Saturday, May 9, 2020
Today we set off for Clear Lake and Goat Mountain in the Clackamas River Ranger District south of Estacada. Goat Mountain is fairly prominent and easily recognizable from many spots in the area due to its two sets of radio towers. There’s a road all the way to the top.
There are geocaches at both the lake and the mountain and in past logs people mentioned the difficulty in navigating the confusing maze of roads. I studied the maps ahead of time and picked out a route, getting onto Road 4510 where it intersects with Road 45 (aka Hillockburn Road) just south of the Hillockburn Trailhead. But that route proved not to pan out due to a decommissioned road (see my map at the bottom of the post). We backtracked to Road 45 and picked up the 145 spur and hopped onto 4510 from there. I’m not sure how I missed this when studying the maps earlier.
We got pretty close to Clear Lake before we reached some rough road. We parked and started walking. We wouldn’t have been able to go much further anyway since there is a huge berm blocking the road about a half mile before the lake:
Of course the OHVs have constructed a detour around it:
Just past the berm we ran into a group of people on dirt bikes and ATVs taking a break. We stopped to chat briefly. They had just been to the lake and were now headed up to Goat Mountain. We parted ways and kept hiking toward the lake. There was a pretty big patch of deep snow:
As we descended down to the lake we got a glimpse of the radio towers on Goat Mountain above the lake:
We could hear target shooting at the lake as we approached. We hollered to make our presence known so we didn’t get shot. We told them we were just looking for a geocache and they told us they were shooting towards the cliff.
This is Clear Lake. Quite pretty! The radio towers are out of sight and out of frame on the right:
The shot below is at the lakeshore looking back at the road. We hiked down from the right. The road continues on to the left. Man, this place is a mess:
We found the geocache and got the hell out of there. Being so close to the shooters and having the cliff walls deflect the sound back was deafening. What could have been a peaceful and lovely place to linger for a few minutes was instead loud and stressful.
Back at the car we continued south on 4510, passing 4520 on the left (which would be our return route). We picked up a spur angling uphill to the right, then made a sharp right turn onto 021. The road to the left there was bermed. We made our way slowly up 021, which is not in horrible shape (since maintenance trucks need to get up here to the radio towers) but the size of the rocks on the road were pretty huge and I was nervous about getting a flat tire. Then we reached a patch of soft and muddy snow that I was worried about getting stuck in, so we decided to park and walk the rest of the way.
Maybe it’s fortuitous that we did that, because in the snow we found a discarded crowbar which could have punctured a tire if we had hit it wrong. We threw it off into the trees:
This is the size of the “gravel” on the road, with my foot for comparison. Sheesh:
We continued on:
Just before a gate we reached a wide open area that is clearly popular with target shooters, although there were none today:
There were shotgun shells and tons of trash:
The gate is at the boundary between the Mt. Hood National Forest and the BLM land we were about to enter. It was open but it is now completely pointless anyway since the off-roading crowd have created a detour around the right side that is so wide you could drive a regular vehicle on it:
Almost to the top:
Turnaround at the top:
The view up there was great! Mt. Hood was the closest:
But we could also see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams, as well as Clear Lake below us:
View to the northwest:
Zoomed-in view of downtown Portland:
To the southwest we could see the tops of Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson, with nearby South Fork Mountain in the middle:
For a place with such nice views, it was anything but peaceful. We could hear target shooting in the forest in multiple spots, including a new set of target shooters at the lake below. It was loud and obnoxious and tainted the experience.
Goat Mountain is at the extreme western edge of public land here. This summit and Clear Lake below were actually on BLM land, surrounded by a checkerboard of national forest and other BLM land. Most of the land to the west and south is Weyerhaeuser land, including the true summit of Goat Mountain just to the west of where we were:
There’s a rough ATV trail over to that summit and while Greg rested in the shade I headed over there. There was one point where it looked like someone (maybe Weyerhaeuser?) had tried to block the path with boulders, but there was a large detour around it:
Just below the true summit:
A lookout was built here in 1949:
Of course it’s long gone. There was a crane here and it looks like they were just finishing up some construction:
I found the USGS survey disc:
There was a nice patch of glacier lilies:
Looking back to the other summit:
It was very cloudy to the west but I could just make out Marys Peak to the southwest. That’s all Weyerhaeuser land in the foreground:
Looking south I could see Table Rock on the horizon:
A better look at Table Rock, and it’s companion Rooster Rock:
Looking southeast with South Fork Mountain at far left. The access road in the foreground is a completely different road than the one that goes to the other summit and looking at the map I’m not even sure the correct route to get to it (although it is surely gated):
I headed back to the other summit. A couple had arrived in a small truck and were admiring the views. Then a couple of people on dirt bikes arrive. We grabbed the geocache and headed back to the car, picking up trash as we went. There were hundreds of beverage containers on the roadbed and alongside it. Even if I’d had a big enough bag, it would have taken me hours to pick them all up for the 0.7 mile hike back to the car. Here’s what we did get:
I’m glad we visited the area, but it’s sad to see it so trashed. The forest is riddled with dozens of illegal and muddy OHV roads (example). There is trash everywhere in addition to targets and shells from the shooters. (And it’s definitely not a new problem.) This doesn’t feel like public land, it feels like a place that the authorities have given up on and abandoned to its fate at the hands of people who don’t respect the land.
Here is our route. The blue arrows indicate our first failed attempt to reach Clear Lake. The red arrows indicate our successful second attempt. On the way out we backtracked to 4520 (green arrows) and followed that back to 45. 4520 is the most direct way to both the lake and the mountain.