Storm-Watching on McIntyre Ridge

The McIntyre Ridge Trail has a “musical chairs” history when it comes to access. The original trailhead at the end of Road 110 (on BLM land) was closed, and an unofficial trailhead was established at the end of Road 108. Once Trailkeepers of Oregon helped build the new Douglas Trailhead the Forest Service claimed to close off access to Road 108.

Greg and I visited on June 29 and it didn’t look like access had ever been closed to Road 108. The road itself is a bit of a mess with enormous potholes. But it is open, so this is just a quick report to let you know you can still access McIntyre Ridge this way (here’s the hike description).

The boulders at the end of the road are no deterrent for the OHV crowd. They just drive around:

The first mile is not so much a trail as a road, due to the OHV use (even though this is inside the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness):

At the first viewpoint Mt. Hood was only partially visible:

It was not a banner beargrass year here:

But the rhododendrons were in bloom and looking nice:

And the wildflowers near the bench looked great:

McIntyre Ridge Hike

We even saw a hummingbird:

McIntyre Ridge Hike

You can still sit on the bench, but it has really reclined over the years:

McIntyre Ridge Hike

We watched (and listened to) a crazy thunderstorm moving from south to north, engulfing Mt. Hood (and dumping a bunch of hail, from what we heard):

McIntyre Ridge Hike

On the way back we spotted this shot-up handle on a tree branch. Maybe it was once part of a growler? We removed it and packed it out.

The last view of the mountain before heading back into the trees for good was a stormy one:

McIntyre Ridge Hike

Greg was about ten minutes behind me and when he got to that spot there was a cool rainbow!

McIntyre Ridge Hike

We stopped at the Douglas Trailhead on the drive out. Ever wondered what one of those new plastic-like trailhead signs looks like after being used for target practice? Wonder no more:

Salmon Butte

With sunny weather in the forecast Greg and I talked about doing the Rimrock Trail to Mt. Mitchell. Greg spent the morning waffling on whether or not he wanted to go. By the time I figured out that he wanted to stay home and just wasn’t saying so, it was already 10am. I couldn’t do Rimrock by myself (IMHO the Clackamas Ranger District is not a safe place for a woman to hike alone) so I decided to do another hike on my bucket list: Salmon Butte.

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In 2010 the Forest Service decommissioned Road 2816 starting from a point just after it crosses the Salmon River. Unfortunately this added 2.5 miles onto the hike and an additional 800 feet of elevation gain. Here is the new trailhead:

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The trail crosses a bridge over the South Fork Salmon River:

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Then it was a climb up the decommissioned road. I was surprised at how trail-like this stretch felt. They removed the culverts, and the vegetation has really grown in, so it didn’t feel like a road at all.

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Finally I reached the spot where the old trailhead used to be, although you would never know it now. The alders are growing in thick:

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There isn’t much to see on this hike. It’s just a long hike through the forest. The trail was in great shape, though. Well-graded with very little blowdown. I had my earbuds in listening to the Dirtbag Diaries podcast and was able to keep a steady uphill pace.

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About halfway to the top is an opening in the trees where you can see across to Salmon Mountain (not to be confused with Salmon Butte).

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And you can just barely see Salmon Butte poking up above the trees:

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There were several trees that had old telephone line hanging from them, a remnant from the lookout days.

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Besides a couple of golden-mantled ground squirrels (see video below for footage of them) the only wildlife I saw all day was a gray jay:

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Spotted some flagging noting that I reached 4,000′. My GPS agreed.

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Still climbing:

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With less than a mile to go before the summit, I got a peek through the trees at Mt. Hood. What’s this? Clouds? Not what I was expecting, considering that on the drive up Highway 26 there were no clouds whatsoever in the vicinity of the mountain.

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The trail hooks up with the old road that goes from Road 4610 (aka Abbot Road) to the summit. Looking down the road:

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Looking up:

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Now just a short jaunt up the road, as it curls around and up to the summit. Almost there!

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I finally reached the summit at 2:30, after 5.7 miles and 3,000′ elevation gain. I had the place all to myself! I remember reading about the group of dirt bikes and ATVs on the summit that someone got photos of back in 2009, and I really hoped I wouldn’t find any OHVs or evidence of them. I didn’t. I wonder if the Forest Service has blocked access at the bottom of the spur road at the intersection with Road 4610?

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I love the old panorama photos from lookout sites. It’s fun to compare and see how things have changed. North:

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Southeast:

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Southwest:

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84 years later the view is now partially obscured by trees in several directions. South:

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Southwest:

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Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson close-up:

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Southeast:

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Looking north:

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Close-up of Mt. Adams:

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Mt. Rainier:

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Mt. St. Helens:

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There was some nice fall color on the summit:

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I stayed at the summit for an hour, but Mt. Hood refused to come out of the clouds all the way. I tried to see if I could spot the fire lookout on Devils Peak but the trees have grown up too much, and in any case I don’t have binoculars (really need to get some):

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I looked all over the summit for the survey disk and couldn’t find it. On my way down I finally found it, on the side of a rock below the summit. I’m guessing this rock used to be up on the summit and tumbled down at some point. Someone incorporated it into a fire pit area:

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I got back to the car at 6. Here’s a parting shot of the lovely South Fork Salmon River:

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On the way home I looked in my rearview mirror to find Mt. Hod once again totally free of clouds. Figures! I’m glad I crossed this one off my bucket list. I would definitely NOT recommend this hike unless it’s a crystal clear day. Also, if you can go during the rhododendron bloom in summer, that would certainly spice up the long hike a bit.

Salmon Butte Map

Video:

Tumala Mountain and Plaza Lake

Saturday, September 23, 2017

 

Greg and I wanted to do Tumala Mountain and Plaza Lake in the same day. We could have parked at the Old Baldy Trailhead on Road 4610, but that would have required driving 10 miles of rough road. So we parked on Road 4614 where the Old Baldy Trail and Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail intersect. (By the way, 4614 is paved and passable in any vehicle, but is getting quite overgrown. It’s like a tunnel in some spots.)

Our friend Matt joined us today. We donned our packs and set off on the Old Baldy Trail towards Tumala Mountain. We passed a wilderness sign right away (the trail serves as the wilderness boundary), but there was no wilderness permit box (indeed, we did not see a permit box at any of the three trailheads we visited today). The clouds had not burned off yet and the forest was a bit foggy:

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

I remember coming across this last time I hiked here, and I still don’t know what kind of structure this once was:

Tumala Mountain Hike

We passed the junction with the spur trail to Tumala Mountain, but it was still cloudy so we decided to visit the summit on our way back. We continued on the Old Baldy Trail, now losing elevation as we descended to 4610.

Tumala Mountain Hike

Tumala Mountain Hike

We crossed a scree slope with a view to the south where we could see Tumala Meadows below. That looks like a cool spot to explore.

Tumala Mountain Hike

Looking back at Tumala Mountain from the scree slope:

Tumala Mountain Hike

The trail was in pretty decent shape except that it’s getting a big overgrown:

Old Baldy Trail

Matt tackled one small blowdown with his portable saw:

Old Baldy Trail

After a little more than three miles of hiking we reached the Old Baldy Trailhead:

Old Baldy Trail

Looking down the road in the direction we would have come if we had driven here:

Road 4610

The former entrance to the now-decommissioned Twin Springs Campground:

Decommissioned campground

Road hiking:

Road 4610

Saw this along the road near the Plaza Lake Trailhead. Something logging-related?

It was 0.8 miles from the Old Baldy Trailhead to the Plaza Lake Trailhead:

Plaza Lake Trail

It’s all downhill from here!

Plaza Lake Trail

There were a few open slopes where the vine maple had started turning:

Plaza Lake Trail

Plaza Lake Trail

Plaza Lake Trail

Still going down. There are some big trees here!

Plaza Lake Trail

We kept seeing the lake through the trees but the trail is so well-graded that it takes awhile to hike the numerous switchbacks down the hill. Finally we arrived, and we had the place all to ourselves:

Plaza Lake

The hiking books refer to a campsite at the lake. I think we found the spot, but it’s not a campsite anymore. It looked like someone’s campfire got loose and started a small brush fire. The ground was all chewed up and a big swath of brush had been cut at ground level. The smell of charred wood was still pretty strong so I think this happened not too long ago. I can’t find any “before” photos of this spot online, but here’s what it looks like now:

A fire burned here

A fire burned here

A fire burned here

We sat and enjoyed a snack, then explored the brushy trail that followed the shore on the north side:

Plaza Lake

A really really old trail blaze along the brushy lakeshore path:

Trail blaze

The trail abruptly stops at a wall of trees and brush:

End of trail

A long time ago the trail continued down the hill to the South Fork Salmon River and followed that river all the way over to the Salmon Butte Trail. Incredibly, someone bushwhacked the route in 2007. The trail shows up on the 1966 Mt. Hood National Forest map (below) and then the USGS 1980 Rhododendron quadrangle, but after that it’s gone.

southforksalmonmap

On the hike out we saw a newt!

Newt

Road hiking back:

Then we hiked back up the Old Baldy Trail to Tumala Mountain. The view over the meadows was slightly less cloudy and now we could see the mountains in the distance:

On our way back up Tumala, just past the scree slope, we spotted an old trail heading downhill. Anyone know where this goes?

We reached the top of Tumala Mountain where the old concrete steps from the fire lookout still stand:

To my great disappointment, Mt. Hood remained stubbornly in the clouds:

Looking east:

Looking southeast:

Looking north with the base of Mt. Adams visible. Also, I believe that is Tanner Butte, left of center:

It’s downtown Portland!

Looking south:

Mt. Jefferson barely visible:

It was a long day with a lot of up and down. About 10.2 miles with 2300′ elevation gain. But a fun hike!

TumalaMap

Video:

Salmon River

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rain was forecast for the next day – desperately-needed rain with all these wildfires everywhere – but in the meantime it was still pretty smoky. No point in doing a hike with views today, so we opted for the first few miles of the Salmon River Trail.

Salmon River Trail

Fall colors hadn’t started yet and the forest was still pretty green, albeit bone dry.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

They really don’t want you to camp here:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail is at river level for the first couple miles:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

There are some big trees back in here!

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail ambles along through the forest with occasional glimpses of the river. There are numerous campsites.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The trail climbs up above the river and after about 3.2 miles there is a viewpoint looking down into the canyon. It’s pretty brown this time of year:

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

The canyon is deep and rugged here. Can you believe that there was a proposal in the 1960s to dam the river and build a highway through here? Now the river is a Wild & Scenic River and this area is part of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

Salmon River Trail

Salmon River Trail

We sat and enjoyed a snack, although it was VERY windy here.

Salmon River Trail

Looking down on the viewpoint before heading back down:

Salmon River Trail

There are some waterfalls down in that canyon. It’s rugged terrain down there and the falls are inaccessible. However in the summer of 1963, a subcommittee of the Oregon Geographic Names Board made a trek here and somehow managed to get down to those falls. (Read more about it here.) Final Falls:

Frustration Falls:

A few years ago some kayakers ran the canyon and Oregon Field Guide set them up with cameras to film the expedition. Here’s the segment:

Here’s my video of this hike:

Wildcat Mountain & McIntyre Ridge

After a long 12+ mile hike to McNeil Point on Saturday, Greg and I were ready for something short and sweet on Sunday. So after sleeping in and chilling out in the morning we headed out to the McIntyre Ridge hike in the afternoon.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this hike, the old trailhead used to be at the end of Wildcat Creek Road at the north end of the ridge, until the Forest Service gated the road in 2005 due to its deteriorating condition. At that point the easiest access was to park at the old gravel pit/quarry at the end of Road 150, then hike the Douglas Trail up to McIntyre Ridge. That quarry was a scary place, though. It was totally trashed and there were shotgun shells all over the place. An ad hoc “trailhead” was established around 2009 at the end of spur Road 108, which dead-ended just a short ways downhill from the McIntyre Ridge Trail. Following an old skid road up the hill brought you to the trail, and it was a nice 4.5 mile round-trail hike to the viewpoint bench and back. Unfortunately, the OHV crowd liked this access as well and they were actually driving on the trail.

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So the Forest Service gated that access too. But they also closed the old gravel pit and decommissioned Road 150, establishing a new trailhead further back. TKO helped build a connector trail from the new trailhead to the Douglas Trail so you don’t have to walk the decommissioned road, which now looks like this:

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There is not a lick of signage at the trailhead (probably because it wouldn’t last long thanks to the numerous target shooters in the area), but the trail is easy to spot:

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The trail skirts around the edge of the old gravel pit then connects up with the Douglas Trail where there is an old shot-up trail sign.

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On the Douglas Trail (accompanied by the sounds of target shooting):

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This is a lonely forgotten corner of the Mt. Hood National Forest and I bet this trail receives little to no maintenance. So we were surprised to find it in excellent condition. This was the only blowdown:

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We hiked 2.5 miles up to Wildcat Mountain. No sign of course, but the trail is fairly obvious and there was also some flagging:

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The rhododendrons are THICK up here:

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The summit is just a jumble of rocks surrounded by rhododendrons and trees:

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There is almost no evidence of the lookout that once stood here, not even the usual concrete footings. But there are lots of bits of melted glass:

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I’ve never come across a photo of this lookout, which was burned down in 1953. Panorama photos were taken here in 1933 and boy, have things changed!

North:

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Southwest:

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Southeast:

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And today the summit views just look like this:

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We pushed through the rhododendrons on the east side (it looked like someone at one point had cleared a path here) to a semi-viewpoint. Not really a good place to hang out since the slope is steep here. Some dope actually tried to build a campfire here!

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But if you carefully move around you can get some views. Mt. Hood:

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Mt. Adams:

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Mt. Rainier:

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Back down the Douglas Trail to the intersection with the McIntyre Ridge Trail (again, no sign), which we followed north:

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After 0.7mi we reached the fabulous viewpoint with the memorial bench, which is now a recliner:

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The view was fabulous, with Mt. Hood presiding over the clearcut-free Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness:

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One more minute down the trail past the bench is another nice meadow where the daisies were going gangbusters:

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Along with some other wildflowers:

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The target shooting had continued off and on throughout the whole hike (boy that sound really carries), but shortly after we arrived at the viewpoint it mercifully ended. We had brought a picnic dinner and some wine with us and sat in the shade enjoying the food and the peace and quiet.

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On the hike back down the target shooting started up again. At least we got a reprieve at the viewpoint.

Video: