Bull of the Woods Lookout

On Sunday I hiked up to Bull of the Woods Lookout via Pansy Lake.

There were about a dozen cars at the trailhead. When I got out of my car, ACK! Mosquitoes! Swarming me! I scrambled for my long-sleeved shirt and headnet, which of course were buried in my pack. Mosquitoes swarmed into my car. I hoped that the car would warm up as the day progressed and that the heat would kill the little bastards. (It didn’t.)

I marched through the forest at a steady pace, which was the only way to escape the mosquitoes. There were lots of rhododendrons but only a few were blooming. Snapped a quick picture and kept on hiking.

Took the side trip down to Pansy Lake, which is really more of a marsh. To my surprise the bugs weren’t that bad here. I took the opportunity to switch out long sleeves for sunscreen and bug spray due to the weather warming up.

The Pansy Lake Trail climbs up away from the lake and you get views of Pansy Mountain towering to the west.

I picked up Mother Lode Trail #558 and continued climbing. There were occasional views.

There was a nice little rock garden area at one spot where wildflowers were blooming.

Saw quite a few bleeding heart in the forest.

There are huckleberries EVERYWHERE. This would be a great hike in August. Actually, this would be a very slow hike in August, nom, nom, nom.

This must have been a great hike last year during the banner beargrass bloom. I saw hundreds of dried up beargrass stalks from last summer along the trail and at the summit. Note to self: come back and hike this again next time we have a good beargrass year.

I got to a spot where there was a wide view to the south and southeast. Not knowing which direction I’d have views at the summit I took a panorama photo here. (Turns out you CAN see this direction from the summit.) The snowy peaks on the left are the Three Sisters and the big bump on the right is Battle Ax Mountain.

I saw a really weird phenomenon that looked like a reverse rainbow. Later at the summit I saw that it actually encircled the whole sun. Is this a sundog?

After 2,000 feet of climbing I finally got a glimpse of the lookout.

Yay, I made it! And there are no mosquitoes up here…thanks, breeze!

The lookout is getting pretty run down. You can walk around on the catwalk but the lookout has a steel cable wrapped around it to keep the shutters closed and door barricaded.

Here it is in better days:

Part of one shutter was missing and I could see through the window that there was a bunch of junk inside, including a new-looking metal ladder. I thought that the lookout was considered officially abandoned, but judging by the stuff inside I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t know what, if any, plans the Forest Service has for this place. I know that the Wilderness Manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest is dead set against having any structures inside wilderness and won’t allow maintenance on existing structures (which is why the Upper Sandy Guard Station is falling to pieces). On the other hand, they did take the trouble to wrap the lookout in fire protection during a 2010 wildfire, so who knows.

Bull of the Woods wrapped

Anyway, from the catwalk there are views. So many views! Everywhere! Looking east:

Looking north (that’s Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in the picture but I could also see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier):

Looking south:

Big Slide Mountain and WAY down below is Big Slide Lake:

The little white speck in the center is Gold Butte Lookout, where Greg and I stayed on a rainy weekend last September:

Sisi Butte and its lookout tower:

The views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters were especially nice.

I like to compare lookout views of today to the old panorama photos, if they exist. Here’s how the views looked in 1934. Southwest:

North:

East:

Saw a woodpecker. Cool to see him up-close!

This lookout hasn’t been staffed in many decades so I was shocked to see the old outhouse still standing!

I wasn’t alone up there; people came and went, but it was never crowded. I lounged around on the summit for a few hours, just soaking up the views and (finally) the sunshine, once the high level of clouds burned off. This weird little cloud looked like a doodle across the sky.

Finally with a parting shot I tore myself away and hiked down the Bull of the Woods Trail to finish my loop back to the car.

I picked up the Dickey Lake Trail and headed downhill. This trail has A LOT of downed trees on it. Some of them are situated in such a way that the only way to get past is to get down on your hands and knees and crawl under.

And then I saw a grouse chick! I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw a mama grouse, and then I got just a glimpse of a fuzzy chick disappearing down the trail ahead of me. Mama was acting very protective and making all sorts of noises. She seemed like she might act aggressively towards me if I tried to pass (she was just off trail in the forest). I stepped back and gave her a few moments, thinking she’d follow her chick (and, presumably, its siblings), but I later realized she wouldn’t do that, drawing attention to her babies. I eventually hiked past very quickly and although she flapped around and got upset, she didn’t attack me. I didn’t see any more of the chick.

I took the little side trip to brushy Dickey Lake, then kept moving to escape the mosquitoes.

Back at the car I dumped my gear in, did some very quick stretches so I wouldn’t be limping today (all the while flapping and flailing at the mosquitoes) then jumped in the car and drove away. I didn’t even take the time to change from boots to crocs.

There are only seven lookouts still standing in the Mt. Hood National Forest and after today the only one left I haven’t visited is Sisi Butte. (Well, Hickman Butte, too, but I’ll never get to visit that one since it is in the Bull Run Watershed.) This was a totally GREAT hike for a clear summer day.

By the way, there must have been at least 100 people backpacking in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness this weekend. I saw plenty of backpackers just in the little corner of the wilderness I hiked through. I’m sure that there were lots more in other areas.

Fish Creek Mountain

After doing the Serene Lake loop on Saturday, Greg and I checked another wish list hike off our list on Sunday: Fish Creek Mountain.

Before 1996 you could access the trailhead for this hike via Fish Creek Road and Road 5420. But all those roads in the Fish Creek drainage were removed after the floods and landslides that year. Now you can access a different trailhead on the other side of the divide via Road 4620. Trail Advocate has directions.

When we got out of the car it was 50 degrees and buggy. Fortunately that didn’t last. We encountered no mosquitoes on the whole hike. Phew! The first section of trail climbs right out of the gate, gaining 500 feet in 0.7mi. It’s quite pretty, though. There are tons of vine maple so this must be lovely in the fall.

Then the trail comes out on what used to be Road 290, now incredibly overgrown. A handy rock cairn is here to help you find the trail again on the way back.

Fortunately there is a trail carved through the mess. Otherwise this would be a nightmare.

After 0.4mi the old road forks and the trail goes right up between them. This is where the old trailhead used to be prior to 1996.

The trail goes up, up, up through the trees.

We passed by a nice little meadow where some wildflowers were growing.

In fact, we were surprised by how many wildflowers we saw on this hike. Greg made a complete list: Sitka Valerian, Vanilla Leaf, Smith’s Fairybell, Inside-Out Flower, False Solomon Seal, Star-Flowered Solomon Seal, Oregon Grape, Yellow Violet, Wild Strawberry, Red Flowering Currant, Indian Paintbrush, Penstemon, Vanilla Leaf, Smith’s Fairybell, Spring Beauty, Oregon Fawn Lily, Larkspur, Small-Flowered Blue-Eyed Mary, Arrowleaf Groundsel, Indian Paintbrush, and Prairie Star. We also saw plenty of Western Columbine, but it wasn’t blooming just yet. WOW!

Here’s penstemon:

And fawn lillies:

We saw AT LEAST a dozen active ant hills along the trail. I have never seen so many ant hills on one hike before. Crazy!

At one point there was a really short side trail to the right that led to a rock garden of flowers and a view of Mt. Jefferson through the trees.

There wasn’t a ton of blowdown, but we still navigated over and under plenty of fallen trees. This was the worst. In bushwhacking around this mess Greg cut his leg on a broken branch that was sticking out. Ouch.

We knew there were no views of Mt. Hood from the summit, so we enjoyed the peeks we got through the trees on the way up.

There was a 12-foot-tall lookout tower here from 1933 to 1967. But the summit is now quite overgrown and views are very limited.

The only peak we could see from the summit was Mt. Jefferson.

Looking west into the now-roadless Fish Creek drainage. The whole time we were up on the summit we could hear target shooters down there. UGH.

After leaving the summit we took the trail down to High Lake. There was copious amounts of snow on the lower part of the trail, and when we got to the lake we were surprised to discover that it hadn’t even fully thawed out yet!

I was DONE with the snow, but Greg made his way around to the other side of the lake and took this panorama photo on his iPod Touch.

Navigating back up the trail through the snow was no more fun than coming down had been, but we managed. Then it was an easy downhill hike back to the car. We didn’t see a single person the whole day. I suspect that because there are no jaw-dropping 360-degree views at the summit this hike doesn’t get much attention. But there are views along the way if you look for them, and the many different wildflowers were sure a pleasant surprise. High Lake would also be a worthy destination later in summer (once the bugs have come and gone). Two thumbs up!

Serene Lake Loop

May 31, 2014

The loop through the Rock Lakes Basin has long been on my to-do list and Greg and I decided to give it a try this weekend, even though it’s a tad early.


Serene Lake

I had heard nothing but bad things about the road to Frazier Turnaround. I remember seeing one post here where it took someone more than 40 minutes to drive the final 4.4 miles to that trailhead, and Bill Sullivan calls it a “rocky, slow track.” Not a road, a track. No thanks. So we parked at Hideaway Lake instead, even though that meant adding additional mileage to our hike.

Just after passing the wilderness sign are two old signposts on the left. We knew there was an old abandoned route from here up to Cache Meadow and we decided to try it on our way back.

Just half a mile from the trailhead is lovely Shellrock Lake. Looks like a great spot for a swim on a hot day!

The snow had only recently melted here and it felt like we had stepped back in time a few months when we started seeing trilliums blooming everywhere. Then we stopped noticing the trilliums because the trail turned miserable. Very rocky and very rooty. Sometimes it was so bad that there wasn’t even a discernible trail.

We encountered our first patch of snow at 4,600 feet and continued to encounter vast swaths of it until we got to Frazier Turnaround.

The trail joins up with the Grouse Point Trail, which we followed a short distance down to Frazier Turnaround (deserted) and picked up the Serene Lake Trail. Some nice forest hiking ensued.

We reached the junction where a side trail heads off toward Middle Rock Lake and headed down it.

A newt!

The shoreline was too brushy to eat lakeside, so we ate our snacks in the nearby campsite before moving on. Next up was Lower Rock Lake, where there’s a delightful campsite and a pleasant lake.

Then there’s a two-mile stretch to the next lake. We built up our trail karma by moving MANY branches, big and small, off of the trail. Trekking poles really help with this task! Some things were too big for us to move, though! We climbed over or under at least two dozen fallen trees on this hike.

We crossed the South Fork of the Roaring River. It’s no more than a stream here.

More lovely forest.

At one point we got a view across the Roaring River canyon to Indian Ridge. There used to be a lookout up there (off frame to the left) and you can hike down the old closed lookout road along that ridge to Shining Lake, just below the old lookout site.

Serene Lake definitely lives up to its name. There was a couple camped here but it was very quite and peaceful here. We sat and enjoyed the ambience for quite awhile.

With many more miles to go we finally tore ourselves away and continued on, climbing up away from the lake and picking up the Grouse Point Trail, which eventually brought us to a nice viewpoint of Mt. Hood and Serene Lake. Apparently you can see the Washington peaks from here on a clear day, but as it was we could barely see Hood through the clouds.

More snow. This picture was taken up near the viewpoint, but there were also large amounts of snow on the descent down to Cache Meadow.

Cache Meadow turned out to be a wonderful little place. And it stretches for quite aways along the trail. It’s really a series of several linked meadows. I don’t know if the mosquitoes have come and gone or if they have yet to make an appearance. In any case we didn’t encounter any here, in what is surely a horribly buggy place during the wrong time of year. We saw thousands of marsh marigold along with mountain shooting star and marsh cinquefoil.

False hellebore just starting to shoot up:

Nom, nom. Yummy sign.

At the far end of the meadow the trail actually crosses the meadow, which was a bit tricky since it’s very wet.

It was also near this spot that we saw a couple camped on the trail with an off-leash dog who barked and barked and barked at us. Dude, control your dog.

If we stayed on the 517 trail we would end up back at Frazier Turnaround where we would retrace our steps back to the car. That would have been a lot longer, though, so we kept an eye out for the abandoned trail. A little ways after crossing the meadow the main trail takes a hard left turn and the old trail goes straight. It’s so obvious that I wonder if a lot of people accidentally head down it. This picture was taken a little further along, but you can see that it’s pretty obvious (although it wasn’t like this the whole way).

Along this old trail were several nice spots.

We saw an old trail marker on a tree.

The abandoned trail goes up and over a ridge, and it was on the way up the ridge that we lost the tread. There was no undergrowth at that spot so the whole forest floor looked the same everywhere. We had seen occasional flagging, but not enough to be of use since it was so widely-spaced. And we didn’t see any now. So we just headed straight up the hill to see what would happen. Amazingly enough we found the tread again up on top of the ridge and we were able to follow it almost all the way down to the Shellrock Lake Trail. We lost the tread again in the last tenth of a mile but by then we were so close it didn’t matter. Somehow we still managed to come out right by the old sign posts. Then it was a short jaunt back to the car.

We were camped at Hideaway Lake that night and thank goodness for that because I was HUNGRY! After a 10-mile hike it’s nice to have dinner close at hand, instead of an hour’s drive away.

Greg wants to go back and see Cache Meadow again to see how it looks after a few weeks. I think we’ll try the Cache Meadow Trail that starts on Road 140. It would be nice to do a loop with the unnumbered trail along Cripple Creek, but it doesn’t look like that trail goes all the way through to connect up with the Grouse Point Trail. I imagine it’s fairly easy to go cross country there.

Here is our route:

RockLakesLoop

Tumala Mountain (aka Squaw Mountain)

I unexpectedly found myself flying solo this weekend when Greg decided to stay home and rest (still sore after hitting a pothole while riding his bike in Portland a few weeks ago). So I opted for something short with views and headed out to do Tumala Mountain, which used to be known as Squaw Mountain.

Thanks to directions in Sullivan’s book (this is one of his back-of-the-book hikes) I had no trouble finding the trailhead, which is totally unsigned. Mine was the only car there when I set out at 11am.

I quickly reached the junction, which is supposed to be a four-way junction according to the map. But this was just a three-way junction with the trail forking in two directions instead of three.

The left fork had a relatively new sign that said Eagle Creek Cutoff Tr. No. 504 and the right fork had a sign that said Old Baldy Tr. No. 502.

But where was the continuation of the Old Baldy Trail that led north to Old Baldy? I found it on the way back and it’s VERY easy to miss. It is not at the junction with the other two trails. At the trailhead you immediately turn left on this trail instead of going straight. The trail closely parallels the road for a bit. I didn’t see a sign.

Also there is a Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness sign at the junction that is VERY high. What the heck? Did they come nail that up when there was still a bunch of snow on the ground?

So anyway, the trail to Tumala Mountain launched straight up the hill very steeply but fortunately leveled off in a bit.

The trail took a steep dive and soon I reached the junction with the Fanton Trail, which was completely unsigned. This is looking back from the way I just came (the trail on the right) and the Fanton Trail is heading downhill on the left.

The Old Baldy Trail that I was on did have a very old mossy sign which was very easy to miss because it faced the trail instead of the junction.

This used to be…..something. No idea.

There were mushrooms EVERYWHERE. I wonder if last week’s rain had anything to do with it or if they would have been busting up all over the place anyway? In any case they were pretty cool. The larger orange ones were especially prolific.

I reached the junction where the spur trail headed to the summit. Another very old sign.

The trail dumps you out on the old lookout access road and then it’s just a short jaunt up to the summit. On the map this road is gated at the bottom but I know that people have driven up here so the map must be wrong.

The road would also be used for maintenance access for whatever this thing is. Some kind of radio tower, I assume.

Good thing I got to the summit when I did. Some clouds were in the process of slowly covering up Mt. Hood. If I had started a few hours later I wouldn’t have been able to see much of it.

A series of fire lookouts once stood here. Here is the one that was built in 1916.

All that remains now are the concrete steps, which are perfectly situated for sitting on to admire the view of Mt. Hood.

To the south I could see Mt. Jefferson.

Looking southeast out over the forest. Not sure, but I think that bump left of center might be Wolf Peak.

Looking west:

Wildcat Mountain to the north:

Not sure if this is Githens Mountain or Old Baldy:

Old foundation from a garage or shed from the lookout days:

I hung out on the summit for more than an hour, enjoying the views and reading my book. I had the place to myself the whole time. What a very lovely spot! I can’t believe I had never heard of this hike until this summer! The only downside was the annoying and persistent target shooting that I could hear south of me. It started about half an hour after I got to the summit so fortunately I didn’t have to put up with it the whole time. But that kind of noise sure has a way of ruining the ambience.

Heading back through the sun-dappled forest:

I ran into a guy at the trailhead who had just come back from Old Baldy. He said the summit of that particular peak is totally forested with no views at all. Also he accidentally encountered a yellow jacket nest and got stung five or six times. Ouch!

Silcox But

After my short hike up to Barlow Butte Sunday morning I decided it was too beautiful a day to go home just yet. So I headed up to Timberline Lodge to do the short trek up to the historic Silcox Hut.

When I arrived at the lodge it was a ZOO. I barely found a place to park. I asked a parking lot attendant if there was an event going on. He said this was just how things were on nice summer weekends.

There was lupine blooming all over the place around the lodge.

The hike up is about a mile long, but you gain 1,000 feet in that mile AND you’re hiking above 6,000 feet, which is hard when you live at an elevation of about 300 feet! Fortunately there were plenty of views to be had for the frequent rest stops I had to take.

Getting close!

The Silcox Hut was built in 1939 and it served as the upper terminus of the Magic Mile chairlift. The Magic Mile was moved a bit west in the 1960s and the hut eventually fell into disrepair. It has since been restored and is now available for events such as retreats and weddings.

The views, of course, were sublime. Looking south to Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.

The chaos of the lodge far far below me.

Trillium Lake.

White River.

Looking southwest out over layers and layers of mountains. On the left you can see the alpine slide at Skibowl (I gotta do that someday; it looks fun!)

The Palmer Snowfield was above me, but there was a half-pipe right next to where I was sitting and admiring the view. I was amazed at the number of skiers and snowboarders who were up here. Maybe it’s because I’m not a skier, but I just don’t equate summer with skiing.

Someone got injured up on Palmer and was being brought down. That would be a bit of a scary ride, I think.

This little guy came searching for handouts. Sorry buddy. You have to learn to fend for yourself.

So he went and started munching on penstemon.

I sat and enjoyed the view for a long time before finally heading down. Sullivan suggests a different return route going down the service road below the chairlift terminals. I would have done that except it would have required crossing the snow in the path of skiers and snowboarders. Uh, no thanks.

About halfway down two women asked me if they were on the Timberline Trail. I said that they were quite aways above that trail. They had gotten confused by the maze of trails below and at one junction where it pointed the way to the Timberline Trail they thought the trail crossed the snow where the skiers were coming down. It DOES look that way depending on where you’re standing, but it’s easy enough to avoid the snow.

Obligatory Timberline Lodge shot.

By now the day was pretty warm so I stopped at the Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp before heading home. Great day!

Barlow Butte

On Sunday I did a short hike that’s been on my to-do list for awhile. I’ve never seen a trip report for Barlow Butte and I wanted to see what it was like, so I headed up there. Turns out the views up there ain’t too shabby!

I started from the Barlow Pass Sno Park. The Barlow Road is closed off because the bridge one mile down the road is failing.

Also failing are the spiffy new Barlow Road gates. I’m guessing winter snow and/or vehicles are to blame.

I headed down the road a short ways and then picked up the trail heading east. I soon came across this. Is this bear scat? It was huge. 😯

A sturdy bridge crossed Barlow Creek, which was barely more than a trickle. Just an hour before I had been camped beside this very creek about seven miles downstream and it looks a lot different down there!

The trail starts climbing and eventually enters the wilderness.

I’ve never seen this on a trail before but there were several old trail signs along the way, even when there wasn’t a junction. Some of the signs have been there so long they are being swallowed by the trees that they’re nailed to.

At some point the trail suddenly stops the gradual climbing and starts getting very steep. I huffed and puffed my way up, up, up until I came to a junction where the summit trail goes straight and the main trail goes off to the right. First I headed straight and immediately came to this ridge with a view to the east looking out over the White River.

Looking south along Barlow Ridge.

Distant views to the southeast.

Then I turned and hiked the short jaunt up to the summit.

The summit has two flat areas, neither of which have any views.

There was a lot of sedum blooming there, though.

I headed back to the junction and picked up the trail heading south along the ridge. After a short trek through the trees the trail came out into a big rocky open area.

Looking south to Mt. Jefferson.

The views of Mt. Hood from here are not good.

I’m pretty sure this is Frog Lake Buttes.

Looking southwest.

Following directions in the Afoot & Afield book, I continued following the trail south in search of the better views to be had. After hiking through the trees for about 10 minutes I came to a small open area with a huge rock outcropping on the right and nice views of Mt. Hood on the left. Not totally unobstructed, but good enough.

I could just see the White River Bridge through a gap in the trees. Looks tiny!

I didn’t feel safe climbing up to the very top of the rock outcropping (which I now realize I didn’t get a picture of). I climbed up as far as the base, though, where I discovered this sad plaque. I went hunting through the Oregonian archives and found out that this guy died in a fall in Provo Canyon in Utah.

View from the plaque.

I sat by the trail and admired the view of Mt. Hood for awhile before heading back. The hiking book said there wasn’t anything to see on the trail further along Barlow Ridge and that it was poorly-maintained so I made the viewpoint my turn-around point.

The trail is a bit steep in places and this is only about four miles round-trip, but still a pretty satisfying hike. I don’t think it sees much use. One downside is that because of its proximity to Highway 35 there is traffic noise almost the whole time. It wasn’t so bad at the viewpoint, but the rest of the time it was like hiking in the Gorge, although at least there was no train noise.

Clackamas Lake and Other Explorations

I spent the weekend camping up on Mt. Hood (I discuss the difficult camping situation at the end) and one of the things I wanted to do was explore the Clackamas Lake area since I’ve never been there.

I took a stroll along the PCT for about a mile, circling around Clackamas Lake.

There are these big old-fashioned trail signs. This one, however, was obviously wrong. There’s no way the border of the reservation was 8 miles from here. I’m wondering if there was a missing decimal point there. By the way, I thought about hiking the PCT out to Buckskin Butte, but since I didn’t have any information about it and wasn’t sure if there would be views, I decided not to.

The lake is really more like a shallow marsh, but it’s still quite lovely. This spot is where some kind of underground creek or spring flows into the lake. It was the most delightful sound!

From the campground a boardwalk goes out to the water. Such beautiful clear water!

I took a look around the historic Clackamas Lake Ranger Station, which was built by the CCC in the early 1930s.

I’m sure there hasn’t been money for new brochures for quite some time.

The place is neat as a pin and the buildings are in good shape, but everything is shut up tight. This appeared to be a former bathroom building, but it was all locked up.

The former ranger’s office is now a visitor’s center, although it didn’t look like it had been staffed in awhile.

As you step through this padlocked door….

In 2003 a fire destroyed the Protective Assistant’s Residence (also known as the Honeymoon Cabin). All that remains is the chimney.

Roads and Trails Warehouse:

Gas & Oil House:

Mess Hall:

This strange row of cabin-like structures were clearly modern, but what their purpose was I couldn’t tell. Maybe residences for seasonal workers? No one was staying there now.

Across the road is the former ranger’s residence, which is now part of the rental program. I didn’t get a picture of it since it was partially screened by trees and there were people staying there. But here’s the image from Wikipedia.

I then headed over to the other side of Highway 26 for some explorations of old lookout sites. I drove up Road 4860 to get to Grasshopper Point. The road gets you close, then you have to hike a quarter mile up to the point. There is a trail, which appears to be an extension of Rocky Butte Trail #475.

It took me a little bit to find the lookout site, which is hidden in the trees. I had been hoping for halfway decent views up here, but as is often the case with old lookout sites the area looks NOTHING like it does from the old photos. The trees have grown up a lot.

1963:

2013:

There is a very old overgrown road that goes up and over the point. I followed it north for a short distance and found an old Forest Service signpost along it. The placement is pretty random though, since it’s not at any junction and is not near the lookout site.

There must have been quite a beargrass show here a few weeks ago.

Just a tiny glimpse of Mt. Hood from the beargrass meadow:

There was also a large amount of lupine in bloom on Grasshopper Point. It was quite lovely, although none of my pictures turned out. I considered following the trail the other direction out to Rocky Butte, but the day was getting quite warm and I didn’t know the condition of the trail, so I skipped it.

I drove over to Post Point where there is now a quarry just below the lookout site.

Without the benefit of a lookout tower you can only see the tippy-top of Mt. Hood.

Evidently in 1994 the Forest Service tried to move the cab and upper part half of the tower to another location, but maybe they didn’t do their weight calculations correct because it was too heavy for the helicopter and was dropped. From the looks of things they simply said “Ah screw it” and walked away, because there is lumber EVERYWHERE. It looks like every scrap of wood from the tower is scattered all over the summit.

Here is the lookout in better days:

Because it wasn’t that far I decided to go check out the Rock Creek Reservoir. It was very hot over on this side of the mountains, at least 90 if not higher. I felt bad for the people in the campground roasting in the hot sun. The water looked inviting but I wasn’t about to pay the $6 day use fee to stay.

So the camping situation… Because Mt. Hood is in my backyard I’ve never tried to camp there over the weekend before and if I ever do it again I’ll definitely have a different strategy. Like many people I drove up after work on Friday and started trying to find a campsite. I stopped in at Still Creek, Trillium Lake, Frog Lake, and Clear Lake before giving up. All those campgrounds were full and not a single one had a sign out on the highway stating that fact. I found a spot in the woods just off the Clear Lake access road and camped there for the night. (Of course this was the ONE time I didn’t bring my portable camp table, doh!)

In the morning when I was packing up a very nice couple stopped and asked if they could claim the spot for that night. I said sure, not a problem. Then they told me their finding-a-campsite story from Friday night, which was far worse than mine. They had spent THREE HOURS going from campground to campground along Highway 26 looking for an open site. They even went as far as Timothy Lake. Of course everything was full. They said they camped near Trillium Lake and based on their description I think they were camped near that old airstrip, where I’ve seen people camping before. Unfortunately a large group of people had a raucous all-night party. They played loud music through concert-sized speakers and drank lots of booze. I was very surprised that the cops and/or the Forest Service didn’t put a stop to such a party. I’m guessing there aren’t any rules on the books against raucous forest parties, but considering the large amount of people in that immediate area, with the Trillium Lake and Still Creek Campgrounds and Government Camp, I would think they would put the kibosh on that. Maybe not.

Saturday night I camped at Barlow Crossing Campground and had a very lovely spot along the gurgling creek.

My neighbors across the creek, however, were not there to enjoy nature but to conquer it. There were three or four families with a large sprawling camp with at least six vehicles, rafts, floating mattresses, more camp chairs than you could shake a stick at, toilet tents (!), a generator, chainsaw, motorized cars for the kids, and a plastic kiddie pool. Despite all that they didn’t make an excessive amount of noise until 9:15pm which is when the stereo came on and country music was blasted across the forest. I gave them until 10:00 then I waited for a break between songs before I hollered across the creek that I was trying to sleep and would they please turn off the music. I was fully expecting any variation of “f*** you” or “Mind your own business” or “Go to hell” but to my amazement none of that happened and they turned the music off without complaint. I had been pondering what I would do if they DID give me grief, my favorite idea being an accidental press of the Subaru panic button on my key fob at 6am. But since they didn’t give me grief I declined to follow through on that plan. Also I didn’t want to get shot. Everyone over there was still sound asleep when I drove away at 7:30.

I really think the Forest Service needs a better campground strategy. I realize they don’t have the funds or resources that the national parks have, but when I visited Glacier a few years ago you could find out which campgrounds were full if you checked at any visitor’s center. If I remember correctly, there were also up-to-the-minute digital signs at the park entrance that said which campgrounds were full and which were not. I feel bad for families who drive up after work on a Friday and waste precious time and gas going from campground to campground looking for a spot and coming up empty-handed. Even if the highway campgrounds were required to put out “full” signs on the main drag that would help a lot. I was fortunate that I had the flexibility to camp off the side of a forest road. Many families wouldn’t have been comfortable with that. I also cringe to think about families who are new to camping who might experience the kind of loud neighbors I had the second night and think that is the norm. I think most people do go out to the forest to enjoy it, not to drown it out with partying and loud music, but there are a few bad apples who ruin it for others.

Barlow Pass and Devil’s Half Acre

My sister and I had attempted a loop of the Barlow Road and the Barlow Creek Trail while snowshoeing in January. We were unable to find the Barlow Creek Trail in all the snow, so one of my missions this summer was to find it sans snow. Since I still needed some exercise after the really short Lookout Mountain hike earlier in the day, I headed over to the Barlow Pass trailhead and set off on foot down the bumpy Barlow Road.

(Quick story: A guy who appeared to be a leader for a mountain bike touring company was talking to his group at the trailhead and told them to bring their “sunnies.” “Their what???” I thought to myself. Fortunately I wasn’t the only clueless person around since one of the group asked what “sunnies” were. “Sunglasses,” the guide replied. I have never heard this nickname for sunglasses before, and I hope I never hear it again. It reminds me of the ever-growing popularity of the nickname for lenticular clouds: “lennies.” DRIVES. ME. BONKERS.)

After a short distance, the Barlow Creek Trail heads off into the woods on the left (east) side of the road. There is a trail sign here (which we did see in the snow, although we were attempting to connect with the trail from the other end).

The trail came to a small meadow and a junction, where another trail headed north. There are signs here, although I didn’t think to take a picture of them, and I don’t remember what they said. I kept straight.

The trail crossed several lovely little creeklets. The forest was full of big hemlocks (thanks for the shade, hemlocks!), with some huckleberry bushes along the way (no berries yet, of course!)

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The trail ended in a lovely meadow at the edge of the Devil\’s Half Acre Campground. There’s a tall trail sign in the middle of the meadow.

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A ramshackle red outhouse sat on one side of the meadow.

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On the far side of the meadow is the campground and the access road. I hiked the access road a short distance down to the Barlow Road. This access road is in really crappy shape. There were several sketchy sections and some crazy-looking topography that would be hard to navigate in a low clearance car. You have to REALLY want to camp here.

Down at the road, there is a disintegrating sign. I never saw any sign of the Devil’s Half Acre trail that it mentions, although it does show up on the topo.

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I hiked west on the Barlow Road, crossed over bubbling Barlow Creek.

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No sign of the ubiquitous jays that followed us when we were here in January! I was hoping for good wildflowers in Devil’s Half Acre, but it doesn’t appear to be that kind of meadow. It was still pretty interesting to see it all lush and green, after having seen it buried under snow six months ago.

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I hiked back to my car via the Barlow Road. It’s A LOT different than snowshoeing up it in winter, of course. For one thing I was passed by several trucks heading down. It’s really amazing how drastically snow can change a landscape.

Here’s the GPS track from my Droid. The Barlow Creek trail on the topo is not accurate, which makes me think the placement of Devil’s Half Acre trail on the topo is also inaccurate.

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Even now that I know where the Barlow Creek Trail is, I’m still not sure I could follow it in the winter. The blue markers on the trees are too spread apart. Unless you were following in the tracks of someone who went before you, it would be pretty difficult to follow. Of course, you could just make your own path, I guess. With the GPS you could guess your way through the forest and back up to the trailhead.

Lookout Mountain

Inspired by this report from Gunsight Butte last week, my goal on Sunday was to hike up Lookout Mountain and continue on the trail out to Gumjuwac Saddle and Gunsight Butte, then back the same way, which would have been about ten miles. Didn’t quite pan out though.

I got up at 6 a.m. so I could have good morning light on the east side of Mt. Hood. Google Maps instructed me to take Hwy 26 instead of I84 and Hwy 35 (I think Google Maps was wrong). I needed a pit stop and rather than stop at Government Camp, I decided to take a small detour to Trillium Lake and use their facilities after admiring the morning view at the dam. The view was indeed very lovely and it was nice and peaceful there. Just some fisherman along the shore and none of the loud hoards that I’m sure were there later in the day.

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I continued on to the Lookout Mountain trailhead and hit the trail at 9:00. There were quite a few shooting stars blooming in High Prairie as I hiked through, but they were past their peak. But the meadows are snow-free and green!

Just after the meadows, about a quarter-mile from the trailhead, I hit the first patch of snow. It increased the further I went. But there were enough melted-out spots of bare ground combined with people’s tracks in the snow that I was able to find my way up the old road. The last bit to the summit was totally snow-free, as was the summit itself.

The views were, of course, insanely incredible. Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson:

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The Badger Creek Wilderness, including Badger Lake and Gunsight Butte:

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Dry central Oregon:

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Flag Point, with the fire lookout just barely visible, poking up above the trees:

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Mt. St. Helens:

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Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams:

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The Hood River Valley:

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And of course, front and center, Mt. Hood:

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This is such a short and easy hike, with such an amazing reward. I felt like I hadn’t worked nearly hard enough to get to this amazing spot!

I spoke with a nice gentleman who was at the top when I arrived. He said he had done the hike to Oval Lake once (recommended as an add-on to the Lookout Mountain hike in Sullivan’s older guidebook editions) and that it wasn’t worth the effort. He said the trail to Flag Point was nice, though. But we both figured there was probably too much snow out that way. He left about 10 minutes after I got there, and I had the place to myself for the next 45 minutes. Just me and the mountains and the wildflowers.

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Oh yeah, and bugs too. There were lots and lots of bugs. Fortunately only a few of them were mosquitoes and despite no long sleeves and no bug spray I only ended up with two bites.

I reluctantly left the summit to continue my hike over to Gunsight Butte. Although I think I found the right trail, it didn’t match up with the trail on the GPS and it seemed to peter out after about a quarter-mile. The day was getting warm, I was alone and not sure of my trail, so I decided to save it for another day.

I headed back to my car, slipping and falling hard in the mud while hiking through High Prairie. Ouch. I passed six other hikers on their way in (plus another hiker had arrived at the summit right before I left). And I saw a family getting ready at the trailhead and I passed four more cars on their way in as I was driving out. So I’m VERY glad that I got an early start and got to enjoy some solitude up there!

Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to go check out Brooks Meadow, which I read about recently. Unfortunately, the watershed warning sign is pretty prominent (I was hoping it wouldn’t be and that I could claim to have not seen it). So I just took some shots from near the road and didn’t venture further, even though the fields of lovely wildflowers beckoned me. Oh well.

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I needed some more exercise, so after Brooks Meadow I headed over to Barlow Pass. But that’s a different trip report, coming soon.

Snowshoeing the Barlow Road

My sister and I went snowshoeing on a chilly but gorgeous day last weekend. The conditions were actually just perfect for snowshoeing: clear blue skies with snow still on the trees. Since there hadn’t been any precipitation in a few days, I had expected the trees to be bare. But the cold weather and lack of rain following the most recent snowfall meant that the trees were still beautifully snow-covered.

We almost didn’t find a place to park in the Barlow Pass Snopark. We nabbed the second-to-last spot. (More on the parking conditions later.) While we were getting ready and eating snacks, we were visited by several gray jays. They are bold little guys! Clearly (and unfortunately) they are very used to humans and being fed by those humans. Here’s one that landed on my car.

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We set off down the Barlow Road under clear blue skies and snowy trees.

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Snow was still balancing in little piles on the narrow twiggy branches

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We got to Devil’s Half Acre Meadow and Deborah decided to make a snow angel

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From the meadow we could see nearby Barlow Butte.

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After following a trail into the middle of the meadow, we saw that it kept going, but we didn’t follow, so I don’t know where it went.

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More gray jays stalked us, looking for handouts.

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We continued down the Barlow Road about another half mile before turning back.

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We got a little peek at Mt. Hood just past the meadow. Unfortunately, this was the only picture I got of it that day. We had fantastic views from the highway, and boy did it look beautiful! But we couldn’t stop and take pictures there.

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Gray jays continued to appear throughout our trek, and we continued to not feed them.

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We had intended to take the Barlow Creek Trail to loop back. We followed what we thought was the right trail, the spur road off of the Barlow Road to the campground. According to the map, the Barlow Creek Trail continues at the end of that spur road. But after following a beaten trail for a few hundred feet, that trail ended and the only thing that continued was one lone set of ski tracks. The route of the spur road was not obvious and the ski tracks were kind of off in the woods. We weren’t sure if we were on the wrong track or if the Barlow Creek trail was just not well-traveled. We decided not to risk it and returned the same way we had come, via the Barlow Road.

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We had a heck of a time getting out of the parking lot. Dozens of cars were parked along the already narrow access road between Highway 35 and the parking lot, creating a very narrow lane for getting in and out. It took us more than ten minutes to get out, second in a line of four or five cars, because a truck coming in had to back up along the road. A very high snow bank on one side and a line of cars on the other and absolutely no room for error. I was shocked that parking along this road was allowed, and I have written to ODOT to suggest they not allow this. It’s a rather hazardous situation for the driver who has to back up, an inevitable and probably oft-repeated situation when cars park along the road

We stopped at the Ice Axe Grill on the way home for sweet potato fries and hot drinks. Yum! They had some CRAZY icicles hanging off their roof!

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All in all, a great day of snowshoeing. We probably only did three miles, but that’s okay. We had a great time and after SO MANY past winter trips to the mountain on overcast viewless days, it was nice to get clear skies and beautiful snowy trees.