Blair Lake Trail to Spring Prairie

The last weekend of June Greg and I stayed at the Pickett Butte Lookout (see report), which was great. Unfortunately it was a HOT HOT HOT weekend, but we still had a great time.

On the drive down we made a pretty big detour to hike the Blair Lake Trail up to Mule Mountain. After seeing this report and the beargrass extravaganza, we decided we had to see it. So we left early on Thursday and headed towards Oakridge. Despite getting up at 5am, we didn’t hit the trail until 10:30. The car’s dashboard said it was 68 degrees outside, but it felt more like 80.

We started seeing beargrass pretty much right away:

Blair Meadows

Beargrass

Beargrass in Blair Meadows

You know it’s going to be a good beargrass display when it’s prolific even in the forest:

Beargrass in the forest

We took a short side trip to a viewpoint overlooking the lake where a geocache is hidden:

Found the geocache

Blair Lake Trail

Saw some rhododendrons in bloom:

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As we emerged into the open meadows (some maps call this Beal Prairie) we got a view of Diamond Peak:

Blair Lake Trail

The meadows were AWESOME! There were millions of beargrass blooming there. It was crazy! Beargrass blooms in cycles. It’ll be good one year, then be mediocre for a few years. Here is what it looked like when I was here in 2013:

Beal Prairie

And this year:

Blair Lake Trail

Blair Lake Trail

Blair Lake Trail

Blair Lake Trail

Blair Lake Trail

Blair Lake Trail

Beargrass

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The trail tops out at Spring Prairie where, as I mentioned in my 2013 report, a fire lookout cabin was built here in 1930 before being moved one mile away in 1953. It shows up in this 1933 panorama photo:

Here is the foundation:

Blair Lake Trail

The views from here are pretty sweet. Three Sisters:

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Three Sisters

Diamond Peak:

Spring Prairie

Diamond Peak

Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Jefferson

Mountains

We got back to the car at 3:30 with many miles ahead of us until reaching the lookout, which we finally reached at 8:30. The detour was WELL worth it, though!

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!

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!

Browder Ridge

August 13, 2011

Browder Ridge is the big monolith just south of Iron Mountain. (Here is a photo of Browder from Iron Mountain, as photographed by Greg a few years ago.) The route that Sullivan recommends is from the east side. Greg wanted to do the route on the west side because there were a series of geocaches along that route. I said sure, why not. But since this hike wasn’t in the book, I had no knowledge of what to expect. (I would later discover that the people who hid the geocaches clearly state on geocaching.com that the hike is 5.75 miles one-way. Very dumb of me to not read up beforehand.)

We hit the trail at noon (which, we would later discover, was FAR too late for this hike). There was a sign at the trailhead with the most precise mileage I’ve ever seen on a trail sign. Precise, yes. Correct, no. (It was actually 4 miles to the junction, not 3.69.)

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After less than a mile we reached an ENORMOUS meadow that was 99% ferns and 1% wildflowers. The ferns were as tall as us in some spots! The meadow stretched far up the hillside, and our trail switch-backed up to the very top of this meadow.

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There were plenty of butterflies and bumblebees on this hike. I even got a shot of them together!

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After climbing up through the fern meadow, the trail leveled out a bit for awhile, passing through one meadow after another, with occasional views of the Three Sisters.

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Some of the meadows were nice little flower meadows, and some of the meadows were full of those huge ferns. The fern meadows were exhausting because the vegetation was growing all over the trail. Not so bad that we couldn’t find our route, but bad enough to slow us down. Plus we couldn’t see the trail beneath our feet and there were numerous holes and rocks to watch out for. So it was slow going through those fern meadows. This is a shot of the trail in a fern meadow. Hard to see, isn’t it?

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We hiked through a small burned area that looked like it was only a few years old.

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After several miles we reached a flat rocky area that had a nice view of the Three Sisters. This would be a nice spot to camp, methinks!

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After four miles we reached the junction with the trail to Heart Lake and the summit. The trail thus far had clearly not been maintained in awhile, but this next stretch was even worse. There were a number of blowdowns, most of them old snags, some of which had been there so long that the detour trails around the fallen trees were far more prominent than the old trail underneath them. Crawling over one of these blowdowns I scraped up my thigh on one of those pokey branch stubs.

But then the trail left the forest and passed through still more meadows, with ever-better views of the Three Sisters.

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As of the junction, we were now on the same route as described in Sullivan’s book. His suggestion for getting to the summit (the official trail doesn’t go there) is to cut cross-country uphill through a meadow until you hit the hiker-established use trail that follows the ridge to the summit. The geocachers described a different route, which turned out to be far easier. Right after re-entering the trees look for this snag on your left.

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Behind that snag is a big fallen log and beyond that log is the ridge trail to the summit. It’s fairly easy to follow. There are a few spots where it seems to end in a wall of trees, but if you go left around the trees it’s possible to keep going. This is halfway up the spine, looking back down:

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We reached the summit at 4:30, where we had amazing views in nearly all directions (this hike is advertised as having 360-degree views, but trees block your views in some directions).

Echo Peak in the foreground, with Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack beyond:

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Coffin and Bachelor Mountains (where we hiked the day before) and Mt. Hood:

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The Three Sisters again:

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Greg taking photos. You may notice some lupine here. There was a lot of it, but unfortunately nearly all of it was well past peak.

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The layers of hills to the southeast looked cool in the afternoon light.

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We were both running dangerously short on water. Fortunately we found a snowbank just below the summit and we stuffed Greg’s bottles and my Camelbak with snow, which made for cold refreshing water on the hike back down. If we hadn’t found that snow, we would have run out of water about two hours before getting back to the car.

It didn’t seem like an hour had passed, but it was 5:30 by the time we were able to tear ourselves away from our well-earned rest and head back down. With sunset approaching and more than 5.5 miles to go before we reached the car, our hike out was as quick a pace as we could manage.

At some point on the way down, we could hear what sounded like baying dogs way down in the canyon of Browder Creek below us. There were no campgrounds or anything down there, so we concluded we were hearing coyotes. The sound continued off and on for about half an hour.

Sunset occurred while we were still making the long traverse back. We didn’t have a clear view west, but I still got a pretty nice shot. A thick layer of low clouds was coming in from the west, and the leading tendrils of this cloud bank had already reached into the valleys and canyons below.

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It was dusk by the time we tackled the last mile of trail through the trees. Another 20 minutes and we would have needed our headlamps. We were back to the car by 8:30 and boy was I happy to see it! I was totally wiped and very hungry, facing a 45-minute drive back to Riverside CG and then dinner prep. (We ended up eating at 10:00.)

Bachelor Mountain and Coffin

Greg and I headed out to the Detroit Lake area on Friday and grabbed a campsite at the Riverside Campground, about 20 minutes past Detroit. Marion Forks CG was all full, and Riverside now accepts reservations so most of those sites were taken as well. We managed to snag the last spot by the river, where we set up our tent before heading off to hike.

Our first stop was Bachelor Mountain (map). From the trailhead we had a nice view of neighboring Coffin Mountain, which was our next hike.

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We hit the trail about 12:45 under gorgeous blue skies. Less than a mile into the hike we hit a meadow with views of the Three Sisters (no photo) and the meadows on Coffin Mountain.

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We ate lunch in the shade at the edge of the meadow, watching hummingbirds and butterflies frolic amongst the wildflowers, before moving on. The trail made a long traverse along the side of the hill, and we started getting a peek at Mt. Jefferson.

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Zoomed-in on Greg far ahead of me.

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Better and better views of Mt. Jefferson. Oooh, ahh!

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And then we views of the peak of Bachelor Mountain, which we hadn’t been able to see before.

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After a flat stretch through the old Buck Mountain Burn from 1967, we re-entered the forest where there was a junction. Straight ahead goes to Bruno Meadows, but we headed left up to the peak, climbing up first through forest and then along rocky slopes. The views got better and better.

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And then we were at the top, with AMAZING views all around us. Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters, along with flat, snowy Tam McArthur Rim (to the left of Mt. Washington):

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Mt. Jefferson:
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Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson again:
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Three Fingered Jack:
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And us!
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We could also see Coffin Mountain next door, and the little lookout at the top. It’s hard to see here, but it’s on the rocky bit on the right side of the photo.

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We found the geocache, which had only been logged twice in the last 12 months. With Coffin Mountain still on the day’s agenda, we reluctantly headed back down. On the way down the mosquitoes made their presence known, and before the bug spray came out I got several bites that kept me awake with the most horrible itching on Saturday and Sunday nights.

We were back to the car at 3:50 and off to Coffin Mountain (map) to hike it as well. We hit the trail at 4:00.

The trail immediately charges up the hill. At first the trail starts out in the forest, but soon enough we started having views of nearby Bachelor Mountain and Mt. Jefferson.

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The trail levels out a little bit before climbing steeply again through the expansive meadows on the slopes of Coffin Mountain. The trail makes a few switchbacks in the meadows on its way up. And up. And up.

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The enormous meadows that we hiked through were chock full of beargrass. Unfortunately, most it was WELL past peak. I bet it looked AWESOME about 2-3 weeks ago. Oh well.

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(That is not the summit in the photo above, by the way. You can’t actually see the summit until the very end of the hike.)

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For most of the hike, unfortunately, we could hear what sounded like logging operations less than a mile away. Sounds of heavy equipment and backup-beeping drifted through the forest to our ears. NOT the kinds of sounds you want to hear on such a pretty hike.

After a really tough and tiring climb (remember that we had already hiked up one peak that day), the trail finally leveled out on top of the mountain and we had a short hike through the trees before we emerged from the forest to finally see the summit and the fire lookout there.

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The lookout is closed to visitors, but the nice woman who worked there came out on the catwalk and spoke to us. She said the fire crew had packed her gear in on July 9, with just a few patches of snow on the ground! Considering the late snowmelt this year and the relatively high elevation of the summit (5700′) I thought she had only been there a few weeks, not a month+! Her lookout, by the way, had a feature I’ve never seen on a lookout before: a nice little deck with a mini picnic table overlooking the view of Mt. Jefferson. Now THAT would be a great place to eat one’s breakfast!

She has pretty awesome views in nearly all directions from that lookout, of course. Bachelor Mountain and Mt. Jefferson:

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Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters:

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The “other summit” of Coffin Mountain where the radio towers are:

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Although I don’t have a photo of it, we could also see the huge swath of burned forest from the B&B fire a few years back. Wow, that fire burned a lot of acreage.

Not far from the lookout is a place that the woman referred to as “the point.” We went out there and admired the lovely evening views for awhile before heading back down.

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On the way back down we came across this lovely spot after finding the geocache:

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We were back to car at 7:00 and then headed back to the campground for a well-deserved veggie burger dinner and cold beers.

Sawtooth Rock and Mt. June

July 4, 2011

On the 4th of July, and day 4 of our trip, we headed up to the Mt. June Trailhead to hike the Sawtooth Trail, which promised to take us to both wildflowers and views on yet another gorgeous day.

From the trailhead the first 3/4 mile is through the forest before you reach the junction with the Sawtooth Trail. Going right will take you to Mt. June. Going left will take you to Sawtooth Rock and eventually Hardesty Mountain. We turned left.

The trail followed the ridgeline, which meant lots of up and down. It was a bit disheartening knowing we’d have uphill on the way back, but fortunately it wasn’t too much. The forest has a very healthy understory of rhododendron. We were too early for it, but there was TONS of it.

Just before reaching the big meadow at Sawtooth Rock, we spotted a patch of fairy slippers. There were more than 20 of them, which is about five times the amount I’ve ever seen growing in one place before. No picture; the light was too poor.

And then we reached the meadow. POW! It was bursting with wildflowers. Greg would end up counting more than 40 different kinds. Awesome!

From the meadow we had a nice view over to Mt. June, where we would be heading after lunch:

The meadow was long and we kept stopping to marvel at all the flowers and to take pictures. Although there weren’t any showy balsamroot like there are on Dog Mountain, this was one of the coolest wildflower meadows I had ever seen. We eventually reached the end of the meadow, where the trail headed into the trees to Hardesty Mountain. Sawtooth Rock, for which this trail is named, made a fine place to stop and eat lunch:

After lunch we hiked back across the meadow and retraced our steps to the junction so we could climb up Mt. June.

The trail up to Mt. June is very steep and very not fun. By now it was mid afternoon and very warm. It was a hard trudge up to the top. But oh man, was it ever worth it! The views were pretty freakin’ incredible. We could see snowy peaks from one end of the state to the other: the tippy top of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, Diamond Peak, and the snowy mountain we saw yesterday from moon Point that could be either Mt. Scott or Mt. McLoughlin. This panorama photo doesn’t even do it justice:

See the green meadow on the hill in the foreground? That’s the meadow we just came from:

We could see a little east towards Eugene too.

There used to be a fire lookout tower up here. All that’s left of it is the foundation:

It was such a nice day and such a nice view, it was hard to leave, but we had to go to Corvallis to get Greg’s car and then on to Portland, so we had many miles to go before day’s end. Still, this was a mighty fine end to a beautiful weekend!

Youngs Rock and Moon Point

July 3, 2011

On day 3 of our Oakridge weekend, we headed up to Youngs Rock.

Youngs Rock is in the hills southeast of Oakridge. Probably about a 45-minute drive. There’s a trail that starts up at Warner Mountain, off Road 439 and descends about six miles down to Road 21. It’s very popular with mountain bikers. We took a back door route onto the trail: Road 2129 loosely parallels the trail and a short side road goes up and intersects the trail. The side road has very deep tire ruts, so we parked on Road 2129 and walked the 0.1 mile up the side road to pick up the trail and head north to Youngs Rock.

The mosquitoes were absolutely dreadful on this hike. I had no headnet and we were very low on bug spray. It was very warm, but I had to wear my pant legs and long sleeves for a good chunk of the hike to avoid being eaten alive.

The trail climbs up and up, passing through several meadows, some with views:

After a few miles we could see Youngs Rock ahead of us:

And then the trail was passing right below it:

The trail doesn’t get any closer to the rock than you see in the photo, to my disappointment. You can scramble up to the base of it in some places, and there’s even a goecache somewhere up on it, but we were unable to find a way to reach it.

After a viewless lunch in the forest, we decided to push on to Moon Point. The trail wrapped around to the west side of the slope and the vegetation instantly became much more lush and green:

It was getting pretty warm, and the mosquitoes were making things worse, so we took temporary relief from a stream that we crossed, splashing our faces and necks with the cold water. Oh boy did that feel good!

After climbing up through the forest, we finally reached the side trail to Moon Point and we instantly hit some large patches of snow. (We were at about 5,000 feet). UGH. Fortunately they were fairly easy to navigate and other people had come before, so we didn’t lose our way. Where snow had recently melted we saw plenty of glacier lilies:

The trees here were big and tall:

And then the trail ended at Moon Point and finally we had some views! Here is the view looking back towards Youngs Rock. Beyond is the very tip of Mt. Thielsen and a snowy peak that is either Mt. Scott or Mt. McLoughlin (we could never figure out which):

The view to the west:

Here’s Greg right after finding the geocache hidden here:

And a picture of us, courtesy of my camera propped on rocks. A breeze here kept the mosquitoes away, hence our happy smiles and uncovered skin.

After enjoying the views we headed back, swarmed by skeeters once again. Back at the car we only did the quickest of stretches before we hopped in and sped away to flee the bugs. Our totals for the day: 7.1 miles and 2,300 feet elevation gain.

On the way home we stopped at Hills Creek Lake to use the restroom at the boat ramp and I took a quick picture because the water was SOOOO blue. Mighty fine weather.

Tire Mountain

July 2, 2011

After a rough night at the Black Canyon Campground, where we learned a tough lesson about how much louder trains are when the sound is contained in a canyon, we woke up to day 2 of our trip with warm weather and sunny skies. We met up with Tanya Harvey, local botany expert, and headed up to Tire Mountain.

The hike starts out on the Alpine Trail, a popular mountain biking route. After hiking through the forest for a little bit, you come out in this gorgeous meadow with views to the east. Our timing was PERFECT and the meadow was chock full of wildflowers, especially rosy plectritis.

Views to the east include Diamond Peak (the small white blob on the horizon)…

…as well as most of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor:

After the meadow, we left the Alpine Trail and headed down the Tire Mountain trail, which passes through some forest…

…and several different meadows with various different wildflowers until you get to one HUGE meadow:

Not used to seeing balsamroot blooming in July, but here it is:

And of course lots of other wildflowers. This place was absolutely packed with blooms!

Looking back across the meadow:

A group of about a dozen mountain bikers came through at one point:

From this meadow our view was to the south, out over the rolling forested hills:

We climbed up to the ridge at the top of the meadow, and found a rocky point facing west where we ate out lunch in the sunshine, which felt oh so good after all the months of cold gray weather we’ve had!

While we were here, we noticed these specks of white in the sky. As they drew closer, we saw it was a flock of pelicans. Cool!

After lunch we made our way back across the meadow along the top of it before dropping down to the trail to head back. We saw still MORE wildflowers up here:

We had a peek at what Tanya said was Fairview Mountain:

Another look at the meadow, with the trail below and the ridge above:

Back on the trail we were shaded by conifers and bigleaf maples:

After we got back to the campground, we cooled off in the Middle Fork Willamette River, which felt really great:

And after dinner we checked out nearby hidden Bridge Creek Falls:

All in all a great day in the sun!

Deception Butte

July 1, 2011

After spending hours pouring over books and maps trying to find a 4th of July weekend destination where we wouldn’t encounter too much snow, we settled on the Oakridge area southeast of Eugene.

We headed down there Friday afternoon and snagged a campsite at the Black Canyon Campground, a few miles west of the Middle Fork Ranger Station. We got there a little before 5:00 and were worried we wouldn’t get a spot, but we had no trouble and in fact the campground never got close to full over the weekend, much to my surprise.

Before dinner we headed up to Deception Butte for a quick hike. You can hike up from the ranger station, or take the much shorter trail from Road 549, which is what we did.

Mosquitoes hovered around us from the moment we got out of the car, and I discovered that I had not packed either my headnet or my bug spray. Ack! So despite the warm weather I kept my long sleeves on and zipped on my pant legs.

The trail is pretty flat for the first 3/4 mile, but then it climbs VERY steeply up to the summit. I had not brought my hiking poles and regretted that decision big time!

The trail brought us to a viewpoint looking south out over the forest. There were also rhododendron and a few beargrass in bloom here. (And a geocache!)

The trail continued faintly towards the west and we followed it, where five minutes later we reached a beautiful sloping meadow with views to the west. Although the meadow looks dead and brown in the photos, it was beautifully golden in the evening light, and there were actually quite a few wildflowers blooming here.

We had views to the west where we could see the town of Oakridge below and Diamond Peak straight ahead.

We lingered here for a little bit enjoying the beautiful evening, but then headed back to the car so we could enjoy our wine and pesto pasta dinner back at the campground.