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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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



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:


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:



The rhododendrons are THICK up here:


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



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:


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!







And today the summit views just look like this:



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!


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



Mt. Adams:



Mt. Rainier:


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


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


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



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



Along with some other wildflowers:


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.


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


Snowshoeing at White River

On Saturday Greg and I headed to Mt. Hood from some much-needed fresh air and nature time. We headed to the White River Sno-Park, put on our snowshoes, and started hiking upriver, with a view of the big beautiful mountain right in front of us.

White River Snowshoeing

White River Snowshoeing

White River Snowshoeing

White River Snowshoeing

It was pretty easy going. It hadn’t snowed in a few days so the trail was pretty packed down. A little over two miles in, we stopped for a snack. All around us it was white and snowy. No wind, thankfully!

White River Snowshoeing

On the next hill over (at right in the photo above) we saw two tiny figures up on top. The route up looked really steep!

White River Snowshoeing

Then we headed back down.

White River Snowshoeing

There was an impressive amount of snow on the toilets at the parking lot:

A lot of snow

Battle Ax Mountain

During a post-wedding stay at the Gold Butte Lookout, Greg and I hiked up Battle Ax Mountain, a hike that’s been on my wish list for quite awhile.


I was worried we wouldn’t get any views. Despite a clear beautiful morning, the clouds were rolling in fast by the time we started hiking down from the lookout to the car.


Since it was a weekday we had no trouble parking at the junction with the Elk Lake Campground access road. Then we walked up the road and picked up the trail. (The road to Elk Lake, by the way, is very rough. Careful driving is required.)


The trail passes this little pond full of blooming lily pads.


After negotiating some blowdown we had to push our way through a very brushy section of trail. I should also mention that we had some mosquitoes along this first section of trail, but by the time we reached the summit they didn’t bother us anymore.


There’s a lovely spot where a spring trickles down across the trail. We saw monkeyflower blooming here.



As we hiked we saw patches of beargrass here and there:



And a few other wildflowers:



This long traverse of a rockslide was pretty cool-looking:


Then we picked up the Battle Ax Mountain Trail and worked our way to the summit. Almost there!



As we approached, there was a whole lot of noise coming from the summit (turned out to be an expedition of middle-schoolers from the Opal Creek Center), so we sat and enjoyed the view alongside the trail instead.





At one point we saw what looked like a plane flying by, from south to north. But it made no noise and it was flying pretty low. Very weird.


After our snacks we ventured up to the summit for a few pictures before heading down. It’s been a surprisingly cloudy summer and this day was no exception, but we could see most of Mt. Jefferson. In the second picture you can just barely see the light speck on the summit of that foreground peak. That’s the lookout on Gold Butte.



Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters to the south:


The foundations of the long-gone fire lookout:


We made a loop of it, hiking down to Beachie Saddle and Elk Lake via many many switchbacks.



More wildflowers:



And some really weird-looking rocks:


We passed the Opal Creek kids’ camp at Beachie Saddle and headed down the old section of Road 4697, which doesn’t look like it has been a drivable road in many decades, even though it still shows as one on the topo map.



After our hike we went down to Elk Lake and enjoyed a beer and some chips and salsa. Since it was a weekday we had the place mostly to ourselves except for a few midweek campers.


Then it was back to Gold Butte to enjoy the rest of the afternoon followed by nice evening light on Mt. Jefferson. ūüėÄ


Gunsight Butte

September 13, 2015

Today we hiked to Gunsight Butte. We parked alongside Highway 35 and headed up the Gumjuwac Trail:

Gumjuwac Trail

This is all in the trees except for one nice spot with a view of Mt. Hood:

Mt. Hood

Mountain admiration

We could also see south down onto Highway 35:

Forest view

After 2.5 miles and 1,600′ elevation gain we reached Road 3550 and Gumjuwac Saddle and this cool old sign:

Old sign

Now we headed south on the Gunsight Butte Trail:


Gunsight Butte Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams

According to the map this is the summit of Gunsight Butte:

Gunsight Butte trail

But this rockpile a bit further up the trail seems more likely:


About 1.8 miles from Gumjuwac Saddle, the Gunsight Butte Trail meets back up with Road 3550. Near that spot we had a view looking down on Badger Lake with Mt. Jefferson beyond:

Badger Lake

Badger Lake

Mt. Jefferson

We could even make out Broken Top and the Three Sisters:

Distant peaks

Then we retraced our steps back to the car.

Boulder Lake Loop

After a cold but dry night at Fifteenmile Campground Saturday night, Greg and I headed over to the Boulder Lake Trailhead yesterday morning for a loop hike.


There were three other cars at the trailhead, which has a nice big gravel parking area.


On the short bit of trail between the TH and Boulder Lake we noticed these red marks and arrows painted on the trees. My best guess is someone (not the Forest Service) marking this trail for winter travel.


Spinning Lake, just a shallow little pond:


We soon reached Boulder Lake, which was quiet and peaceful. Based on the NUMEROUS fire rings and campsites we saw at the lake, I’m betting this is not a quiet place to be on a Saturday night.


A little ways down the trail is Little Boulder Lake:


Just after that lake you pop out onto Road 123 for a bit of road hiking. But it’s less than a mile and it’s not bad at all. We saw footprints, bicycle tracks, and vehicle tracks in the road dust, but had the entire route to ourselves.


After picking up the trail again we passed through several recovering clearcuts. Every single one showed evidence of a spectacular beargrass bloom earlier this summer. That must have been a sight to see!



This stretch also had huckleberries. Millions of them. I kid you not. We thought we’d seen a lot of huckleberries on the Fret Creek Trail the day before, but the berries were even more profuse on this trail. It was crazy!


We reached a nice viewpoint looking out to Grasshopper Point and down on Little Boulder Lake. We sat here and had a snack, taking layers off and on as the warm sun repeatedly came out from behind the clouds and then disappeared again, leaving us shivering.


We could also see down the canyon into the dry territory of central Oregon.


Further down the trail is Echo Point, where we had a nice view of Gunsight Butte (dead center), Lookout Mountain (a little more to the right), and Badger Peak (in the foreground on the right).


We could also see a bit of Boulder Lake from Echo Point.


The trail dropped down to dried-out Bonney Meadows.


After popping into the campground to use the toilet, we descended down, down, down back to Boulder Lake. This section is steep in places. It’s definitely better to do this loop clockwise like we did. Towards the bottom we passed beneath the HUGE rockslides made up of the HUGE boulders from which the lake gets its name.



And then we were back at Boulder Lake, with it’s lovely aquamarine water.


We saw this old CCC-era picnic table missing its table top and one of the benches. No doubt it was hacked up for firewood long ago. What a shame.



A short jaunt down the trail and we were back at the car. We were pleasantly surprised by this lovely loop. We expected to find signs of this trail being neglected and forgotten but that turned out to be far from reality. We saw numerous instances of recent trail maintenance.



And there were lots of signs!




There must be a pro-recreation pro-sign employee working for the Barlow Ranger District. Thank you, whoever you are!

If you’re interested in doing this loop yourself, you’ll find a very detailed hike description in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide.

Palisade Point

Our weekend plans went through several changes in just a matter of days. We had planned on going camping or backpacking with friends, but sadly they had to cancel for want of a dog-sitter. Then Greg and I decided to do a one-night backpack to Santiam Lake, until we got a look at the forecast and decided that was a bad idea. The forecast worsened, but I was desperate for nature time and staying home was not an option, so finally on Friday night we decided we’d go to the east side of Mt. Hood and hope that we’d at least stay dry, which we mostly did.


This forecast, by the way, is a real-life embodiment of that classic Oregon joke: What do you call two days of rain in Oregon? A weekend.


Let me translate what the weather guys are trying to say here: “We have NO idea what will happen.”

Yesterday we hiked the Fret Creek Trail up to Palisade Point. Almost immediately our progress slowed to a crawl due to the huge amounts of huckleberries all around us. There were SO MANY. YUM YUM.


Crossing Fret Creek:


It was very windy and the trees creaked and groaned around us. Sort of eerie. Just before reaching the Divide Trail we passed Oval Lake, which is more like a pond. We could see Palisade Point high above us.


Signage! You never know when or if you’ll see signs at trail junctions, especially in the Mt. Hood Forest.


Lots of this tiny sedum by the trail just before reaching the viewpoint.


We reached Palisade Point and got a good look at the sky above us. “Partly sunny.” Yeah. Right. We climbed up on the rock.


The views were very limited. Flag Point to the east:


The lookout was so tiny, even with the camera zoom!


That’s Lookout Mountain on the right, hiding in the clouds:


We climbed part of the way up that rock in the picture above. From there we could see down on Oval Lake.


Greg looking out over the Badger Creek Wilderness. The first rock we climbed is beyond, with Flag Point on the right.


It was CRAZY windy up on those rocks, and consequently quite cold. On a warmer clearer day we would have lingered a lot longer enjoying the views and sunshine. But on this chilly day we retreated into the protection of the trees and headed back down. We had considered adding Flag Point or Lookout Mountain onto our hike, but with the low clouds and lack of views we didn’t see the point.

On the way back down this little bird near the trail seemed to be posing for me. Held still while I got a few photos!


We were camped at little Fifteenmile Campground just down the road, so we dumped our packs, grabbed some sandwich bags, and went back for some more huckleberries. When we got home this evening we enjoyed them over Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream. DELICIOUS!


Paradise Park

Greg and I headed up to Paradise Park yesterday. We debated which trail to take. The Timberline Trail is much more interesting and it’s shorter, but it’s also more exposed (and it was a hot day) and it’s a lot more crowded. So we opted for the boring but shadier and quieter Paradise Park Trail.

The “campground” at the trailhead was pretty busy when we arrived. I pack at home but Greg likes to pack at the trailhead, so I left him to it and started out at 9:30. He caught up around 40 minutes later. I had forgotten my earbuds so I had to have my iPhone on “speaker phone” to listen to This American Life podcasts on the hike up. I would normally never do this, but that trail is six long miles of nothing and I had to have some mental stimulation.

After 3.5 tiresome miles we finally reached Paradise Park and I was crushed to see that we were WAY too late for the wildflower show. Most of the lupine had gone to seed. The other flowers were bedraggled and wilting. The meadows were starting to turn brown.





August 11, 2013:


July 18, 2015 (almost the exact same spot):


We sat and hung out by Lost Creek for awhile. A few monkeyflowers and other stragglers were hanging on there, and the creek was a welcome relief on such a hot day.


At 3:30 with Wall Street Pizza calling our names, we started heading down, finally getting back to the car at 6:15.

I think we’ve probably seen the last of the big wildflower shows for the summer, which is totally crazy. It looks like Paradise Park was at peak about two weeks ago, 5-6 weeks earlier than when we visited in 2013. On our way up we ran into a guy who was not from the area and he speculated that the best flowers were probably during the spring. No, we told him, even in a dry year like this there is still snow up there in spring. He was surprised to hear that in some years (such as the awful late snowmelt year of 2011), the flowers are going strong on Labor Day.

Views and wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

I was on my own yesterday since Greg and a friend headed off to Tanner Butte. I really wanted to see the beargrass display up there, but I know my limitations and I know I cannot do that many miles in one day. My legs and feet get VERY sore after about 10 miles.

So I went in search of beargrass elsewhere. Remembering that we had just missed the peak of beargrass at Hawk Mountain on July 14 two years ago, and knowing that everything is 3-4 weeks early this year, I headed there today with my fingers crossed.

I went there via Detroit and came home via Estacada. I stopped to gawk at the alarmingly-low level of Detroit Lake. I heard a boater describe this as sad. I think it’s not sad, but scary, and a sign of the very dry summer we have ahead of us.

Once I hit the trail it was immediately apparent that this is NOT a good beargrass year up there. Here is 2013:

This year:

When I got home I looked it up and beargrass blooms in 5-7 year cycles, so I was three years too early. However the pentstemon were doing their best to make up for the lack of beargrass:

The trail leaves the meadows and meanders through the trees for awhile before launching up to Hawk Mountain. I actually saw signs of recent trail maintenance. Thanks, trail crew!

At the summit there were four guys packing up and heading out, so I ended up having the place to myself. I sure enjoyed the in-your-face views of Mt. Jefferson:

From this angle the mountains to the south are all bunched together (Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington):

There were plenty of wildflowers blooming on the summit, including lupine, paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, cat’s ears, and sedum.

The obligatory garbage-in-the-fire-ring shot:

The cabin here is the old living quarters for the fire lookout that once stood here and is now gone. I love before and after shots. Here is Hawk Mountain in 1936:

And in 2015:

I lingered on the the summit for over an hour, enjoying the sunshine, views, and wildflowers. Such a gorgeous day! There are no north-facing views from the summit, but from the trail you can sort of see north a bit and I took a peek on the way back down:

I love this hike. It has a great mix of views and wildflowers. It’s unfortunate that it’s a two-hour drive from Portland because you end up spending more time in the car than on the on the trail. But it’s definitely worth the trip.