Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

BayOcean Spit

I finally backpacked the Bayocean Spit that is known as “the town that fell into the sea“. After researching the history of Bayocean I was amazed that I camped in solitude on ground that once hosted a significant resort community in the early 1900s.BeachGrassBayocean is a small stretch of land that forms one wall of Tillamook Bay which I have neglected for many years as a backpacking option. The Bayocean trailhead offers a large parking lot which mostly accommodates day hikers. What I found was one of the most beautiful coastal backpacking option available on the Central Coast. TrailSign

The name defines the the route either on the bay side or the ocean side. I started out on the ocean side mostly by accident but had no issues with the ease on walking on the wet sand. As CampsiteMapI checked the map I realized that trails were coming off the bayside trail and I was not sure if these trails connected to the ocean or ended up on the various hilltops. However, I did find that the trails connected and were very well marked. I decided to hike to the furthest trail cutover and look for a good campsite. Hiking in the bayside tide was low but beautiful. LowBayWhat I found at my destination was an awesome sand dune beach with many great campsite options. This was ridiculously nice. The weather was perfect and I was the only person here on a little slice of land surrounded by many coastal communities.

TentBrookI setup camp and Brook and I settled in for a beautiful evening waiting for a possible sunset. Brook had plenty of fun chasing sticks and digging in the sand.BrookDune

This video captures some of the experience showing Cape Mears in the distance.

Sunset was not going to be great due to the distant offshore cloud bank, but it was still pretty amazing.Campsite

Temperature got down to 45 making for a great night for sleep. Brook slept out in the grass and looked wet and sandy in the morning. FreshWaterWe took our time hiking out. I checked out the other trails knowing that I will definitely backpack this spit again. I even found some fresh water which would probably only be available in Spring or Fall. Each time I ventured back out to the beach I had to snap more beach photos.

Beach

The tide was up on my hike out which made for beautiful bay side photos.

Scotch Broom dominates the fauna of the start of the spit but it probably provides good soil stability and it is rather attractive.BirdOnScotchBroom

The overall loop is 7 plus miles long and for not having much vertical I still got a really good workout.

Great PNW Multi-day Backpacking Loops

I have been putting together an annual multi-day backpacking loop trek for my friends for the last 8 years. The goal was to find a 4 or 5 day trek of moderate difficulty based on a loop to simplify travel logistics.NAInteractive Map The first trek was through the Sisters Wilderness in 2011 and during each trek we would ask other backpackers what they thought was another great loop option. This advice truly led us to discover and confirm the finest multi-day backpacking loop treks in the Pacific Northwest. Since I have answered this question for other backpackers through the years I decided to create post to highlight these loop treks. The order presented is based on the order in which I discovered these treks. Please feel free to share your similar favorite loops.

 

Three Sisters Wilderness

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

There is a 50 mile loop that encircles the 3 Sister Peaks, however, I selected an approximate 35 mile route that starts from the Lava Lake Trailhead and cuts through between the Middle and South Sister peaks. This was my first multi-day trek for which I named the post “No Pain No Gain“, reflective of efforts and rewards of backpacking. The route adhered to the 4 to 5 day goal while adding the challenge of being up close to the Sisters. I would recommend the clockwise route with attention paid to water availability on the first day. Camp Lake through to the Chambers Lakes typically presents the challenge of climbing through snow but you need to experience the view from up there. You have to time this trek to allow for the snow crossing while also taking in a maximum floral display without too many bugs. The east section which is the PCT takes you through lush forests into lava fields. Passing through the restricted Obsidian area is not a problem, however, you want to time your climb over Opie Dilldock pass during the cool part of the day. The Mattieu Lakes near the start and finish offer good rest options. You could also consider doing this loop from the Pole Creek Trailhead.

Eagle Cap Wilderness

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake Below Eagle Cap

The Eagle Cap Wilderness was enticing, however, piecing together a loop was not as obvious. I settled on using the Two Pan Trailhead to enter via the Minam Lake Trail and returning via the East Fork Lostine Trail while taking in all of the options provided by the Lakes Basin area. This loop requires crossing the 8548′ Carper pass to settle around Mirror or Moccasin Lakes. Here you have the option of expanding the loop up and over Glacier pass through Horseshoe Lake to Douglas Lake. Or you could just base from the basin area and do a few day hikes to fill your trek. Either way you must experience Glacier Lake. The lakes here are deep and can provide some good fishing. You come out completing the loop via the East Fork Lostine Trail with a shrinking awesome view of Eagle Cap.

Goat Rocks Wilderness

Valley below Goat Lake

Valley below Goat Lake

Goat Rocks should end up on everyones list, however, with that popularity come the weekend crowds. The loop option is fairly defined with a starting point at the Berry Patch or Snowgrass Flats Trailheads. It could be treated as a 2 day loop, which is why you include spur hikes north & south on the PCT. Whether you go up Snowgrass or Goat Ridge Trails you will be doing the bulk of the climb and you typically will deal with the worst of the mosquitos and black flies. I like the Snowgrass Trail to the Bypass Trail over to the PCT. Once on the PCT portion of Goat Rocks you have access to Cispus Pass south or Old Snowy north which is worthy of a few nights. Then head over to the Lilly Basin Trail which takes you to the Goat Lake area. The lake is generally iced over, however, the campsite options around there provide an awesome view of the valley and Mt Adams. You may want to hike up to Hawkeye Point and you should be treated to herds of mountain goats above Goat Lake. Your hike out via the Goat Ridge Trail is essentially downhill.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop

SpiderGapBuckCreek02

Spider Gap Snow Field

The Glacier Peak Wilderness provides a classic 36 mile backpacking loop that takes you up a glacier to Spider Gap past the Lyman Lakes then over Cloudy and Suiattle Pass by Fortress Mountain and over to Buck Creek Pass and Liberty Cap. This trek is probably the most true loop and it may be the most challenging especially getting up to Spider Gap. You start at the Phelps Creek Trailhead and head up the Phelps Creek Trail as far as you can in preparation for the climb up the Spider Gap Glacier. Camping near the Lyman Lakes sets you up for the next climb to Cloudy Pass and then around to Suiattle Pass where you get your first glimpse of Glacier Peak. If time and energy allow you should consider including a visit to Image Lake along Miners Ridge. As you work your way around to Buck Creek Pass, Glacier Peak is positioned prominently to the west. Find a campsite with a view of Glacier and take a hike over to Liberty Cap. The final hike out is relatively easy from there.

Timberline Trail Around Mt Hood

Brook & I in front of Hood

Mt Hood

This is a great loop trail around Mt. Hood with views many other mountains. I have decided to do this loop every year because it is so perfect and it provides me with a gauge for my overall health.  TT 2017  TT 2018 The TT is approximately 40 miles with a number of potentially challenging stream crossings. The elevation low point is near Ramona Falls at about 3300′ with a high point on the east side at 7350′. There are many choices for a starting point with the most common being at Timberline Lodge. Counterclockwise is the more common route from the lodge on the PCT which takes you by the Zig Zag Canyon where you should consider detouring up to Paradise Park for an evening. Crossing the Sandy river may be the most challenging before you take in Ramona Falls. The PCT offers you a couple of options, I like the one up toward Yocum Ridge over to Bald Mountain before you head up the Timberline Trail toward McNeil Point. On the north side you cross through some old burns but the beauty is everywhere. Once past the Cloud Cap TH you climb to above tree-line typically crossing many snow fields. Copper Spur is a side trip option and then you work your way down to Gnarl Ridge. All of this area is arid and treeless. Cross Newton creek, pass some waterfalls and head through Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area. The final push is to cross the White River and then climb back up to Timberline Lodge. This final climb can be challenging due to the sandy trail and exposure.

I hope these backpacking loops help you find that perfect trek. I will also throw in another option which is partially a loop, The Wild Rouge Loop diverges from the primary Rouge River Trail up to Hanging Rock.

Neahkahnie Mountain

img_3756I have lived near the coast of Oregon for 14 years and have never visited the Neahkahnie Mountain which is a part of the Oswald West State Park. img_3755I took the hike from the North with the trailhead starting at a parking lot pullout on Highway 101 just North of Manzanita. The trail begins on the east side of the highway and is pretty much an uphill trail. The first section of open meadow of switchbacks offers great views of the coastal cliffs at Cape Falcon. Overall the trail is of moderate difficulty, however, you are constantly navigating slippery roots.

img_3754Once you leave the initial meadow you enter into the a beautiful coastal forest.

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Once into the forest you enjoy a magical rainforest.

Once you approach the Neahkahnie View area it can be confusing about which path actually leads to the top. The easiest route actually wraps around the back side where you still need to climb a fairly steep rock face. Once at the top the view South is fabulous.

Henline Mountain with Snow

Beginning of Hike

Beginning

Retirement means you can go on a hike when conditions are optimum, which is what I did today Dec. 3 going up Henline Mountain Trail #3352. For some reason we have many days of sunshine beginning here in Oregon so I decided to touch winter by way of Henline Mountain. I really did not expect there to be much snow but I found a good fresh covering.

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No Snow

The route is about a 5 mile round trip  with a 2220′ vertical. Not an easy hike, you are basically climbing at a fairly steep grade all the way and then coming back down does a toll on your knees.

But this hike was a great workout which should help get me ready for skiing. On this day there was no snow at the start however, soon you could tell that there was plenty of snow up on the trees. Some of this snow was coming down as I ascended, but more was coming down as I descended the mountain. I noticed a great overlook site about a mile up which I figured I might use for a break on the way down.

At about this point the snow pack on the trail was becoming real and then the final mile the snow did make the hike a bit more challenging. Brook loved it though.

The sky was blue and the contrast with the trees and snow was stunning. There were a set of foot prints from the previous day but it was obvious that this trail is not heavily used. I had the mountain to myself. The final approach to the lookout spot is even steeper and with the snow depth increasing this was kind of fun.

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Once at the top you have a 360 vista with Mt Jefferson prominent to the East. However, it was probably about 30 degrees with a slight breeze so it was a bit cold.

 

We took out photos, ate some lunch and headed down. IMG_2819While I was at the top a lot of snow must have fallen off of those trees because the snow on the trail was much more pronounced.

 

In fact the snow falling from the various tree branched made for some serious snow dogging. Brook got hit once on her back by a large drop and it totally freaked her out. Once we got back to that overlook below snow line we took some time to enjoy the scenery.

Actually spent a t least an hour just soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. What better place to spend an afternoon.

We did get on the trail in time to get back to the car at sundown. The dirt portion of the road in was in OK shape.

Tillamook Head Trail from Seaside TH

IMG_2539A great backpacking trip in November when the weather is nice is the Tillamook Head Trail through Ecola State Park. IMG_2548I went on this trip with Brook and my new friend, Judd Beck, whom I met on my Timberline Trail trip in September. We arrived at the Seaside Trailhead to find that there was no overnight parking so you need to park back down the road about .2 miles in a small turnout. The plan was to overnight in the Hikers Camp which is 4 miles in and about 1200 vertical.

We got a late start which meant we would probably arrive in the dark but we would get some sunset views. IMG_2589The hike is a nice workout but very doable for a day hike as well. We assumed that we would have the Hikers Camp which consists of 3 log cabins and support facilities made for an extremely comfortable night especially with the strong wind from the east.

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The cabins have 4 bunks with plenty of space and a nice tarp door cover. No issues at all with rodents.

The evening was a bit exciting due to a large tree falling about 20 yards from our cabin. It sounded like gun fire as the trunk broke into splinters. Brook again slept outside somewhere in the area keeping watch on Judd and I. The next day we hiked down to the viewpoint of the Tillamook Head Lighthouse. IMG_2627On the way you pass an old WWII Bunker that has stimulated a number of questions about why it was built there.

The bunker was part of a radar station that kept a lookout for enemy aircraft. In fact, this reinforced structure held up the gigantic antennae, which were about 30 feet tall. Article We did not attempt to enter the bunker.

Hiking back to our car on a beautiful almost 60 degree day made for an excellent trip.

TDH from New Mirror Lake TH

IMG_2482Brook and I had a great trip up to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain in the Spring so I wanted to experience it in the Fall. We waited for optimum weather for our return. Mirror Lake & TDH TrailheadWhat we did not realize was that there is now a new Trailhead serving Mirror Lake and TDH. Initially I assumed I had missed the turnoff, but then found the new Trailhead located at the west end of the Ski Bowl parking lot, and it is nice. Not only will this provide adequate parking but a much safer access and departure for cars. IMG_2508The new trail that eventually connects with the old trail is paved for the first .2 miles down to the first of 9 new cedar bridges.

Map from new Trailhead

Map from new Trailhead

The day was partly cloudy but the clouds were hiding all the important objects such as the sun and Mt Hood. The hike up to Mirror Lake is now 2 miles and it is a super highway of trails. Many improvements which will handle far greater crowds of hikers. I do hope that they put restrictions on that traffic around Mirror Lake. I did not get the classic mirror photo of Mt Hood behind Mirror Lake on my way up but here it is from my return.

Mt Hood from Mirror Lake

Mt Hood from Mirror Lake

The climb up to TDH introduced a small amount of snow which created a nuisance of slippery rocks.

Approaching the View Summit

Approaching the View Summit

But it also added to the beauty. It was about 40 degrees with a forecast for east winds later. Once at the top we waited for the clouds to reveal the prize of Mt Hood, but views of the TDH Mountain and the valley with clouds was still fabulous.

 

Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain

Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain

There is one great campsite just past the primary view area but I scouted the entire ridge hoping for something better, but no there is only one prime site. I cleared away the few inches of snow and setup camp. It was a bit depressing knowing that it would start getting dark around 5 pm and that was when Mt Hood started to reveal herself.

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The end of the day did bring an impressive view of Mt Hood and the valley, but it was also getting cold, as in it would get down to about 25 degrees and the east winds started in the early evening.

Brook never sleeps in my tent but I felt like tonight would be different with the deep wind chill cold. Plus I would have enjoyed her contribution of body heat to the tent. But no, she slept outside all night. Once in my sleeping bag I was acceptably warm even after discovering that my patched air mattress would not hold air, but thankfully I had my ZLite foam pad. Morning broke with fabulous views of Mt Hood and the valley under clear skies, and a bitterly cold wind. IMG_2455The views justified the cold night but not enough to hang around and freeze. The hike down was very pleasant.

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View about 1/2 mile up from Mirror Lake

McNeil Point at Mt Hood

IMG_1558Why did it take me so long to get to McNeil Point. I don’t think a campsite next to Mt Hood can get any better. Yes, I have hiked past the trail to McNeil Point a number of times, each time saying that I should go check it out, only to rationalize that I have to move on. Well finally I planned a trip specifically for McNeil Point, and when you have the luxury of choosing how and when you tend to end up with one of those awesome experiences. As a backpacker in the Pacific Northwest, October signals that you better make the most of any good days left for high country packing. McNeil Point was the perfect choice and to do it on a weekday is probably the only way I would have been able to get a spot to park at the Top Spur Trailhead.

View from Bald Mountain

View from Bald Mountain

This was the first time I have used the Top Spur Trailhead and yes the parking area is small, but the access and road conditions are great by forest road standards. The overall hike to McNeil Point is about 5 miles and 2000′ vertical but it is an excellent trail with only a moderate incline. The hike is broken up into nice chunks with the first required option taking the loop around Bald Mountain. Again, why have I not taken that little detour when I was doing the Timberline Trail. You take in the view and then use the Cutoff Trail to get back over to clockwise Timberline Trail.

Now you get to climb a ridge trail for a little over a mile up to the next gorgeous view of McNeil Point next to Mt Hood. This was my previous Mt Hood view highlight from my Timberline Trail trips.

First view of McNeil Point

First view of McNeil Point

Back into the forest where the ground foliage autumn colors are starting turn. Shortly after this view you have the choice to take the IMG_1545short but steeper trail up to McNeil Point. I decided against that option not since the other route is so nice and relatively easy. This section over to the McNeil Point trail is the area where Brook got lost on my Timberline Trail trip a month ago. I think she remembered it. She has definitely stayed much closer to me since. It was afternoon so I was mostly meeting day hikers coming down. It is always interesting to observe their response to telling them that you plan on camping at McNeil. Some think you are crazy and some are totally envious.

IMG_1561So on up to McNeil Point on a beautiful trail up a ridge line and then cutting over to an option to the shelter or up above.

View from above the McNeil Pt Shelter

View from above the McNeil Pt Shelter

I arrived around 3 pm and spent about an hour hiking up and down the ridge above the shelter looking for the optimum campsite. The wind was going to be a factor so I was looking for wind shelter but I also wanted a view of the mountain.

I settled on a spot not to far above the shelter which gave me the mountain view along with a good valley view. There are a number of sites with rock walls and I do believe the wind break helped a lot throughout the windy night. The next few hours I just enjoyed how fabulous this view was.

There were a number of bird flyovers that highlighted the view.

The wind was on and off but each time it came I feared it would escalate, but it never did.

IMG_1642Actually the wind probably kept the temperature a few degrees warmer. It only got down to about 30 F during the night. I was hopeful for a great sunset but it was nice that it ended quickly because I was freezing outside of my tent waiting for it.

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I did not sleep that well probably due a bit to the altitude, 6200′, or the noise the wind made flapping my tent. But overall it was a good night and as usual Brook slept out in the open making sure I was safe. Knowing that she would do this I gave her a serving of beef stroganoff on top of her dog food to make sure she had plenty of fuel to keep herself warm through the night.

IMG_1699Morning came and Brook was good to go. On the way back I captured the mini Ramona Falls in its full glory.

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Brook was unusually friendly on the way out in greeting the few day hikers heading up to McNeil, but she was a tired pup.

 

 

Smokey Goat Rocks

If I had not experienced Goat Rocks in perfect conditions 4 years ago I would have been more then satisfied with my recent visit, however, the smoke, heat and bugs did detract a bit from the overall experience. We were originally going to enter Goat Rocks from the north doing a loop by Lost Lake with a return on Trail 61 at Tieton Pass.

GoatRidgeViewofOldSnowy

Old Smokey from Goat Ridge

However, the Miriam Fire was too much of a risk so we entered from the Berry Patch Trailhead via Goat Ridge and out by way of Snowgrass Flats. I would recommend the reverse direction entering on the Snowgrass Flats side since the climb is more gradual.

We got a late start so we were looking for a place to camp as we approached Jordan Basin but we needed to find water which first comes available as you leave the trees. The climb on a very hot Tuesday afternoon with many bugs was a bit of a challenge.

ApproachingJordanBasin

Approaching Jordan Basin on the Goat Ridge Trail

Camping on Goat Ridge turned out to be really nice with the view down the valley with a smoke laced sunset.

We knew what campsite we wanted near Goat Lake so the relatively short hike over on Wednesday would give us a good shot at getting the spot below Goat Lake next to the water fall. JordanBasinActually the Jordan Basin offers a number of great campsites as well as good options above toward Hawkeye Point.

Old Smokey From near Hawkeye Point

Old Smokey From near Hawkeye Point

GoatRiverBasin

Brook @AussieBrook was in heaven taking care of her herd of humans.

Coming over the pass to Trail 86 we realized that smoke was going to keep us from the fabulous views of Mt. Adams.

A Pan of Goat Lake

A Pan of Goat Lake

Goat Lake still had some ice which ensures that the water is as cold as it can get.

From our campsite the view down the Goat River Valley should be topped with a view of Mt. Adams.

Last Snow Bridge

Last Snow Bridge

It was still a fabulous view and the stream to water fall offered a cool little canyon to help fight the heat. Wednesday evening we were treated to a good view of about 20 mountain goats above us.

Good to see the Mountain Goats

Good to see the Mountain Goats

We ended up staying at this campsite for 2 nights as we use the days for day hikes to Hawkeye Point and over to the PCT. Actually we were planning on going to Old Smokey, however, the smoke was really bad on Thursday so we turned around at the PCT junction at the bypass trail. We were planning on camping Friday over toward Cispus Pass but again the smoke, heat and bugs convinced us to just cut the trip short and hike out on Friday. MorningSunBeamsThe morning sunrise was sprinkled with sunbeams through the smoke. The hike out was essentially all down hill with a ridiculous number of flies bouncing off our bodies. LookingBackOnGoatFallsWe did feel sorry for the many backpackers coming into the Goat Rocks area on Friday since the area was already full of people.

LastLook

Last view of Goat Lake Basin

Hopefully they got a little rain from the front that was coming in, maybe it would even clean out the air for that exception view.OldBackpackers

Suiattle River TH to Rainy Pass

Another one of those trips that I was denied in the past due to unforeseen events, in this case the Blakenship fire in 2015 that closed the PCT.

Suiattle River Trail

Suiattle River Trail

So I return to take it on starting at the Suiattle River Trailhead with Rainy Pass as the destination about 58 miles with a stop in Stehekin where a couple of buddies will join me. This trip was made possible thanks to a good friend who gave me a ride from Rainy Pass where I left my car to the Suiattle River TH. I had been on the Suiattle River Trail a couple of times with a great trip to Image Lake, so the first part of this trip was all prep for the climb over Suiattle Pass and on to Rainy Pass.

@AussieBrook and I got to the trailhead late Saturday June 30th but was still able to make it to Canyon Creek for the first night. It rained most of the day, but I was sparred from the rain for most of the hike.

Suiattle River Trail Slide

Suiattle River Trail Slide

I was impressed with the work done to allow passage through a recent tree slide that blocked the trail. Overall the Suiattle River Trail is one of the finest in Washington.SuiattleRiverTrailBridge

The goal for Sunday was to get close to Suiattle Pass to prepare for the crossing the following day.

PCT Closure Sign from 2015

PCT Closure Sign from 2015

I ended up camping at Miners Creek PCT mile 2549. It was a damp day but again I was sparred from getting wet. Once I got on the PCT I started to encounter the first of the SOBO hikers. At my eventual campsite I met a young man who had been a HS Math Teacher but was now going to hike to Mexico. Unfortunately he had just come off a tough night where he had to make camp on a tuft of snow on Suiattle Pass due to a headache and darkness. I will give that young man a 50% chance of completing the PCT. From these hikers I did learn that there was a lot of snow on Suiattle Pass but at least I should be able to follow their footsteps. I was thinking a mile of so of snow. It was a bummer to wakeup to rain knowing that I would be hiking through snow. After I began my decent north from the pass into the Agnes River drainage I met other hikers who alerted me to the additional 4 miles of snow ahead.

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Morning Sun

Campsite Morning Sun

Overall it was about 5 miles of snow with occasional trail breaks. The snow was soft and footing was treacherous, I went down many times. But what a joyous day of rain, wind and snow. And to finish off the day I got to ford a cold stream. I ended up camping at a great established campsite at PCT mile 2557. Checkout this video of Brook scratching her butt. We were fairly soaked but the skies did clear and we woke to relatively dry sunny conditions.

I was so glad that I had started a day early then I originally planned since now I had the option to go to Stehekin on the 4th in preparation to meet my buddies on the 5th.

Plus this stretch along the South Fork of the Agnes was all down hill so we had an easy day except for a treacherous ford at PCT mile 2559. StreamCrossingNormally I might put on my crocs for a river ford but this river was roaring and my boots were already wet so I just sloughed my way through. Unfortunately, this river was flowing a bit too strong for my 35 lb dog, Brook. She got fairly nervous as I crossed first to leave my pack in order to come back to lead her. Nope, the current was too strong so I ended up carrying her across. From here on the sun was shining and we started to dry out. Ended up at a nice campsite PCT mile 2564.

Brook was in heaven chasing the many squirrels up trees that were far enough apart to prevent their easy escape.

She tormented the squirrels all waking hours that evening and the following morning.

July 4th we hiked to High Bridge enjoying huckleberries and then catching a ride with a park worker and hit the Stehekin Bakery for lunch. StehekinBakeryThe weather was superb so we thoroughly enjoyed our 24 hrs of rest. I wanted to go to the Ranch for dinner, however, they couldn’t really accommodate Brook. We ended up camping in the Lakeview campground with a Mountain House meal of Beef Stew before hanging out on the deck drinking beer with the many SOBO backpackers.

LakeChelan

Lake Chelan

Also a big thank you to the store manager who was extremely accommodating for all and sold bottle of beer for $2.50.

July 5th my friends; Bob and Pete, arrived on the Lady Express boat at 11:00 am and I made them deal with the National Park campsite permitting for our remaining nights on the PCT portion of the trail inside the NP boundary up to Rainy Pass. We hit the trail in the heat of the afternoon which turned out to be the hottest day of the trip.

We only went about 5 miles to Bridge Creek Camp but with it being uphill it was a good workout.

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The following day was again a climb but a beautiful lunch stop at the confluence of Bridge and Maple Creek offered a trip highlight.

We camped that night at Six Mile PCT mile 2583. We had some short rain periods to deal with along with more hungry mosquitoes but we woke up ready to finish the trip on Saturday 7th.

The final stretch offered many scenic views along with a number of interesting stream crossings. Since I had to take my buddies to their car in Chelan, I took the opportunity to stop at the Washington Pass Overlook to take in the American Alps.

Bull of the Woods

My first backpacking trip that I took when I moved to Oregon in 2004 was on the Dickey Creek Trail. IMG_9256I think I found it in a book of hiking trails. It was good but I never got high enough to discover the vista views that are abundant in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. The ridges that surround the Fire Lookout Tower offer great views. So it was time for a short backpacking trip and the Bull of the Woods area caught my interest. BullWoodsFireSurprisingly I was not finding that many good trip reports but it did look like the Pansy Lake Trailhead would be a good bet to launch. It appeared that I had a number of loop options but those diminished as I discovered the trails that were not being maintained. I discovered that the Mother Lode fire in 2011 severely impacted the area keeping me from venturing further south. So I adjusted my trip to camp the first night at Lake Lenore and then evaluate if there was more to see for a second night. Link to FS Map with my Route

Hiking to Lake Lenore was a fairly difficult 4.7 mile trek with plenty of vertical and some snow to navigate. The trail was in good condition except for snow on the drop down to the Lake Lenore Trail. There is a nice overlook just after Pansy Lake which worked out well for a lunch break. After that you would occasionally get great views of Mt Jefferson. Once you got to the junction for the Bull of the Woods Trail and the the Mother Lode Trail #558 you got your first view of Mt Hood.

 

Continuing on to the drop down to the Dickey Creek Trail junction for the Lake Lenore Trail, I had to navigate a fair amount of snow but nothing difficult.

 

I was planning on camping at the Lake Lenore, however, that whole area below the last ridge was burned from the Mother Lode Fire.

 

I decided to camp on the ridge which turned out to be just beautiful, but I needed water so I had to hike down to the lake. This hike for water was quite a task as the trail was almost nonexistent on a very steep grade probably due to the fire damage. The forest floor is recovering with small plants but it has a long way to go before trees reappear. Camping on the ridge is a nice option, however, very little flat area for a tent.

 

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Mosquitos are an issue in the Bull of the Woods which is another reason why you may want to camp on high ground where you have a bit of a breeze. But I also love to camp high up with a view and this one gave you the Oregon Cascades. IMG_9354The next day was focused on visiting the Fire Lookout Tower with the option for another night but the options for this area really lean towards a single night trip. The hike back to the fire lookout tower is mostly a return to join the Bull of the Woods Trail. IMG_9363The tower was perfectly located to provide a view of any fire activity from the Sisters to Mt Hood. It is appreciated that the tower is protected in the National Historic Lookout Register. I was the only human at the tower so I thoroughly enjoyed just hanging out taking in the view for a few hours. I took many photos and as with my previous night’s campsite there is fairly good cell service here which I believe is received from Mt Hood. With the cell connection I was able to do a live video on facebook to let all my friends back in the midwest get a taste of the wilderness.

 

 

I thought about camping another night but it was early afternoon meaning I needed to accomplish more. I considered another spot down the Bull of the Woods Trail but ended up deciding to head for home by way of cut over trail to the Pansy Lake Trail.

Stream near Pansy TH

Stream near Pansy Lake Trailhead

 

Here are some flower memories.

 

This trail did have a number of downed trees but none were a problem to climb over. Back to the car and ready for the drive out on NF roads that are in great condition.

Here is a nice post about the History surrounding the Bull of the Woods Fire Lookout     By Cheryl Hill, Board Member, Trailkeepers of Oregon

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