August 30, 2012

Visitors in the night along the PCT

Cathedral Rocks and Mt. Jefferson

On an early July morning I walked into Pamelia Lake, located in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, planning on spending the night somewhere in the wilderness. A spongy, needle laden trail beneath giant Douglas firs led me to the lake, where I was greeted by an abundance of blooming rhododendrons.


August 28, 2012

Marlin Perkins must have been an early riser

It seemed as though few critters roamed the mountainous regions of Oregon when I began hiking. The only "wild life" I experienced in those days with any frequency was downtown on Friday or Saturday nights. After a night of carousing, I'd wake up with the exuberance of a bear having hibernated all winter, slip out of a toasty bed, brew some coffee and dilly dally around the house before heading out for the wild green yonder. After a long string of disappointing endeavors, in which animal sightings were at best rare, I concluded that wildlife management's estimations of animal populations were grossly exaggerated.

Mt. Washington Wilderness hike: A dose of reality on the trail

Mt. Washington through the trees

At the time, Paranoia was teaching, or I should say troubleshooting, at Parrot Creek Boy's Ranch. Conservative both in nature and politically, Paranoia was always adamant about how bleeding heart liberals were pampering the Ranch's delinquents. His job was dragging him behind a manure truck, and the line needed severed. 

Shifty was a produce manager for a grocery store. He was good at what he did, but felt vastly underappreciated. His bottom line was always exemplary, but his employer's gratitude was nil.

I had just started two jobs, one in lumber sales and the other as a husband. The combination of my bride's cooking and sitting on my butt behind a desk 10 hours a day led to a weight gain of 20 pounds in 60 days. Like a balloon stuck on a spouting helium tank, I felt like I was ready to burst.

Needless to say, each of us needed to get away from it all, and what better way was there to accomplish this than to hike into a wilderness and slam the door behind us? Some folks might call it "withdrawing from reality." I call it "finding reality."

August 26, 2012

A little history along the Plaza Trail and a rock resembling a sheep's head?

Mt. Hood from Sheepshead Rock
Like so many trails in the old Cascades, this one is heavy on forest and light on views - until you reach the destination. Years ago, while hiking with a novice to trails on the western slopes of the Cascades, I was asked how I could enjoy a trail surrounded by forest, without the same views the higher Cascades offer. I told him it was like wine. You have to grow to appreciate a fine wine, just like you have to grow to appreciate a hike through the woods, with few or no views. Any likeness between wine and a trail is probably a stretch, but it must have worked. I didn't hear anymore of what the trail was missing for the remainder of the hike.

August 20, 2012

Unknown trail delivers views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Butte

As soon as I locate this trail on a map, I'll update this post. For now, I'll simply explain what I saw along the this hike on the Unknown Trail.

August 19, 2012

An easy hike to the highest point in Badger Creek Wilderness

Mt. Hood from High Prairie
In a perfect world, every hike would be a loop. As it is, a huge percentage of hikes must be walked one way and then repeated in the opposite direction - especially if you're hiking solo. Don't get me wrong, hiking one way and back the other is a great way to see the same landscapes from a different viewpoint, but loops afford hikers new experiences throughout the hike. Also, the shorter the hike the less likely it will be a loop. In other words, it is a lot easier to make a loop during a backpacking trip than a day hike. Here is a hike that is relatively easy, not long (3 miles) and one of those rare loops.

This loop leaves a place called High Prairie; travels along a ridge and steep, rugged slope that offers great views; gives a hiker the opportunity to summit the highest point in the Badger Creek Wilderness; and then retreats back to the trailhead through forest and meadows.
 Mt. Hood from trail

The trail starts at High Prairie, a sparsely treed flat in the northwestern portion of the Badger Creek Wilderness. I traveled the trail in mid August and the meadows were heaped with flowers. Half of the route follows a trail, the other half the remnants of a narrow road leading to the summit of Lookout Mt. The road heads straight from the trialhead. The trail heads right after a few paces from the trailhead.

In a short distance the trail follows a ridge, which begins to open up to views of Mt. Hood and the Highway 35 corridor. When I hiked the trail the sky was hazy, hiding any other Cascade peaks that can be otherwise spotted on a clear day. Several good viewpoints reward hikers where rock outcroppings rise from the ridge. From dirt to forest floor, the trail then turns to cinder rock at each of these scenic rock outcroppings.

Badger Butte (right), Gunsight Butte (left)
Further up the trail, views turn from westward to eastward within only a few steps, as the trail makes a left turn.  From a small saddle a little further up the trail, the road leading to the top of Lookout Mt. can be seen. This short side trip offers 360 degree views of the wilderness and beyond. A former fire lookout site, the foundations of two buildings at the summit of Lookout Mt. remain.
View east from Lookout Mt. through wildfire haze

Heading back to the trailhead, the old road descends through hemlock forest. Along this portion of the loop, there are no more distant views, but the forest does open up flower filled meadows.
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August 15, 2012

My vote for the most spectacular scenery in all of Oregon

Glacier Lake
It was 1992 when Shifty, Paranoia (names changed to protect the innocent) and I first stepped into the Wallowa Mountains.

Our little secret lying east of Mt. Hood

On the east side of Mt. Hood, at the foot of the Cascades, lies nearly 230 acres of fun in the sun – at least a lot more blue sky days than what the Willamette Valley gets. Located on the edge of a zone, where Ponderosa Pines turn to Junipers, arid temperatures mingle perfectly with the cool waters of Pine Hollow Reservoir.

August 14, 2012

Where else can you see 15 pound rainbow trout up close?

English: Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) S...
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Having seen a few fish hatcheries in Oregon in my time, it's hard to beat the Wizard Falls fish hatchery, located near Camp Sherman and the Metolius River, for its scenery, layout and size of fish. Right up there with that hatchery for scenery and fish size is the Oak Springs hatchery, which sits along the Deschutes River just outside the town of Maupin. It is a great place to show kids the different stages of fish life and how they are raised outside of the wild.

August 8, 2012

Base camp - Lava Camp Lake

View of North and Middle Sister from Four-In-One Cone
One of the best ways to hike the most miles on a weekend or week long vacation is to find a campground located within a short distance of a trail system and make it a base camp. From there, you can hop out of the tent, down some coffee and be out on the trail in a matter of minutes. If you want to hike in the morning on one trail and then hike another trail in the evening, a base camp is the way to go.
One of my favorite base camps is Lava Camp Lake, located on the McKenzie Highway near the pass, roughly 17 miles west of the town of Sisters. This small lake and campground among the pines lies one mile above sea level and is an excellent base camp for several outstanding hikes in the area.

Black Crater and spectacular views from a former lookout sight

North Sister (right) and Broken Top (left) from summit of Black Crater
Lookout sites that once and continue to sit atop mountains and buttes in Oregon needed some way for folks staffing them to get there. As a result, many of Oregon's trails that lead to high points deliver hikers to either existing or former lookout sites. Even where none are intact, the remnants of those lookouts often remain in the form of wooden floors, cement foundations and stairs, cables and wiring.

August 6, 2012

Three treks into Green Lakes - all with their own personality

The largest of the Green Lakes with Broken Top
One of the great hikes in Oregon delivers the scenery seeker to an area between Broken Top and South Sister. Here, water melt from snows and glaciers on the surrounding mountains gathers to create what are aptly named Green Lakes.

Easily accessible and loaded with outdoor discoveries - and some good fishing

Three Creeks Lake from top of  Tam MacArthur Rim
One of the most picturesque and easily accessible high lakes in Oregon lies in Central Oregon some 16 miles from the town of Sisters. It's name is Three Creeks Lake. What often differentiates lakes of any kind is not the lake itself but its surroundings. In this case, a 500 foot high cliff rises high above the lake's southern shore, providing a classic backdrop to the scene.

August 4, 2012

Summit views worth the mundane hike up West Zigzag Mt. Trail

Mt. Hood from West Zigzag Mt. with East Zigzag Mt. in the foreground
The West Zigzag Mountain Trail is one of those trails that just can't make up its mind. With a 1,180 foot elevation gain in 2.3 miles, a moderate grade would take a hiker from trailhead to summit. This trail, however, begins climbing steeply after a brief downhill stretch then levels out and even drops at a a steady incline for a significant section of the hike, before again climbing to the summit of West Zigzag Mountain. No matter how frustrating it can be to climb and give up elevation before climbing again, West Zigzag's summit views are well worth it.