red colors are from iron oxides and the yellows and oranges are from a blend of iron and magnesium oxides.

34880403211_72cc235d87_c.jpg

35012683415_16de313819_c.jpg

And finally we headed to the main parking area in front of the famous part of the Painted Hills. The light was looking great now!

34625246730_474b453a7c_c.jpg

We headed up the Carroll Rim Trail and I was grateful that it was now in shade. Jeez it was hot.

34625242460_6fdca15fc2_c.jpg

34849581322_52dc5e3553_c.jpg

34169395104_5b8431af2f_c.jpg

34849557332_da8610b68e_c.jpg

34625864400_881bc450fb_c.jpg

So glad we stopped here, although I was dismayed to see that this place has become a bit of a party scene and a magnet for bad behavior. We saw one couple walk away and leave their Jeep running (presumably to keep it nice and cool inside) at the Painted Cove Trail. There was a group who was running several drones despite signage on the entrance road clearly stating that drones aren’t allowed here. There was a large group in the main parking area that was having some kind of picnic dinner, which was fine, but they had music blasting from their vehicle. Although we didn’t witness anyone going off-trail, we saw evidence of past off-trail use at the Painted Cove Trail and the Red Hill Trail. The footsteps leave scars in the clay hills that remain for a very long time. I was here on Memorial Day Weekend in 2011 and it was nothing like this. I hope the Painted Hills don’t become trashed and overrun with people who don’t respect the place.

Sutton Mountain

Greg and I spent the holiday weekend in Central Oregon. On Sunday we hiked Sutton Mountain which lies at the heart of the BLM’s Sutton Mountain Wilderness Study Area. There was a proposal to make this a designated wilderness, but that seems to have gone nowhere. The most recent article I could find about it (from April 2016) said “Legislation introduced by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley last year would establish a wilderness on Sutton Mountain and around the Painted Hills. It would preserve canyons, meadows and wildlife while creating one large recreation-rich destination.” But there doesn’t seem to be any more recent news than that.

35011417986_7fb5bbd40b_c.jpg
View from summit

The “trailhead” is just a grassy pasture by the side of the road:

34210366403_e3589e31e5_c.jpg

Curious cows watched us:

34981095446_47fa9fdc29_c.jpg

At the TH there were a whole bunch of prairie dogs, which were HIGHLY entertaining to watch. They’d disappear down one hole only to appear out of another. It seemed like there were quite a few of them, but I’m sure that’s just because they kept moving in and out of their tunnels so much.

34210372143_3ed007da4a_c.jpg

34210369333_ac0f87d8e8_c.jpg

34210363823_f7a1b7ca3d_c.jpg

Hiked around a gate:

34981093026_71e6726132_c.jpg

The we followed an old grassy road as it steadily climbed upwards. This whole hike is a road hike, but because the road is so old and long disused it doesn’t really feel like a road hike for most of the time.

34633735240_375135e4a1_c.jpg

Parts of the road were pretty chewed up from being trampled by cows:

34633724010_ef6e343124_c.jpg

The road makes a switchback and keeps climbing. Starting to get some views of the surrounding landscape:

34981177386_3c7952dfd6_c.jpg

We saw plenty of wildflowers, which was great (here’s a list of all the flowers we saw):

34857250302_2ec1e57c24_c.jpg

34633884120_45069600b1_c.jpg

34633987500_3752870fb2_c.jpg

34633982010_43541b720a_c.jpg

34633971850_428f99246a_c.jpg

34889179301_52cc36ac0d_c.jpg

We also saw hundreds of dead juniper trees laying around. I know that juniper has become a problem in central and eastern Oregon, spreading rapidly partly because of fire suppression. So I assume that all these dead juniper were deliberately chopped down or poisoned or something.

34981353736_edd8617034_c.jpg

Dead juniper and the tip of Mt. Hood:

34981349786_510e2ae023_c.jpg

Almost there! The hump on the left is the summit. The road doesn’t go up there, but it’s easy to go cross-country the last little bit:

34889188921_67de4d59fa_c.jpg

Starting to get full views of Mt. Hood before we’re even to the top:

34889183681_b6455d09b6_c.jpg

The road traversing the slope just below the summit:

34633963470_2d02319765_c.jpg

Mt. Jefferson:

34981405976_fe7163d7fd_c.jpg

Then just a bit of uphill cross-country to get to the summit, which is a wide grassy area with a few hardy juniper:

35031573055_2a47874b85_c.jpg

We had really great views from the summit:

34187836024_690d8c9060_c.jpg

35031574785_855bc36af2_c.jpg

34887112022_243fd6e3c5_c.jpg

Delighted to discover the hedgehog cactus in bloom:

34210681293_1ee1723c7f_c.jpg

34981402476_e0c8433ccc_c.jpg

We could see part of the Painted Hills below:

35010973666_507bdc2c25_c.jpg

We hung out on the summit for awhile, enjoying a gentle breeze and the total lack of people (we didn’t see one person the entire hike). By the time we were hiking down, the heat had really soared. It was somewhere in the 90s. No shade on this hike, so it felt pretty brutal.

We stopped in Mitchell afterward to get some cold drinks at the grocery store. While in town we discovered a place called Tiger Town Brewing Company. They just got their permits to start brewing beer, and their under-construction building is almost finished. In the meantime, they have a food truck on site with outdoor seating. Fabulous! A welcome addition to Mitchell in my opinion. Best of luck to them!

34663946410_60c2eca057_c.jpg

Despite the withering heat this was a great hike. Our timing seems to have been spot on for the wildflowers and we lucked into a clear day with expansive views. Another nice thing about being there this time of year is that the grass is still somewhat green. Give it about a month and I’m sure everything will be brown out there.