Spider-whacking at Elowah Falls – 9/25/07

Another hike with my roommate’s dog, this time just a short jaunt in the Gorge past Elowah Falls. I was so happy to be out stretching my legs with the dog that I didn’t even notice the spiders for quite awhile. We hiked down to Elowah Falls from John B. Yeon with incident. The falls are small and wispy, as always for this time of year. I stopped and set up my tripod and took some pictures while Besa sniffed and explored. Then we continued on along the Gorge Trail, my goal being Moffet Creek, which would make for a nice 4.5 mile round trip outing.

The only problem is that this trail isn’t hiked as much as the portion between the parking lot and the waterfall. It’s a lot more brushy and there were a lot of spiders! Webs across the trail at every height, and all amongst the bushes on the side too. After inadvertently walking into a few (despite trying to keep my eyes open for them), I found a big stick and started knocking them all down. Nevertheless, I still found myself with stray webs brushing against my face and arms. After half a mile of this, I couldn’t take it anymore. I have a HORRIBLE fear of spiders, and the great abundance of them was really starting to creep me out.

So we turned around and headed back. The funny thing is that now that my brain was in full spider-alert mode, I spotted all sorts of them (high up and in the bushes along the trail) between Elowah Falls and the parking lot that I hadn’t even noticed on the way in! Ugh. So if you’re out in the Gorge this season, carry a stick or be prepared to be webbed!

In general, I love autumn, but the big downside is the abundance of spiders. Those bastards are everywhere this time of year!

Here’s how Elowah Falls looks right now:

Low flow

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.

Marion Lake

I have a very strange work schedule, so I occasionally have weekdays off, which was the case this past Thursday. So I headed down to the Mt. Jefferson area to go for a hike. I originally intended to go up to Pamelia Lake, having never been there, but when I stopped in at the Detroit Ranger Station for the required permit, I was told the trail was closed for a few days. Apparently they were doing some blasting where the PCT crosses Milk Creek, to try and make the crossing better after it was ripped to shreds in the November storms. So I decided to do Marion Lake instead.

I was surprised to see half a dozen cars at the trailhead. On a weekday towards the end of the September, I thought I’d be the only one up there. I never saw the occupants of most of those cars, though I did pass a group of four men who were taking a break at Lake Ann, who had started on the trail about ten minutes before me. I didn’t see them again the rest of the day.

When the trail forks after Lake Ann, I took the right fork and then tried to find Marion Falls, without success. So I continued on to Marion Lake, where I ate lunch along the shore.

Marion Lake

There was a little fall chill in the air, and the day was a little overcast. The weird thing is that you can tell this lake is popular and overrun with people in the summer because of all the little trails down to the shore and the huge trampled camping areas. But there were no campers there that day, and no other hikers. It was a little like being in a ghost town.

While eating lunch, I could see the huge rock slide to my right, across which the Blue Lake Trail crosses. There were a lot of colorful vine maple there, so I headed up that trail just as far as the rock slide so I could revel in the gorgeous beauty of all that fiery red color. It was fantastic! I absolutely love vine maple in the fall!

Fiery red

View from the rock slide

There are a lot of patches in the forest where vine maple grows here, but only the exposed ones on the rock slides are in color right now. There are several rock slide areas that the trail passes, or that you can see from a distance, and ALL rock slide vine maple is in color now. It’s pretty spectacular.

Back down on the Marion Lake trail, I meandered down to the peninsula, where I had a pretty nice view of Three Fingered Jack, silhouetted in the afternoon sun.

Three Fingered Jack

And if you cross the peninsula to the other side, you can see the very top of Mt. Jefferson.

A little bit of Jeff

From here, I could also see two horseback riders crossing a rock slide on the Minto Pass Trail, right before it connects up with the Marion Lake Trail. I came across the hoofprints on the trail a short while later, but never did see them up-close.

Horses on the rocks

See all my photos from this hike here.

This is a pleasant and easy hike. I am by no means a fast hiker, but it only took me four hours to do the six miles, including my detour to find the waterfall, my lunch break, and my half hour vine maple fix. Makes for a great autumn hike!

Spectacular colors at Marion Lake

I have a very strange work schedule, so I occasionally have weekdays off, which was the case this past Thursday. So I headed down to the Mt. Jefferson area to go for a hike. I originally intended to go up to Pamelia Lake, having never been there, but when I stopped in at the Detroit Ranger Station for the required permit, I was told the trail was closed for a few days. Apparently they were doing some blasting where the PCT crosses Milk Creek, to try and make the crossing better after it was ripped to shreds in the November storms. So I decided to do Marion Lake instead.

I was surprised to see half a dozen cars at the trailhead. On a weekday towards the end of the September, I thought I’d be the only one up there. I never saw the occupants of most of those cars, though I did pass a group of four men who were taking a break at Lake Ann, who had started on the trail about ten minutes before me. I didn’t see them again the rest of the day.

When the trail forks after Lake Ann, I took the right fork and then tried to find Marion Falls, without success. So I continued on to Marion Lake, where I ate lunch along the shore.

Marion Lake

There was a little fall chill in the air, and the day was a little overcast. The weird thing is that you can tell this lake is popular and overrun with people in the summer because of all the little trails down to the shore and the huge trampled camping areas. But there were no campers there that day, and no other hikers. It was a little like being in a ghost town.

While eating lunch, I could see the huge rock slide to my right, across which the Blue Lake Trail crosses. There were a lot of colorful vine maple there, so I headed up that trail just as far as the rock slide so I could revel in the gorgeous beauty of all that fiery red color. It was fantastic! I absolutely love vine maple in the fall!

Fiery red

View from the rock slide

There are a lot of patches in the forest where vine maple grows here, but only the exposed ones on the rock slides are in color right now. There are several rock slide areas that the trail passes, or that you can see from a distance, and ALL rock slide vine maple is in color now. It’s pretty spectacular.

Back down on the Marion Lake trail, I meandered down to the peninsula, where I had a pretty nice view of Three Fingered Jack, silhouetted in the afternoon sun.

Three Fingered Jack

And if you cross the peninsula to the other side, you can see the very top of Mt. Jefferson.

A little bit of Jeff

From here, I could also see two horseback riders crossing a rock slide on the Minto Pass Trail, right before it connects up with the Marion Lake Trail. I came across the hoofprints on the trail a short while later, but never did see them up-close.

Horses on the rocks

See all my photos from this hike here.

This is a pleasant and easy hike. I am by no means a fast hiker, but it only took me four hours to do the six miles, including my detour to find the waterfall, my lunch break, and my half hour vine maple fix. Makes for a great autumn hike!

Gales Creek – Tillamook State Forest

Sunday’s weather looked so iffy that I abandoned my plans to go hiking in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, and instead headed west to the Tillamook State Forest to hike part of the Gales Creek Trail. This trail is 5.6 miles long between the Gales Creek Campground and Bell Camp Road. If you do the whole thing, it makes for a pretty long day hike, so I just went a few miles up, starting at the campground. (All pictures here.)

The trail travels parallel to Gales Creek, but most of the time the creek is a good ways down the hill below. There are a few spots where you can get down there for a better view of the creek.

Gales Creek

This trail intersects with the Storey Burn Trail. Sullivan mentions a 15-foot waterfall up this trail, so I hiked up there about 20-30 minutes to take a look. It was a little disappointing, though. Barely worthy of the term “waterfall.” Perhaps this is more impressive in the spring.

A "waterfall"

The forest is incredibly lush and green around here. I guess it must get a lot of rain!

Streak of brown

Of course, this area was affected by the famous wildfires here. As a result, there aren’t too many conifers around. It’s mostly alders and big leaf maples, from what I could see. There are quite a lot of ferns, and huge ones too. Quite impressive. There are areas where there a lot of vine maple too, so this could be a really colorful hike in about a month, maybe sooner. I was starting to see just the beginnings of fall color on Sunday, in addition to this vine maple at the Gales Creek Campground that is way ahead of the game.

Color at the creek

It rained several times and drizzled off and on, but the trees kept me mostly dry. This is a pleasant, non-strenuous, family-friendly hike. No grand vistas or anything, but the creek is pleasant. I imagine there’s some wildflowers here in spring and summer too.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I drove up to see University Falls, which I’ve never seen before. This time of year the flow is pretty low, but it’s still pretty. I’d like to come here in the spring. I bet it’s impressive then! (Where bright colors if you go here this time of year; I heard constant gunfire in the area around the trailhead!)

University Falls

Lakes Basin – Eagle Cap Wilderness

else who decides to visit this area so early in the summer like we did, I thought I’d go ahead and post a report.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever had the privilege to visit. And the Lakes Basin area in that wilderness is divine. My sister and I had eight days in NE Oregon, and we planned on three nights in the backcountry. Although we tossed around different ideas, we knew we couldn’t pass up the scenic lakes. We figured that since we were there so early in the year and it was the middle of the week, we wouldn’t run into the legendary crowds that descend on this area in the summer. They told us at the ranger station that we would likely run into snow, but we went for it anyway.

Day 1

We started from the trailhead at Wallowa Lake. The first six miles of the trail climbs slowly and steadily upwards, paralleling the West Fork Wallowa River, while huge mountains tower above you on all sides.

Majestic mountains

After six miles, we reached – wait for it – Sixmile Meadow. We stretched out on a sunny rock and soaked up the sunshine and the views. It was a gorgeous perfect day. A ground squirrel kept us company out in the meadow, watching us curiously for awhile, scampering around, watching us some more, but never approaching. I would hope that the type of people who make it in this far know better than to feed the wildlife. We did see one other person here, our first -and only – person-sighting of the day back here. He got out his fishing pole and headed down to the river, which borders one side of the meadow.

Sixmile Meadow

From Sixmile Meadow, the trail continues straight up to Frazier Lake. That would be our return route. We hopped onto the Lakes Basin Trail that would take us a further 3.1 miles up to Horseshoe Lake, where we would camp for the night. This trail immediately has two water crossings, neither of which have bridges anymore, though they once did. We crossed the Wallowa on a long but sturdy log. This is the first time I’ve had to cross such a wide river on a log, and definitely the first time I’ve had to do it with a heavy pack. I got a bad case of nerves in the middle of the log, shaking legs and everything. But I made it!

Log crossing

The next crossing, less than a minute later, is across Lake Creek, where the washed-out bridge is still visible. (Talking to the people at the ranger station afterwards, we learned that
these bridges have been out for several years, but that there simply
isn’t staff or money to replace them.)

Bye bye bridge

As you can see from the picture, there are PLENTY of logs down across the creek to choose from. And the creek is shallow enough to wade too. We chose a log. And once again I made it across without falling in!

And then began what felt like a really difficult climb up to the lake. It’s an 1,100 feet gain in those 3.1 miles, which really isn’t bad. But it was the end of the day and my pack was feeling really heavy (and, I’ll admit it, I was not in the best of shape). But man, once we arrived at Horseshoe Lake, all that work was SO worth it. We circled around to the west side of the lake where the campsites were. The huge areas of bare ground amongst the trees there was all the evidence we needed that this area is VERY popular. On a Monday evening in June, though, we had the place completely to ourselves. As we set up camp and made dinner, I kept running out of camp to the edge of the lake to see the view. And what a view it was.

Evening at Horseshoe Lake

It got very cold very fast. The low temps combined with the nearly full moon and the long wait for total darkness meant that we didn’t see stars that night. Even with the nearly full moon we still would have seen a ton, but we were too tired and cold to wait up for them. Darkness is a long time coming during these longest days of the year!

Day 2

Tuesday was another gorgeous day with clear blue skies. We hiked on from Horseshoe Lake, passing Lee Lake and Douglas Lake. Somewhere on the trail between Douglas and Moccasin Lakes, we encountered our first snow, at about 7,400 feet.

First encounter with snow

But despite this little bit of the snow, the trail was pretty clear sailing up to Moccasin Lake. We ate lunch on a rock ledge overlooking the lake, with a clear view of Eagle Cap straight ahead. Our original plan had been to camp somewhere in this vicinity on this day and climb Eagle Cap, then go camp at Glacier Lake on our third night. HA! We took one look at all the snow up on Eagle Cap and decided it would be a bad idea to go up there. While eating lunch here, we did see some hikers coming down from there, cutting cross country and sliding down the snow on the mountainside, rather than taking the trail. We actually ran into them the next day and they said the trail up there was pretty well covered in snow for the first part, but that the last part was actually not too bad.

Lunch with a view

We took a short side trip up to Mirror Lake before continuing on up to Glacier Pass. Mirror Lake is yet another gorgeous alpine lake backdropped by majestic mountains, which were still pretty well covered in snow when we were there, an indication of what we soon faced. We saw a few campers there, as well as a few down at Moccasin Lake. Back down at Moccasin Lake, we crossed the inflow stream on rocks and trekked off toward Glacier Pass. [Begin ominous music here!]

Goodbye, Moccasin Lake

The first little bit after the lake was fine. It got a bit soggy in places, but it wasn’t too bad. But soon enough we started encountering more and more snow on the ground. We quickly lost the trail, and knowing we had to cross the creek at some point, we crossed at a spot that looked like where the trail would go. Because the creek was raging with snowmelt, we had to take our boots off and wade. And it turned out that unfortunately, this was not the place where we needed to cross, which we discovered after bushwhacking around for an hour and not finding any trail. So we waded back across and managed to discover where the trail continued upstream, buried in snow.

And so began a brutal and grueling climb. The trail switchbacks a lot here, but since it was all buried under snow, we just went straight up. The melting snow was wet and slippery, and keeping our footing was extremely difficult. Deborah broke trail, bless her. We finally reached the real creek crossing, mostly buried under snow. We filtered some water and pushed on.

Awful snow

We had to climb again, coming out of this creek valley and up to Glacier Pass. More snow to cross. Lots more. My morale plummeted with each slow step. FINALLY, we were on the last push to the pass, and ironically that section was free from snow, even though it was of course higher than all the trail we had just traversed. After 2.7 miles, 4 hours (which included our lost hour when we crossed the creek too soon) and 1,000 feet of elevation gain, we reached Glacier Pass at 6:30 p.m. Oh joy! But then we looked down on the other side of the pass at Glacier Lake and my suspicions were confirmed:

Frozen

The lake had only barely begun to thaw out and was still mostly covered in ice. The land around the lake was still buried in snow. The outflow from the lake was also under snow. We could hear it raging under there, but we couldn’t see it until it emerged from the snow a short ways down. We would not be camping here tonight. I was pretty bummed out. Not only was I exhausted from our snowy climb to the pass, but I had heard how scenic Glacier Lake was, the most photographed lake in the wilderness. We learned from the ranger station later that this lake is one of the last to thaw out in summer.

So we pushed on to Frazier Lake, down the valley two miles. We could see the trail clinging to the valley wall further down, but to get there we first had to make our way down a steep snowy slope. According to the map, the trail wrapped around down along the lake, but we just made our way straight down, completely bypassing the frozen lake. Eventually we broke free of the snow and hit dry trail. As we lost elevation, we started to see a few wildflowers here and there. During the course of the two hours it took to travel the two miles from Glacier Pass to Frazier Lake, we went from winter to summer, just like that. At Frazier Lake, we pitched the tent and made dinner quickly, then fell into bed exhausted.

Day 3

Wednesday morning we woke to more blue skies and warm sunshine. The snowy mountains seemed to rise right out of Frazier Lake.

Morning reflections

The morning was beautiful, but the mosquitoes were out. It was the first time we encountered significant mosquitoes on this trip. We later read that this lake is particularly notorious for the little bastards. So we ate breakfast, broke camp, and headed out.

The trail follows the West Fork Wallowa River down to Sixmile Meadow, where we had headed off to the Lakes Basin two days before. We could see down the length of the valley, at the end of which lay our car and Wallowa Lake.

Long valley

You have to ford the river at some point, which was slightly scary. It was raging with freezing cold snowmelt. I’m pretty short (5’3″), so the swift water soaked me to my upper thighs. I imagine that later in the summer it’s not so bad, though.

After the river crossing, the trail just continues its slow descent out of the long valley. It’s 10.1 miles from Frazier Lake to the trailhead. We saw quite a few wildflowers along this stretch of trail, which was fun. The lens on my camera started acting up, and my tiredness increased with each step, so my picture-taking rapidly decreased. The last mile of the trail, I was really dragging. I was really happy to see our car waiting for us at the trailhead! We splurged that night and paid to camp at the state park (hot showers!). We had beer and pizza in Joseph and slept like logs that night.

This was a GREAT trip. Deborah’s pretty experienced, but It was my first “real” backpacking trip. I’m not a fan of walking around with 35 pounds on my back, but being able to experience parts of the backcountry that you can’t see by day hiking was SO worth it. I’m hooked! Now I just need to get in better shape.

If you do this trip in late June, be prepared for snow. We actually got lucky. The snowpack was pretty low this year; otherwise we would have encountered more snow and at a lower elevation. While the snow is a disadvantage for a late June trip, we were early enough that we beat the worst of the mosquitoes. Even the ones at Frazier Lake weren’t as bad as some I’ve encountered. And we beat the crowds (it also helped being there during the week). This area is really beautiful, and I already can’t wait to go back and explore more of the wilderness.

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!

Iron Mountain

On the 4th of July I did the hike up to Iron Mountain on a hot beautiful day.

There were lots of columbine along the trail:

Columbine

The trail traverses the lower slope of Cone Peak (which is right next door to Iron Mountain):

Cone Peak

The trail crossed this huge rocky area where a billion wildflowers were blooming. All the hikers going through here were stopping to take pictures. It was a pretty impressive display:

Attention-getters

I encountered some ladies who were tallying all the wildflowers they saw on the hike. They said they were up to 50!

Hardy flowers

Paintbrush extravaganza

Walking through wildflowers

Looking west to Iron Mountain:

Iron Mountain

After a hike through the forest and a steep climb, I reached the summit of Iron Mountain. There’s an old fire lookout up here. Apparently the lookout that preceded this one blew off the mountain in a 1976 windstorm. Yikes! It was a hot day and most hikers were huddled in the shade of the building:

Fire lookout

Looking northwest:

Forested hills

Mt. Hood peeking into view to the north. Three Pyramids on the right:

Distant Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson:

Hey, Jeff!

The Three Sisters:

Three Sisters

View to the south and Diamond Peak:

Looking south

Looking down on the highway:

Rock weirdness

After leaving the summit I looped back to my car at Tombstone Pass. Great hike!