Pamelia Lake

After our marathon trek to and from Marion Falls, we headed over to Pamelia Lake, even though it was late in the day. We didn’t want our permit to go to waste.

The November 2006 storms wreaked havoc on the trail. Part of the Milk Creek Glacier up on Mt. Jefferson broke loose and sent a torrent of debris downstream. The debris flowed down Milk Creek and spread out towards Pamelia Creek, causing the creek to carve a whole new channel in places. It obliterated large sections of the trail but the Forest Service has done a good job rebuilding the trail. The forest in there is incredibly surreal. Rocks and boulders litter the forest floor and in many places they are resting on the “upstream” side of a group of trees, unable to go any further during the debris flow.

After hiking in and out of patches of this bouldery forest, the last stretch towards the lake was fine. About 6:00 we reached Pamelia Lake.

According to Sullivan’s hiking book, we could go around to the south shore of the lake for a view of Mt. Jefferson. We were unable to find a way to do so and we eventually realized why. Sullivan describes how the lake level drops by mid to late summer so that the shoreline is exposed. It is along the shoreline that he tells you to walk to get the view of Mt. Jefferson. You can see in the photo below that all the logs that would normally be high and dry by late July are in fact anything but. But this, of course, is not a normal year.

Greg explored in the bushes along the lake, but even if we had tried to bushwhack over to the south shore, we would have had to wade the outlet creek, which again is apparently normally pretty dry. So we gave up and simply hung out on the north shore, admiring the lovely evening and the peaceful lake.

Pamelia Lake is nice and I’m glad we went there. But I’m not sure what the huge appeal is. Why is this lake so popular? So popular that the Forest Service has had to limit access! There are several prettier lakes with hikes that are of similar length and difficulty, both in the Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood areas.

I would like to come back here to explore the area further up, including Grizzly Peak and Hunt’s Cove. I have barely seen any of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, and I hope to spend more time there next summer.

Gooch Falls and Marion Falls

Last fall when I hiked to Marion Lake, I attempted to find Marion Falls but failed. While Greg and I were camping at Marion Forks Campground a few weeks ago, we hiked the Marion Lake trail for the sole purpose of visiting Marion Falls. Greg had been there before, so this time I knew I’d get to see it. I was also intensely curious to see where I went wrong in my attempts to find it last year.

Before heading up to Marion Falls, we stopped to see Gooch Falls, which requires a short hike up a logging road and a short hike down an unofficial trail to the cliff above the falls. (You can find directions here.)

Gooch Falls is IMPRESSIVE. I’m amazed that such a beautiful and easily-accessed waterfall doesn’t have an official trail and signs. So much water was roaring over the falls that the spray rose up in huge amounts to shower us and our cameras with water. We were pretty wet when we were done, as were our cameras. With frequent lens-wiping, I managed to get a good shot.

I also took a video.

Before heading up to the Marion Falls trailhead, we went back down the road a short ways to filter water, since our campground didn’t have any. After doing so, I took a photo of lovely Marion Creek from the bridge that spans it.

And then we were finally ready to hit the trail. There were quite a few cars at the Marion Lake trailhead, including a large group of Youth Corps folks. But for all the cars at the trailhead, we ran into only a few people on the trail, most of them being backpackers on their way out.

We ate lunch at Lake Ann, where we saw some nice beargrass.

At the junction after Lake Ann, we took the right fork, and a short while later reached the obvious (but unmarked) trail heading off to the right. We took this up and over a hump and down to Marion Creek. I had gotten this far last year, but lost the trail then. Turns out you go downstream from there. The “trail” is faint, pretty much non-existent. But there is barely any undergrowth so it’s easy walking.

You soon reach a viewpoint at the top of Marion Falls, but you can’t really see much. So we took a trail to the right which heads steeply down the hill near the creek and waterfall. This is VERY steep. I fell once, my feet slipping out from under me. Thanks to my hiking poles I caught myself and just got a few scrapes.

We reached a spot where we could see the upper tier of Marion Falls. Greg went all the way out beyond the green vegetation you see here in the foreground, but it’s steep and wet out there, so I took my picture from back at the edge of the trees. There was A LOT of spray.

I was a little reluctant due to the steep difficult trail, but Greg convinced me that going further down was worth it to see the bottom tier. So we made our way further down and it was indeed worth it.

See the video here.

As with the upper tier, there was a lot of spray here, maybe even more than above. It was pretty damn impressive. Once again, I can’t believe the Forest Service hasn’t built an official trail out here.

I’m glad I had Greg to show me where this was. Even if I had been able to find the top-of-the-falls viewpoint last year, I’m not sure I would have been up to tackling the steep scramble trail down for a better view of the falls. It was nice to get a gander at this impressive waterfall! If you go here, be careful. The trail to the viewpoint is fine, but the scramble trail can be difficult.

We didn’t go to Marion Lake, although we wanted to. We had planned on fitting both this and the Pamelia Lake hike into one day and it was already 3:00 when we got back to the main trail. So we booked it out to the car and headed over to Pamelia Lake.

Echo Basin

July 26, 2008

The Echo Basin trail seems to be a little-known and seldom-visited hike near Santiam Pass. It’s not very long but passes through a beautiful wildflower meadow. Greg and I did this after the Cone Peak hike earlier in the day. Here’s his wildflower report.

The hike starts out climbing up an old overgrown logging road that is so steep that it seems hard to believe a logging truck – or any other vehicle, for that matter – could have handled the grade. Thick clumps of alder grow alongside the road/path, growing in weird arcs as seen below. Why they don’t just grow straight up is beyond me. Maybe it has something to do with snow? (We saw several patches of snow alongside the trail on this hot July day. Seemed incredible that any could still be lingering!)


The trail reaches a junction where you can either go right or left to complete the loop. We went right, climbing still more up through the trees. There is old growth here and the forest is very pretty.


The trail then passes through a big field chock full of False Hellebore. There was A LOT of it.


Finally we reached beautiful Echo Basin. What a lovely spot! It was full of wildflowers with several gurgling streams flowing down from above. It was a pretty and peaceful spot. Some of the wildflowers we saw:




Echo Basin does indeed have an echo, although not a very significant one. We had fun testing it out. The view below shows part of the basin. I didn’t have a wide enough lens to capture it all.


Hiking back down on the other side of the loop, I got a shot of Greg in front of one of the huge Alaska Cedars for perspective. This area is unique because Alaska Cedars don’t usually grow this far south.


And back at the junction we made the knee-aching descent back down the old road to the car. The hike is only about 2.5 miles in total, with an elevation gain of about 600 feet. Very much worth it for the cool old growth and beautiful wildflowers.

Cone Peak

July 26, 2008

Greg and I went camping at Marion Forks Campground a few weeks ago and did lots of great hikes. The first one we did was Cone Peak, which is right next to Iron Mountain. We didn’t do the whole trail, just up to Cone Peak and back. The wildflowers were wonderful! (Greg wrote up a wildflower report on his website.)

A wide shot of the flowered slopes of Cone Peak

Very cool cloud formation

Some of the wildflowers we saw up there…






And finally, looking west at Iron Mountain and the view beyond


Great little hike with beautiful flowers! As with everything this year, the blooms were several weeks behind. The flowers were at peak when we were there on July 26, but last year I hiked there on the 4th of July and they were at peak, which I think is more normal.

After this hike, we headed to nearby Echo Basin for more wildflower action!

Little Eagle Meadows

After our three-day trip with the Wallowa Llamas, Greg and I had one free day before driving back to Portland. So we went on a day hike up to Little Eagle Meadows, starting at the Summit Point trailhead. This hike to the meadows was the first part of the longer hike up to Pine Lakes, which is the hike we were supposed to have done with the llamas. But there was too much snow higher up, so our llama guide took us to Eagle Meadows instead.

My sister and I did this hike last year in late June and it was too early for the massive lupine displays. All we saw were thousands of lupine leaves. Fortunately, Greg and I saw plenty of blooming lupine. Here he is coming up the trail behind me, surrounded by the purple wildflowers.

The trail climbs up and up and up. It was fairly brutal in parts. I was very tired. Fortunately, it wasn’t hot. In fact, we got drizzled on a little bit. It’s amazing how fast the weather changes. At the trailhead it was hot and sunny and I left my rain jacket in the car. Half an hour later the sun was gone and it was drizzling.

Finally we reached the massive meadows. It really should be called Big Eagle Meadows, not Little Eagle Meadows. Cornucopia Mountain makes a nice backdrop.

The lupine was EVERYWHERE and it was gorgeous. And for every blooming lupine we saw, there were even more that hadn’t bloomed yet. I’ve never so many lupine in one place before.

There were other wildflowers blooming up there too.

We had a nice view of the mountains and the distant rain on the hike out.

Beautiful hike! Probably about five miles round-trip to the meadows and back, with about 800 feet elevation gain.

Trekking with the Wallowa Llamas in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

When Greg won the 2006 Oregon Wild photo contest, one of his prizes was a gift certificate for a three-day, two-night trip with the Wallowa Llamas. So we redeemed that gift certificate on July 18 and went on an awesome trip into the beautiful Eagle Cap Wilderness. The whole set of pictures is here.

We started out on Friday at the llama ranch just north of Halfway. Seven llamas got loaded into the back of an old school bus (bwahahahaha!). We humans rode up front.

We were supposed to start at the Summit Point trailhead and hike up to either Pine Lakes or Crater Lake. But the trail went into higher mountain territory where there was still snow, so we started at the Boulder Park trailhead and hiked into Eagle Meadows instead, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise since I’m still not in the best of shape after being laid up with a broken foot all of May and June.

After the hour and 45 minute drive up and down Forest Service roads, we arrived at the trailhead. The llamas were unloaded, saddled up, and laden with heavy packs. (We humans just carried day packs…woo hoo!)

Besides me and Greg, there were four other guests in our group, in addition to our tour guide, Raz, and his assistant Lisa. Raz and Lisa brought up the (distant) lead with the llamas while the rest of us hiked on ahead to our lunch spot. The scenery was instantly spectacular. This is the meadow we crossed just before reaching our lunch spot 2.5 miles from the trailhead.

We ate a delicious lunch (all the food was provided on this trip) by Eagle Creek. Raz has these two wooden cook boxes that when put on the ground side by side served as a nice flat preparation area, with the utensils and supplies inside within easy reach. Our feast of a lunch consisted of bagels, bread, salami, cheese, homemade red pepper spread, fresh veggies, and delicious cherries from their orchard!

After lunch, we had to cross Copper Creek, which had no bridge. I chose to wade rather than risk falling off one of the logs spanning the creek. The creek was wide, but only ankle deep. Shortly after crossing the creek, we could see Copper Creek Falls crashing down a cliff.

Greg bushwhacked over there when we hiked out on Sunday and although it was too sunny for a photograph, he got a video of the falls. Pretty impressive.

This is Bench Canyon Falls, which splashed down right by the trail.

In the late afternoon, after hiking 4.4 miles from the trailhead (and gaining about 1,300′) we arrived at beautiful Eagle Meadows. It stretches a lot further than this picture conveys. Eagle Creek runs through it. What an idyllic setting!

After Raz, Lisa, and the llamas arrived, some of us helped Raz lead the individual llamas to grazing ground. You take their lead rope and they follow you around without question. They’re quite curious. They grazed a little distance from camp and whenever we were out peeing or collecting firewood or taking pictures, they would watch us intently.

We set up tents while Raz and Lisa started on dinner. In addition to a stove, they had an oven setup which was pretty nifty, allowing Raz to heat up the meals that his wife had cooked and frozen for us a few days before. We had fresh veggies with ranch and blue cheese dip, merlot and chardonnay, raging bull chicken over quinoa, homemade Scottish oat bread, plus banana bread for dessert and a post-dinner drink of tea or hot chocolate.

We were all feeling pretty tired, so by the time dinner was done and cleaned up, we were ready to turn in. The days are long this time of year, so it was still a little light out when we went to bed. I slept better than I did when I went backpacking last summer. I stayed warm, for one thing, despite the fact that we woke up to frost in the morning. I woke up in the middle of the night and stuck my head out of the tent to see the stars, but it was just past the full moon, which made the sky too bright to see all the stars I might have. Still, there were a lot, and the bright moon illuminated the mountains and meadow all around us. It was VERY cool!

Morning dawned bright and beautiful and despite the overnight frost it warmed up very quickly as the sun came over the mountains.

After a breakfast of fresh cantaloupe plus Swedish pancakes and coffee and tea, Greg and I wandered the meadow taking pictures while Raz and Lisa moved the llamas to fresh grass. The scenery was stunning and vast. I wished I’d had a wide-angle lens! Next time. This is stitched from two shots.

We all set off on a day hike up to Eagle Lake, the source of Eagle Creek. It was 2.9 miles away and 1,300 feet above us. The scenery along the way was fantastic. Here is the group hiking toward Needle Point.

We saw lots of different wildflowers, including more penstemon than I’ve ever seen in my life.

We stopped about halfway up and Raz made us lunch, which included fresh veggies, gouda cheese, brie cheese, crackers, slices of baguette, and kippered herring. For dessert we had homemade ginger cookies plus apple slices with gjetost, a Norwegian goat cheese that made a pretty good pairing with the apples. One of the best trail lunches I’ve ever had!

Being out of shape and picking my way carefully up the rocky trail, I found the going tougher than I normally would. It was also pretty hot, well into the 80s, and the stunted trees provided little or no shade. But the scenery kept me motivated.

Beautiful Eagle Lake was a welcome sight. At 7,500 feet, it still had large patches of snow on and around it. Not surprising, considering the winter we had this year. The water was VERY cold! I was hot and could have used a refreshing toe-dip, but I refrained. Lisa, however, dove into the icy water not once but twice! Brrrrrr!

There was heather growing along one side of the lake. I sat on the shoreline surrounded by it and admired the lovely view. Damn, the Wallowas are gorgeous!

The hike back down was just as hard as going up because of the rocky trail. I was paranoid about my foot and where I put it, so it took a lot of concentration to watch where and how I walked. I stumbled a few times, but made it back down okay. Back at the meadow, Greg and I washed up at the creek while dinner was being prepared. Ah….so refreshing. The creek ran along the edge of the meadow near our tent and made for pleasant background noise while we slept at night.

My hunger overcame my general dislike for lasagna and I ate some at dinner that night. That was after having eaten quite a few crackers with sundried tomato pesto and cream cheese. As if that weren’t enough, we had salad with pomegranate vinaigrette (YUMMY!) and garlic bread, plus apricot bread for dessert. I will never eat this good in the backcountry again!

During dinner we saw a deer in our camp nearby. She seemed wary, but definitely not frightened of us. We would see her again periodically throughout the evening and next morning. She passed within 20 feet of me when I was back in the trees peeing. I spoke softly to her so as not to startle her. She looked at me and decided she didn’t like being that close and walked (not ran) away.

No frost Sunday morning, but it did sprinkle a few times in the early morning. But it didn’t last and once the sun was up it warmed up even faster than it had the morning before. After a breakfast of Mexican grits, muffins, and oranges, we packed up and headed out.

Whereas the llamas had been half an hour behind us on the hike in, they were about 15 minutes behind us on the first leg out. So after crossing Copper Creek, waiting for Greg to come back from his waterfall expedition, I was able to get a shot of the llamas in action, fording the creek. They are very sure-footed, not giving a second (or even a first!) glace to where they’re setting their feet.

Back at the trailhead, the llamas were loaded in the bus and we set off back towards Halfway, where I had a delicious shower that night at the hotel. Oh those post-backcountry showers are so wonderful.

All in all, we had a wonderful time! Our group wasn’t too big (they can be as big as ten guests) and they were fun people to talk with. Raz and Lisa were awesome leaders and cooks and they handled pretty much everything having to do with the llamas. They seem to be gentle patient creatures. The only troublemaker was three-year-old McNash. It was his first time doing this and he gave poor Lisa a hard time. He wouldn’t walk with the other string of llamas and Lisa had to lead him by himself. Even then he gave her some trouble. Here he is getting saddled up at the beginning:

We didn’t see many other people. Over the course of our three days, we saw a few people with horses, a few hikers, and a few backpackers, probably a dozen people total the whole weekend. The scenery was stunning, the food was awesome, and the llamas carried all our stuff! This is the way to go! I was enchanted with the Wallowas after my visit last year, and I remain enchanted. Greg and I both want to go back again. And again. There are a lot of trails to hike, lakes to see, and mountains to gaze at.

Drift Creek Falls

Greg and I headed out to Drift Creek Falls on Saturday. This was one we had attempted back in January or February, but were thwarted because of the downed trees that had apparently closed the trail.

There were an amazing number of cars in the parking lot, more than a dozen when we arrived in the early afternoon. Fortunately, we encountered nearly all of those people hiking out as we were hiking in.

The trail passed through a VERY lush forest. Everything was very green. And wet. We unfortunately got drizzled on.

After hiking down the well-graded easy trail for 1.3 miles, we came to the big impressive suspension bridge. I was completely amazed to find this impressive structure in the middle of the forest. (Here is a 1997 article from the Seattle Times about the bridge.)

You can look down on Drift Creek Falls from the bridge.

We hiked the remaining 0.2 miles down to creekside so we could get a better view of the falls. There was a group of photographers down there and a few other people. There wasn’t a whole lot of dry shore to work with, and I didn’t feel comfortable rambling around in the rocky shallows, with my foot still recovering. So I just snapped a few handheld shots and didn’t even get out my tripod.

Unfortunately, the drizzle refused to cease. There was nowhere dry to sit and I didn’t have my rain pants. So I left Greg to his picture-taking and slowly hiked back out to the car so I could wait someplace dry. This is a nice little hike. The falls still had plenty of water flowing and the forest was beautiful and lush. The hike is short, and probably about a two-hour drive one-way from Portland, so unless you live down thataways this is a hike best done while you’re camping on the coast in the Lincoln City vicinity.

Alsea Falls Recreation Area

Greg and I celebrated the 4th of July by hiking around the BLM-managed Alsea Falls Recreation Area in the Coast Range. This was also a celebration of a different kind: my first hike in two months! The stress fracture in my right foot has healed enough for me to start off on some short easy hikes like this and I was absolutely thrilled to be tramping through the forest again! I never want to go two whole months without hiking again.

We started off by visiting lovely Alsea Falls. Downstream from the falls you see in the photo below, the water slides down a rock face into a big green pool below. With the lower summer water flow, there is plenty of exposed rock surface next to the stream on which to stretch out and enjoy the scenery and have a picnic. The pool looks great for swimming, and in fact there were several women doing just that on Friday, although it didn’t seem like a warm enough day for that.

We saw plenty of tiger lilies blooming in the area near Alsea Falls. Beautiful!

We saved the loop along the creek for later and headed over to Green Peak Falls. There’s a section where the trail dumps you out on a gravel road for a short ways, and camped at the end of that road was a family who seemed to have brought everything but the kitchen sink. As we hiked by, they were setting up camp while they listened to rock music that blared from two four-foot-high speakers that were set up by their big old-school Suburban. (On the way back, the father announced proudly to us that he had forgotten the key to his kids’ dirt bike and had just spent two hours hotwiring it.) I don’t understand what people like that get out of the camping experience. They’re clearly not out there to commune with nature.

The trail to Green Peak Falls goes up and down through a lovely forest, paralleling the creek.

The trail ends at the base of the waterfall. It’s difficult to get good pictures from the shore because of the angle and the trees, but there were some large exposed rocks in the creek from where I took the photo below.

There’s also a nice pebbly beach just downstream from the waterfall where you can see a second little drop in the creek.

Greg demonstrated how it’s possible to get an even better shot by wading out into the creek.

We headed back then, passing the McBee Park campground where we witnessed more camping insanity. A group of people with several RVs and vehicles were running a generator to power their electric chainsaw which was being used to cut up a very thick log, presumably so they could add to their already enormous pile of firewood.

By the time we got back to the Alsea Falls area, it was getting late. We hadn’t had dinner and wanted to go to the fireworks in Corvallis that night. So we didn’t end up doing the loop. Another day, perhaps.

Wildflowers still late at Dalles Mountain Ranch and Rowena

If you’re planning on going to Dalles Mountain Ranch or Rowena Plateau tomorrow to see wildflowers, don’t bother! Greg and I got up early again this morning and headed out to Dalles Mountain Ranch. A beautiful morning out there, but it’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole weeks since our last visit. The flowers have made very little progress in those two weeks. At the trailhead, the balsamroot are just barely starting, and there are no lupine blooming.

Still no flowers

I would guess it’ll be a good two weeks before it comes close to peak bloom.

Same at Rowena Plateau. Balsamroot blooms just getting started. Lots of lupine leaves but no lupine blooms. And to think that on April 30 last year it looked like this:


One place we DID see lots of balsamroot – rather unexpectedly – was at Mosier Twin Tunnels. Lots of them in full beautiful bloom right before you get to the tunnels (coming from the east). No lupine yet, though.

Balsamroot everywhere

Dalles Mountain Ranch

Greg and I got up EARLY (5:30!) so that we could head out to the eastern Gorge on Sunday and catch the good morning light. Our first stop was the Dalles Mountain Ranch. Unfortunately, it is still too early for wildflowers there. There were a few patches of Balsamroot near the parking area, but we still have a ways to go before the big showy displays.

But the trek was not for nothing. We saw quite a few deer. Several crossed the road in front of us just as we approached the parking area, and then more followed. I got this shot from the parking area, looking back down the road.

Morning wildlife

And we had a lovely view of Mt. Hood, shining in the morning sun.

Mt. Hood morning

Looking up the road from the parking area. Not many flowers yet.

No flowers yet

One patch of Balsamroot, ahead of the game.

Early bloomer

Look at that blue sky! It was a really gorgeous morning out there. Warm and pleasant with no wind, and the birds singing like they were just as happy as I was for the glorious spring weather. We will be back here in a few weeks to see the wildflower show.

Oh, by the way, Rowena Plateau is even further behind than this spot. We saw even fewer Balsamroot down there than here.