Barlow Pass Snowshoeing

My sister and I went snowshoeing at Barlow Pass on Saturday. Probably the last time I’ll go snowshoeing until next winter. There’s still PLENTY of snow up there, but I’m done with snow. I’m ready for green leaves and wildflowers at lower elevations!

It snowed down pretty low Friday night, so we started encountering snowy trees and piled-up roadside snow a lot sooner than normal. We pulled off along Highway 26 a few miles before Government Camp to take a few pictures. You know that big corner pullout below Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain? I’ve always wanted to see that huge slope of trees covered in snow, and now I have!

Snow has fallen

The view of the mountain was non-existent, though.

Hidden

There are VERY high walls of snow at Barlow Pass. I cannot believe how deep the snow is up there.

Walls of snow

We meant to walk down the Barlow Road, which heads due south from the parking area. But we didn’t see a break in the snow wall so we headed west down Road 3531 thinking the Barlow trail might branch off from it. Turns out we just didn’t go far enough down the snow wall to get to the break where the trail heads south. Oh well.

Road 3531 heads west past Buzzard Point, looping down the hill past the pioneer woman’s grave and coming out at Highway 26. We didn’t go that far. We stopped before we got to the grave. Fortunately the grade is gradual, so climbing back up wasn’t TOO difficult. We went through several cycles of sunshine, clouds, and crazy falling snow. Spring is weird.

Sun!

I do love the sight of snowy trees against a blue sky. You just don’t see that very often around here, since the clouds like to stick around FOREVER after gracing the trees with snow. I can’t remember the last time I saw snowy trees backdropped by blue sky. This was the last picture I got before my camera battery died (I forgot to charge it before we left….doh!)

Snow and blue sky

On the way back to the car, we spotted a gray jay in the trees beside us. We knew he was looking for handouts, but it’s bad to feed the wild birds so we kept our food in our packs. Deborah held out her gloved hand, though, to see if the bird would come over, and he did! He landed right on her hand and stayed there for about 20 seconds before realizing that he wasn’t getting any food from us and flew away. He even tried pecking at Deborah’s glove! He was fluffy and cute and I was very mad about my dead camera battery because it would have been an awesome shot. Oh well.

Great day in the snow! But from here on out, I’m playing in the wildflowers.

Snowshoeing at Old Maid Flat

My sister and I wanted to go snowshoeing on Saturday. Getting a late start, and not being up for anything strenuous, we decided to do Old Maid Flat. It was a really beautiful day, sunny and even warm.

Approaching the newly-repaired vehicle bridge over the Sandy River.

Good as new

Below, Deborah is getting ready to hop over the gate blocking vehicle access to the Sandy River bridge. Up to this point we had been wearing our Yak-Trax and not our snowshoes, since the snow was pretty packed. But the afternoon sun made the snow soft and we kept post-holing. So we sat on the gate and donned our snowshoes for the rest of the trek.

Crossing the gate

The Sandy River looking north from the bridge. What a beautiful day!! The river looks so tame right now. It’s hard to imagine it’s raging wrath during high water.

Snowy scene

This was the most we saw of Mt. Hood. Views of it are few and far between on this road, but the clouds hovered around it most of the day making any views of it pretty obscured.

Barely visible

The clouds really rolled in later in the afternoon and it was totally overcast by the time we got back to the car at 4:30. But it didn’t rain or snow. We saw more than a dozen other people out here, both snowshoers and skiers, but it was nothing like Trillium Lake or Mirror Lake. This is a great place to go snowshoeing. Not a lot of views, but it’s easy to get to and easy to walk along and makes for a good winter outing.

Spectacular fall color on Mt. Hood and at Tamanawas Falls

I didn’t have to work until evening on Tuesday, so I headed up to Mt. Hood to check out the fall color. GO NOW! It is spectacular! The drive up Highway 26 is really pretty with vine maple and various trees whose leaves turn yellow. I continued down 26 over Blue Box Pass, and all the vine maple along there is on fire. I went down the road to Timothy Lake a short distance, along which is MORE brilliant vine maple.

Burning bush

Tuesday was pretty overcast, but the clouds were high, so I could see Mt. Hood in its entirety, nearly completely white with snow.

The mountain we love

I stopped at Umbrella Falls at Mt. Hood meadows, which is looking lovely. There is some muted fall color there, and the air is filled with the pungent smell of decaying vegetation. Lots of wildflowers grow there in the summer, and the area is now one big pile of rotting plant matter.

Umbrella Falls

I continued down Highway 35 and stopped to hike to Tamanawas Falls. What a gorgeous hike this time of year! There is a whole bunch of vine maple along the trail and it is all bright yellow right now. Throw in a beautiful little creek and pleasant surroundings, and you have yourself a fantastic fall hike.

Leaves over the creek

And because of all the precipitation up there lately, the waterfall is looking pretty decent. I didn’t have time to do the longer loop back, unfortunately.

Tamanwas Falls

It looks like a big rockslide took out part of the trail a short ways down from the waterfall at some point and they’ve recently re-routed it across the slide. Was that from this past winter? I also saw a footbridge in the creek at the bottom of that slide, but where the heck did it come from? The trail doesn’t cross the creek upstream from that point, so where would a footbridge have washed down from?

Mysterious bridge

I drove home via Hood River, taking Highway 35 down to Interstate 84. 35 is absolutely AMAZING right now: vine maples, big leaf maples, poplars, and others are all at their peak of color. It is truly a spectacular drive right now. When I got to Hood River I wanted to turn around and drive it again, or else get out of my car, turn around to face the mountain, and shout “BRAVO!” It really felt like I was driving through Mother Nature’s own personal color show.

Here are more photos.

Shellrock Lake and Hideaway Creek Falls

On Sunday, I took my roommate’s dog, Besa, and headed up to Shellrock Lake, in the Clackamas Ranger District. The trailhead is near Hideaway Lake. When I arrived (and when I left too), mine was the only car there.

Before I had left in the morning, I had done a quick search on this site for any additional information about this hike. What I found was potentially exciting: two pictures that Tom posted of an (officially) unnamed, yet gorgeous, waterfall right by the trailhead. Tom dubbed it Hideaway Creek Falls. It’s not on the topo maps or the forest service map, and the only other thing a Google search turned up was this page on Greg Lief’s site, with more beautiful photos enticing me to try and find this waterfall.

It was damp and cold and gray up there in the mountains (approx. 4,000 feet). But I tried to ignore it, and headed off in search of the falls. There was an obvious trail heading downhill from the trailhead, along the creek, but it was very steep and my descent was more like a controlled fall. Why did I leave my hiking poles in the car? I could definitely hear the waterfall, somewhere in amongst all those bushes. I managed to get to a place where I could peek out and see the top of the falls. I worked my way further down, trying to find a place where I could get a view of the falls from below. Thick rhododendron bushes stood between me and the creek, and the terrain remained steep and difficult. Also, all the vegetation was dripping with water from an overnight shower, and I was rapidly getting soaked. I had my rain jacket on, but had not brought my rain pants, so my hiking pants were getting pretty wet. Without full rain gear, and without my hiking poles to help me move around on the steep hill, I gave up and scrambled back up to the trailhead. I’ll admit I didn’t try very hard. I could have gotten there with a little more effort. But not getting soaked and not breaking my neck won out. I did get this view of the clearcut that I would soon be walking through, though. It was speckled with brilliant vine maple.

Speckled with color

And here it is up-close from the Shellrock Lake trail:

The colors of sunset

Shellrock Lake is only a half mile walk from the trailhead and we were there in no time. Clouds swirled around the surrounding hilltops.

Shellrock Lake

Besa has been cooped up a lot lately, so I let her go for a swim in the lake, despite the chilly day. She had a blast, plunging into the lake time after time for that silly stick. And then she kindly shared the lake water with me as soon as she got out. Every time. My pants had started to dry out and now I was wet again!

And then Besa seemed to hurt herself on a plunge into the lake. A yelp and whine and she aborted her jump and came limping back. I could see nothing wrong with her foot or her leg, and after she walked around for a little bit she seemed okay. I had intended to continue further, all the way up to Rock Lakes. But it so gray and gloomy and chilly that I had lost my enthusiasm for being out there. Besa’s potential injury was all the excuse I needed to call it a day (by the time we got home, she seemed completely fine and hasn’t limped since, but I’m not sorry we turned back when we did).

So, I drove all that way and hiked a grand total of: ONE MILE. I think that’s a personal record for me for shortest hike ever. We ate lunch at Hideaway Lake, where a very cute little campground sits (probably one of those that will get the ax if the Forest Service has its way). And then I drove back towards town, stopping to take pictures of colorful vine maple along the way:

All ablaze

And weird signs:

Strange sign

And lovely rivers:

Roaring on

All pictures here.

The maples along Highway 224 are JUST starting to turn, but there’s more color to see on Road 58 and 5830, mostly vine maple. It was a gorgeous drive, even if the hike was a bust! And now I know that even if there is no rain in the forecast, always bring rain jacket AND rain pants.

Potato Butte

On Labor Day, I had to get out and go hiking and enjoy the gorgeous day. So I decided on the 7.2 mile round-trip hike to Potato Butte. The trailhead is on Road 380, off of Road 46, on the west end of the Olallie Lake Scenic Area. I’ve never driven down that far before. It takes a LONG TIME. Two hours from Portland. But it’s such a beautiful drive, I didn’t mind.

Anyway, onwards to the hike! The trail starts climbing up right away and the first mile (approximately) is through old growth forest with some vine maple, rhododendron, and beargrass. Then suddenly, you’re in a different kind of forest, a lot more open, and the understory is almost completely dominated by beargrass and huckleberries (but I found not a single berry!). So in a good beargrass year (which wouldn’t have been this summer!), this would be quite the hike, equal to Silver Star Mountain in the abundance of blooming beargrass.

The trail goes on

The first lake you pass is Red Lake, a muddy-bottomed but clear-watered lake with plenty of campsites hidden back in the trees, I think.

Muddy-bottomed lake

The next lake is Averill Lake, with yet more pleasant campsites along the lake.

Blue sky, blue lake

And then, my favorite of the four lakes, Wall Lake, with a view of Potato Butte.

I'm climbing up there

And then, one last lake to pass before heading up Potato Butte. Sheep Lake:

Sheep Lake

The trail up to the top of Potato Butte is not signed for hikers coming from the west, so you have to keep your eyes open for it. Once you’re on it, when the trail gets to a meadow, there is no signage and you have to know that you’ve got to walk through the meadow briefly before picking up the trail again. Then, as the trail really starts climbing, the quality of the trail deteriorates. It is very steep and the trail surface is loose dirt and gravel. Going up is hard, coming down is even harder. Thank God for hiking poles!

Treacherous trail

At the top, you can see Mt. Hood (below) and Olallie Butte, but the trees block the view in all other directions.

Hi, Hood!

But on your way back down, not too far from the top, you’ll notice a spur trail going off to the left. This takes you to the top of a boulder field from which you can see Mt. Jefferson, as well as some of the lakes in the forest below. The mid-day light was terrible for taking good pictures of Jeff, but the view was worth the hard climb up here. If I did this hike again I’d make sure to come later in the afternoon for better light.

The forest stretches on

After scrambling my way down the treacherous trail (and not falling!), I hiked back towards the trailhead, stopping for a refreshing wade in Wall Lake. Ah, it felt good! (By the way, with perhaps the exception of Red Lake, all these lakes are great for swimming.)

Wading in Wall Lake

See the rest of my pictures here.

There had been about six or seven cars at the trailhead when I got there about 10:30. As I hiked, I passed group after group of backpackers heading out, so all those cars were gone when I got back. This area is definitely good for backpacking. You could choose one of these closer lakes, or go off exploring the numerous other lakes in the area, of course. I was delighted with this lovely area. I’ve never done any hiking here. Now I plan to do more!

A day exploring the Bull Run Watershed

My sister and I went along on one of the Bull Run Watershed tours offered through the Portland Water Bureau. It was really interesting and beautiful. We learned all about the watershed and how it works and got to see an area of the Mt. Hood National Forest that few people get to see. We entered the watershed at the upper end, from Lolo Pass Road, working our day down Road 10 all the way to the other end below the two reservoirs.

Our first stop was Bull Run Lake, which is almost directly south of Lost Lake and has a similarly astounding view. If this lake was open to the public, I’m sure it would be as popular as nearby Lost Lake.

Ah, how lovely

Further down, we stopped at Reservoir 1, one of two reservoirs from which Portland’s drinking water is extracted.

Like Hoover Dam

We also got to walk down several hundred stairs along the downstream side of the dam. Fortunately we didn’t have to climb back up; our tour bus met us at the bottom.

Going down

Speaking of the tour bus, the Water Bureau has a pretty snazzy rig for taking people around the watershed. Comfy seats, AC, and a toilet. And it has recently been decorated with the artwork of a Portland elementary school student.

Our tour bus

See the rest of my pictures here.

If you’ve never been on one of these tours, I highly recommend it. It’s a pretty long day (we left Portland at 8:30 am and returned at 5 pm), but it’s interesting information and if you’re curious what this closed-to-the-public area is like, this is your chance to see it. Well, part of it anyways. I just know there are hidden – maybe undiscovered – waterfalls tucked away in those hills. We actually saw one waterfall from the road, along Falls Creek, I think. But as long as the area remains a protected watershed, they shall have to remain hidden away.

Backpacking to Big Slide Lake

On Sunday, my sister and I did a short one-nighter in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. It was my first time there. I’ve never done any hiking in that particular wilderness, although I have been to the Opal Creek Wilderness next door. We hiked the Dickey Creek trail to Big Slide Lake, which is 5.5 miles in. (Some pictures below, but the whole set is here.)

At the beginning of the hike, the trail descends steeply for 500 feet. It would have been better if they’d built switchbacks, but instead the trail just plunges straight down the hill. Since the trail was covered with loose dirt and pebbles, I was afraid I’d slip and fall, even though I had my hiking poles, but I managed to stay upright.

After that, the trail passes through some lovely old growth. The forest is quite pleasant to walk through, and even though it’s too late for wildflowers and too early for fall color, we DID have our pick of yummy huckleberries. They were EVERYWHERE. Mostly the red ones, but some of the blue ones too. We picked as we hiked, sometimes stopping altogether for a particularly full bush.

Huckleberries!

After 2.9 pleasant miles, the trail crosses Dickey Creek, which is a charming body of water. There is a little campsite here, and it would be a fine place to camp, especially on a hot day. The creek crossing was not a problem. Not only was the water level low enough for rock-hopping (my method of choice), but there is also a big log that traverses two-thirds of the water. The view below is from the log crossing.

Dickey Creek

It is another 2.6 miles and 1,300 feet from the creek crossing to the lake. The trail climbs up and up and up, well-graded in most parts, but still going relentlessly up. The huckleberries kept us going. Finally we reached the first of two rock slides below Big Slide Mountain. The first one is obviously older, with quite a lot of trees and vegetation growing in it. A short while later is the second (newer) rock slide which is huge. It’s bigger than this picture conveys.

The big rock slide

It was here that we saw the first fall color on this hike. There was a lot of vine maple growing in the rock slides, and those are always the first to turn. A note here: this whole trail will be spectacular in a few weeks. There is an unusually high amount of vine maple along the whole route. Except for at the rock slides, it’s still green at this point. I kept thinking as we walked by it all, “this will be so beautiful soon!”

Brilliant

Shortly after leaving the second rock slide, there is an unmarked side trail plunging steeply down the hill on the right. This trail leads to the campsites on the west side of Big Slide Lake. Being a Sunday night, we had the place to ourselves, so we staked the tent and set about making dinner. The campsites here are pleasant. We took the one nearest the lake, but there were several others scattered in the trees on the slope above the lake. There are also at least two nicely-constructed fire rings.

Cozy campsite

It got down to about 35 that night, but we still managed to stay pretty warm in our tent. The morning was clear and sunny, although the sun never reached the lake before we left, thanks to the high ridges surrounding the lake. You can hike up to those ridges, actually. And the trails up there connect with other trails in the wilderness. We had considered undertaking the 2.2 mile 1,300-foot climb to the fire lookout on Bull of the Woods Mountain, but we decided to hike out and go to Bagby Hot Springs instead.

It's going to be a sunny day

This is a really pleasant little lake for a one-nighter, and although it takes nearly two hours to get to the trailhead from Portland, the trail is short enough that it doesn’t require a whole day. I get the impression that this lake doesn’t get as many visitors as some of the other lakes in the wilderness, but according to the trail register at the trailhead, about 20 groups have hiked in here this month. Oh, I should mention that Big Slide Lake would be perfect for swimming on a warmer day. There is a cute little island that you could probably wade to, and the water in the lake is surprisingly warm. All in all, this is a nice little hike. I’d like to do it again later in the fall to see the autumn display!

Mirror Lake

I decided to hike up to Mirror Lake yesterday, and possibly continue on to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain. When I got to the trailhead about 11:20, the parking area was pretty full with cars! On a Friday morning! (I later encountered a big organized hiking group that probably accounted for about half those cars.)

The trail was, as always, a pleasant walk. The rhododendrons are just starting to bloom. They’re going to look really great in a few weeks. And although it seems a bit early for beargrass, there were a few who didn’t get the memo and were already starting to bloom.

The lake was beautiful, but buggy. Oh, the bugs were bad! I scarfed down my lunch, eating more than a few bugs, I’m sure, then threw on my mosquito head net. The clouds had mostly burned off and the remaining snow on Mt. Hood practically glowed in the sunshine. For a time the lake was still enough to reflect the mountain, but a group of guys on the other shore had set up for the day to fish and they also had an inflatable raft, so all their activity kept disturbing the lake surface.

I hiked a short ways up the Tom, Dick, and Harry trail, but just far enough to get that great view of Mt. Hood from the rock slide area. I decided that there were probably too many clouds on the horizon to make the climb up to the top worthwhile. I didn’t think I’d be able to see any mountains other than Hood and Jefferson. Besides, I’d like to save that hike for a few weeks from now when the wildflowers bust out.

All in all, a beautiful day up there. I encountered no snow at all on or off the trail, and the snow on the mountain looks like it’s melting fast. Let the hiking begin!

That beautiful reflection of Mt. Hood in Mirror Lake, complete with guys fishing

Why it's called Mirror Lake

Paintbrush was starting to bloom along the trail between Mirror Lake and TDH Mountain

Spiky

A great view of Mt. Hood from the trail up to TDH Mountain

Glowing

Anyone know about this? This trail was heading up the hill from the top leg of the zig-zag, just a few minutes before reaching the lake. I’d guess that if this keeps going, it’d intersect with the trail up to Tom, Dick, and Harry. I’ve never noticed it before, and it looks “built” not just a trail created by tramping through the woods.
Unmarked trail

Here’s another mysterious path, what looks like an old road through the woods. This is just off the trail towards the bottom of the hill, just a little ways above the spot where the trail zig-zags twice across that rock slide.
I wonder where this goes

One of the more ambitious rhododendrons. They’ll all be blooming like crazy in a few weeks!
Rhodies