Slate Rock Lookout Site

Greg and I spent the third weekend of August in Detroit waiting for the solar eclipse. It was too smoky to hike on Sunday the 20th, so we crossed the Detroit Dam and geocached our way up Kinney Creek Road. The final cache of the day was at a feature called Slate Rock, and hey, it happens to be a former lookout site! We had done zero research on this ahead of time; I had just dumped all the geocaches onto my phone when I had a signal and now here we were.

The parking coordinates were about a mile down Road 640, off of Kinney Creek Road (2212). The person who hid the cache said the old trail was followable for part of the way, but you had to get to it first. From the roadside waypoint it looked pretty daunting, a thick wall of small trees and brush.

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But once you pushed through that initial screen, it opened up into a mature forest, so we decided to go for it. At the “trailhead” we spotted an old road or trail signpost with the numbers 1, 2, and then a 6 or a 9. Cool artifact.

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We headed generally uphill towards Slate Rock, hoping to pick up the old trail. There were a number of downed trees and – although they’re not present in this photo – a whole heck of a lot of rhododendrons:

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We could not find the old trail, so we just pushed our way straight uphill. It was not fun. We reached a rocky prominence that turned out to be not quite Slate Rock, but we had some views:

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We could see Slate Rock so we made our way over to it. Along the way we got a view of Mt. Jefferson’s summit poking up above all the wildfire smoke.

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The Cascades south of Jeff:

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Slate Rock, just ahead:

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We found a buried stash of old bottles.

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I was wary of climbing up Slate Rock because getting up isn’t the hard part; it’s getting down that can be tricky. But Greg headed up and took some shots on his iPhone. The views are still great up there, which is often not the case at abandoned lookout sites. Here, though, big tall trees cannot grow on the rocky summit:

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Looking north. Mt. Hood towards the left; Olallie Butte towards the right:

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Looking down:

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A panorama:

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Greg coming down:

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At Slate Rock we could clearly see the old trail so we decided to follow it and see it where it took us:

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Looking back at Slate Rock from the trail below:

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The trail kept going. It was in surprisingly good shape considering how long it’s been abandoned. Sometimes the rhodies had really grown in, but the trail was still easy to follow.

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Until it wasn’t. Abruptly we lost the trail. It didn’t seem to go straight so we switchbacked, but it didn’t go that way either. We were close enough to the road, so we just went cross-country, never seeing any more remnants of the trail. When we got back to the car we were covered in pine needles, leaves, and spider webs. The summit is only about 0.3mi from where we parked, but it sure felt further! I’m glad we checked it out, though. It was pretty cool. We said to ourselves that if anyone wanted to bushwhack their way up there, they’d probably have the summit all to themselves for eclipse-viewing the next morning!

Here is our track. The line on top (or the left, depending on how you look at it) was our bushwhack up. The bottom line (or right line) is the route back, mostly via trail. The big X on the topo map is Slate Rock itself.

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When I got home I looked up the history of Slate Rock. The lookout was built in 1935 and destroyed in 1965.

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Back in the pre-road days  a side trail from the Volcano Trail (which I mentioned in this report from last year) led up to Slate Rock:

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The trail network is still intact on the 1983 North Santiam River USGS map, but the 1985 Lawhead Creek USGS map shows the road, with no sign of a trail. So presumably the trail was abandoned sometime in the early 80s.

Horsepasture Mountain

Three years ago I tried to do the Horsepasture Mountain hike but was greeted by this sign on Road 1993 where you turn off of Road 2638.

Back in 2014 I thought that the closure was recent and temporary, but the sign was still there when I tried to go up this road on Sunday. Well, I though, it’s only three miles, I’ll drive up there and see if it is in fact closed. About a mile up the road I passed a pickup coming down and we stopped to chat. They confirmed that the road was in fact closed, that it was covered by a massive and enormous landslide. They said they had alternative directions and they invited me to follow them, so I did. (Thanks, guys!) More on the detour at the end of this post.

There was a large group of mountain bikers at the trailhead, but they were headed out on the Olallie Trail. The couple in the pickup had hit the trail already and were somewhere ahead of me. So it was quiet and peaceful as I hiked up the trail, which switchbacks up through meadows with a view of O’Leary Mountain:

Then the trail emerges out onto the open slopes just below the summit:

Plenty of wildflowers around:

There was once a lookout up here. You can still see remnants of the rock wall from that time:

Horsepasture Mountain, 1952

Horsepasture Mountain, 1927

The views from the summit are spectacular. Looking north:

Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington:

Three Sisters:

Mt. Bachelor:

Diamond Peak:

Looking west:

A panorama of the peaks:

Great hike! Fantastic reward for very little effort.

The detour involves driving down 2638, then 356, picking up 1993 from the south end (directions here). When I got home I tried to figure out when this landslide happened, but the best I can determine is sometime between November 2011 and July 2013, based on historical imagery in Google Earth. Any landslide that is big enough to show up in a satellite image isn’t going to get repaired. The Forest Service will never fix this, especially since there is an available detour.

On the plus side, driving Road 1993 from the south is actually quite scenic. I had to be careful not to drive off the road while admiring the views and the roadside wildflowers:

Video of this hike:

Rebel Rock Loop Hike

UPDATE: On August 4 the Rebel Fire started in this area and ended up burning over 8,000 acres, including the majority of this hike. The lookout did not survive the flames. Here is a photo of the area where the lookout once stood.

I’ve wanted to do the Rebel Rock Loop for awhile, so when I saw on the Willamette National Forest’s Facebook page that a crew had logged out the entire loop, I figured now was the time to go, before another winter arrived and brought down more trail-blocking trees. It’s a long one, a good 12.5 to 13 miles (depending on who you ask). But there is old growth, wildflowers, views, and almost no people! We did not encounter snow, but we had plenty of mosquitoes for company.

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We hit the trail at 9am. The trails split very near the trailhead and this was the last directional signage we saw on the hike:

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We did the loop clockwise, hiking up the Rebel Creek Trail. It crosses the creek twice in the first mile.

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A cool old mile marker:

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The shady forest was pleasantly cool on this warm day:

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A wilderness sign that’s seen better days:

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The climb was gradual and the forest pleasant, with some nice old growth:

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We did see signs of the recent trail work. Thanks, crew!

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Took a break at this lovely gurgling creek:

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Although I didn’t do a track on this part of the trail (wish I had), I was watching our progress on the map via the Gaia GPS app. According to the GPS we had already passed the junction, but we had been looking for it and not seen it. We got to this very overgrown meadow with an old signpost and we could just barely make out the trail we wanted. If not for that old post, we probably would have walked right past the junction. I definitely appreciate the log-cutting by the trail crew but I wish they’d had time to brush out the trail as well.

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The trail traverses the slopes below Rebel Rock, which was hidden above us on the left. This part was all overgrown as well:

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Looking across the canyon of that little side creek we crossed earlier:

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There were bees and butterflies all over the place:

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We crossed some open rocky clearings with wildflowers, including scarlet gilia:

We got our first glimpse of the lookout:

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Further down the trail, an unmarked side trail leads to the lookout. There was a cairn when we were there:

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The lookout was built in 1955, but it hasn’t been staffed in about 50 years. It’s in bad shape, but considering how long it’s sat here abandoned, exposed to the weather, it’s amazing that it’s still standing at all.

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The old outhouse in the woods is still standing:

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The lookout is unusual in that it’s not on a summit with a 360-degree view, but perched on a cliff with a view in only three directions. It looks south out over the South Fork Mackenzie River.

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The only Cascade peak you can see is Mt. Bachelor, although of course back when this was an active lookout that peak was known as Bachelor Butte:

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Chucksney Mountain:

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Back on the trail we continued on through more rocky clearings with wildflowers:

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One of these clearings has a view back into the heart of the wilderness with views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters:

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We kept looking back from this stretch of trail to get a glimpse of Rebel Rock, but we never did see it. Maybe we just didn’t turn around at the right spot. The trail switchbacks down through sloping meadows:

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And there were more meadows like the ones we had hiked through earlier, with head-high vegetation that obscured the ground at our feet, including any obstacles. We’d come across several holes and always managed to avoid them, but then Greg stepped in one and went down. He wasn’t badly injured, but his foot was now hurting and we were still four miles from the trailhead. Yikes.

Greg soldiered on and it was a relief to leave the overgrown meadows behind and re-enter the forest:

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Another old mile marker. Three more miles to go:

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We saw a surprising amount of old phone line from the days when the lookout was active. It was hanging from insulators in the trees along the trail:

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Hiked across the wilderness boundary:

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Then just a short distance from the trailhead, well past the wilderness boundary, was this new-looking sign. Interesting;

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We finally got back to the car at 5:30. I knew this was going to be a workout hike and it was. My feet were hurtin’ by the time we were done. We cooled our aching feet and legs in the creek near the trailhead.

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Here’s a video of the hike:

Snowshoeing the Isaac Nickerson Loop

Greg and I spent New Year’s weekend in Bend. On our way there on Saturday we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do some snowshoeing since it was such a gorgeous day! We stopped at the small Ikenick Sno Park (right across Highway 126 from Clear Lake) and headed out on the Isaac Nickerson Loop.

You can start off on the road, or start off with a short jaunt through the trees (marked by blue diamonds) which joins up with the road. We opted for the forest.

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Once the trail dumped us on Road 650 it was easy going thanks to a nice path cleared through the snow. It looked awfully even, like it had been machine-groomed somehow. I’ve never seen anything like it. In any case, it made for fast going.

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After a mile we turned onto spur 637, traveling through a young forest filling in an old clearcut site:

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The snow buildup on stumps and logs was pretty amazing.

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Frosty!

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We saw all sorts of little critter tracks beside and crossing our path.

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We left the old clearcut and re-entered mature forest:

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Then we re-entered another recovering clearcut:

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637 curved and started climbing and when we turned to look behind us we had our first view of Three Fingered Jack:

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A little further along we got our one and only view of the Three Sisters, which looked beautiful on this clear day:

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This was north of the sisters and we think it’s Belknap Crater:

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A little further along still we got a peek through the trees at Mt. Washington:

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According to our 15-year-old copy of Snowshoe Routes: Oregon, somewhere around this spot was the proposed site of a snowshoer/skier shelter. Guess that never panned out because we saw no mention of it elsewhere. The route looped around and back down to 650, which we followed back to the sno park. The section of road between the two junctions was not groomed so it was slower going. But we got another view of Three Fingered Jack:

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This was a really nice loop. Not super hard, nice variety, and a few views along the way. Also, we only saw two people on the trail! We couldn’t believe our good luck, and imagined the crowds of people we would be encountering if we were at a Mt. Hood sno park that day.

Here’s a map of the route. You can click on the image to see the full map of the area:

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Speaking of which, the Willamette National Forest has these really nice sno park nice trail maps on its websites. On the Maxwell Butte page they even have GPS files! I find, in general, that the quality of data and information on the WNF website is vastly superior to what you find on the Mt. Hood National Forest site.

Coffin Mountain

After our stay at Gold Butte we drove all the way down to Coffin Mountain and hiked there. Our timing was good. Even though the lower beargrass was done, the beargrass up top was looking very nice, and there were other wildflowers along the whole trail.

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We hit the trail at 12:45. The wildflower show starts immediately on this hike, a welcome treat.

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The forecast threatened rain, but it fortunately never materialized, and the heavy cloud cover stayed high enough that we still had views (although it sure made for a muggy day, ugh.)

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Almost there!

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At the summit I talked to Ann at the lookout. She had just arrived the day before, although she normally comes up in June. I sat and ate my snack and enjoyed the view.

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This was a documentation hike for Greg (where he documents and photographs every single wildflower), so he was taking his time, but after nearly an hour at the summit there was still no sign of him. I headed back down and ran into him just below the summit. He didn’t get back to the car until 5, which means it took over four hours to do a three-mile hike. I think this might be a new record! This is why I never go anywhere without a book. 😉

Anyway, great wildflower hike and we got super lucky with the weather, which we thought was going to be much worse than it was.

Blowout Suspension Bridge and Volcano Trail

Last week while Greg and I were holed up in a Detroit-area cabin – our camping plans having been rained out – we went to explore something that recently came to our attention thanks to Matt Reeder: the suspension bridge over Blowout Arm on Detroit Lake.

We drove down Blowout Road until we reached the little unsigned trailhead parking area. We followed the trail down towards the bridge. This section of trail looked like it follows an old road bed.

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We were surprised what a nice bridge this was!

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Matt had said the trail on the other side petered out and didn’t go anywhere, so we didn’t follow it.

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We were here on a rainy Friday, but this place is obviously PARTY CENTRAL on nicer days. There was trash everywhere and the ground was trampled all over. When we were there, there was just one pair of boats blasting terrible music that echoed off the canyon walls.

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Once we got home I took a look at the old topo maps and found that the trail was once part of an extensive trail network in the area, and that the suspension bridge was along an old trail called the Volcano Trail. (Of course, this trail was long ago obliterated by logging and road-building.)

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Then I came across this 1994 Blowout Watershed Analysis which had some very interesting tidbits.

The Volcano Trail is an arterial trail that served as an integral part of the Forest Service communication and administrative network. It connected the basin of the North Santiam River with the Box Canyon Shelter, the Volcano/Kinney Creek Shelter, and the Slate Rock Lookout on the divide between the North and Middle Santiam Rivers.

The Detroit Dam Construction was completed in 1952. Prior to completion of the Dam, the Army Corps of Engineers built two suspension bridges over Box Canyon and Blowout Creeks in order to tie the existing Volcano trail together since a portion would have been inundated with water when the reservoir was full.

Box Canyon is the next one over and there isn’t a suspension bridge there anymore. I wonder when that one was removed.

Blowout suspension bridge: The bridge itself is a significant recreational attraction. It dates from the early 1950’s and is one of the last remaining bridges of its type in the region. It is also the focal pint of other activities including camping, fishing, and swimming. The bridge is showing signs of aging and needs to be restored or replaced.

In a document with the same name (but the year 2000 this time) it said this:

The Blowout Creek Suspension Bridge has been closed for public safety due to corroding braces support and cables. However regardless of posting closure notices it is still used as a jumping/diving platform by many young visitors which poses safety concern.

The bridge that’s there now doesn’t look like it dates from the 1950s, so it seems that after that 2000 closure they replaced it. Any plans to extend the trail on the other side sure haven’t gone anywhere, big surprise. It would be cool if the trail were rebuilt to the old lookout site at Kinney Ridge, although I don’t know if views exist there anymore or if it’s overgrown.

Anyway, cool history. Has anyone explored that area?

Jefferson Park

We were in Jefferson Park three days and we ran across Eric the wilderness ranger all three days. He was enforcing the campfire ban, checking permits, and reminding people about the wilderness rules. What a thankless job. He told us he also patrols Marion Lake and that people abandon broken tents and rafts there all the time. The previous weekend he had hauled out 40 pounds of garbage from there and ran into a hiker who also had picked up about 40 pounds worth of other people’s trash. WTH, people! Rangers and fellow hikers are not your maids. Pack out your damn trash.

On to the photos.

We got a later start than usual, hitting the trail at 1:40pm and crossing Whitewater Creek later in the day than we usually do. In the afternoon the creek was high and full of glacial sediment.

On the PCT just before reaching Jefferson Park is a sign with an EXTREMELY bad map showing where the campsites are. (Before you go, print out this much better map.)

There are now signs throughout Jeff Park so it’s easier to find your way around the maze of trails. It’s about time! This idea is LONG overdue, especially since the use trails around those lakes are not on any map.

Extremely low water at Scout Lake:

We got a really nice campsite with a view of Park Butte and Rock Lake.

A lovely evening at Bays Lake:

Milky Way over Mt. Jefferson:

Peaceful morning at Bays Lake:

Since we had never been there before, we stopped by Park Lake on our way up Park Ridge:

Crossing the outflow of Russell Lake. Bone dry!

Park Ridge straight ahead:

Looking north from Park Ridge at Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte:

View of Mt. Jefferson from Park Ridge:

The snowfield just north of the ridge is all melted:

Attempting to follow Park Ridge over to Park Butte. We had hoped there would be a booth path, but there wasn’t, and the sandy rocky terrain made for slow going:

We gave up on that and descended to the unnamed meltwater pond below:

Looking back up at where we were:

Heading cross country back to the trail:

Saw a buck!

Just about all the wildflowers are done and gone, but some gentian are still hanging around.

We stopped and hung out at Russell Lake for awhile:

Back at Bays Lake Greg decided to go for a swim:

It was pretty windy that evening, so there were no lake reflections, but we had a great sunset:

Heading out the next day under overcast skies. We’ll be back!

Castle Rock

I did the short hike to Castle Rock on Sunday morning before heading home from a weekend spent in the area. The whole hike is just 2.5 miles round-trip, although before the road was built the hike up from the bottom was MUCH longer.

There was once a series of lookouts here. This is the one that was built in 1925:

The trees have really grown up since the last lookout was removed in the 1970s and you have to move around to different parts of the summit to see in the various directions.

Mt. Washington:

Looking south and west:

Looking north and east:

The Three Sisters, backlit by the HOT morning sun:

Looking north:

Cool tree!

I sat on the summit eating my snacks and enjoying the view. I had the place to myself for a little while, but then several loud families arrived in quick succession, so I beat a hasty retreat. On the way down I did some maintenance on the switchbacks, nearly every one of which had been short-cutted. 🙄 🙄

Great little hike where you get a nice reward for very little effort. It was perfect for a morning hike before the LONG three-hour drive home.

Chucksney Mountain

On the 4th of July I hiked up Chucksney Mountain. There is a 10.3-mile 2000′ EG loop trail that goes up to the summit and back down.

Since I was on my own I was able to get a nice early start and the hit the trail by 7:30. The trail climbs up and up and up through varying types of forest. There are actually some pretty big trees in here, which was nice.

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I started seeing some beargrass as I got closer to the top. Much of it was past peak, but not all of it. I can tell that it was a good beargrass year here:

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Also saw some tiger lilies:

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And scarlet gilia:

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And paintbrush:

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More flowers:

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I came to one patch that had clearly been burned in the not too distant past. It still smelt ashy. It wasn’t too widespread, though, so they must have spotted it and put it out quickly.

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There was one section of trail near the top that traversed a west-facing grassy slope. The trail was completely obscured. This is looking back along the section I just hiked.

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After all that climbing, finally the summit meadow:

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Apparently these meadows are known for good wildflower displays in summer. But the flowers were toast. I figure I was about 3-4 weeks too late for the bloom. The lupine had gone to seed and the beargrass were past peak. I don’t even know what other kinds of flowers there may have been, since I’m not good at identifying stuff just by leaves.

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Here is an iPhone panorama looking east. I have no idea where all these clouds came from since the forecast called for clear sunny weather.

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Closer look:

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Looking west (the second one is an iPhone pano):

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While I was sitting and snacking a butterfly came and posed on my pack. Thanks, beautiful!

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Not sure what kind of bird this is, but it too seemed in a posing mood:

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Once the trail re-entered the trees I saw the best beargrass I’d seen on the whole hike so far. It was as tall as me and only some of it was past peak. It was pretty abundant.

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To loop back down I hooked up with the Grasshopper Mountain Trail and began the LONG descent back to the car. Seemed to take a long time, or so my knees thought.

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So, quite a long hike, at least for me. 10 miles is about my limit for one day. Wish I hadn’t missed the peak of the bloom, but at least I got to see some beargrass and nice views. BTW, the name of this mountain is from a local Indian celebrity made his home in the valley of the Middle Fork Willamette River, according to Oregon Geographic Names.

I don’t think this trail sees many visitors, although I did see signs of trail maintenance. In the fourth edition of 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades this is a back-of-the-book hike, but if you have a third edition it’s hike #72.

Williams and Erma Bell Lake

I spent this past weekend camped at French Pete Campground and exploring the area with some day hikes. On Friday I headed for the Three Sisters Wilderness to hike the eight mile loop that goes past Erma Bell Lakes and Williams Lake.

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On the way to the trailhead I saw a doe and two fawns on the road ahead. That’s the second time in less than a week!

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The fawn on the right didn’t know what to do. Rather than follow mom, it ran to the right and hid in the bushes right by the side of the road. I snapped a quick picture through the window then moved on so the poor little guy could reunite with his family.

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The trail is FLAT. It’s also shady. Both of these qualities were perfect for another scorching hot day.

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A young grouse exploded out of the brush and flew up into a tree, scaring the crap out of me. A few seconds later a sibling did the same and headed for a different tree. And then a much bigger grouse, surely the mother, followed suit, and made annoyed noises at me from her tree. Here’s a picture of the first grouse.

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The lower of the three lakes. Sheesh, it was hot in the sun after being in the forest!

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In-between the lower and middle lakes is a lovely waterfall, which the Northwest Waterfall Survey calls Erma Bell Lake Falls. It’s right off the trail and the partial viewpoint from the top is easy enough to get to, although to get to the bottom requires a bit of scrambling on a steep booth path.

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If you look at the topo map, it looks like there are a number of waterfalls on this creek downstream of the lower lake. The creek takes a dive off the plateau on its way to the Middle Fork Willamette River. Steep terrain there.

The middle lake. Man that water is CLEAR!

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There were quite a few iridescent blue dragonflies at this lake.

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The upper lake:

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I get the sense that all three of these lakes are very popular backpacking destinations. There were signs everywhere about camping in designated campsites only. Unfortunately the Forest Service doesn’t provide any maps or guidance about finding these designated campsites. They don’t even tell you how many there are at each lake.

At last, Williams Lake! This is where I allowed myself a nice cool dip, although frankly the water was shockingly warm. There was none of that adrenaline rush you get dipping into a cold body of water, because it was not cold at all. Still felt refreshing though!

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Spotted a toad:

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After lingering at the lake for awhile, snacking and soaking, I continued on to finish the last part of the loop. After a long dry stretch through the woods, Otter Lake was the last lake on the loop:

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Considering it was a holiday weekend and considering the presence of so much swimming potential, I was surprised to see no other hikers on the trail. The only people I saw were some dads and sons who had already set up camp at the lower lake when I hiked by. There’s nothing spectacular and jaw-dropping about this hike, but it’s lovely all the same.