Union Peak (Crater Lake National Park) 21-Sep-2021

We said good-bye to summer with a hike up Union Peak (7,709 ft / 2,350 m) in the southwest corner of Crater Lake National Park. The peak is the eroded remains (the neck) of a much larger volcano and is the second oldest peak in the park. The views from its summit are spectacular – provided they aren’t obscured by smoke. Which they were for most of this summer. So when our recent rains cleared the air and damped the wildfires, we knew it was time to visit Union again after a six year 😲 absence.

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National Creek Falls (Southwest Oregon) 30-Jul-2021

After our short hike to Spruce Lake, it was still too early for lunch (and, sadly, pie). So we went to visit National Creek Falls. These are not far from the lake and, unlike the lake, are spring-fed and thus richly endowed with water even in drought years. Also unlike the lake, the falls have their own official – and exceptionally well-trodden – access trail (#1053). The Middle Fork of National Creek actually arises from Oasis Spring, which I visited in 2015, just before the National Creek Complex Fire. Fortunately that fire spared both the spring and the falls, so we were able to descend to the coolness of the falls under an intact forest canopy. It was a short hike, the falls were amazing, and, when we were done, it was finally time for pie lunch! 😋

Descending the #1053
National Creek above the falls
Continuing the descent
National Creek Falls
National Creek Falls
Droplets of mist from the falls
National Creek Falls (left)
National Creek Falls (right)

Note to self for August: Less pie, more hiking.

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Spruce Lake (Crater Lake National Park) 30-Jul-2021

Today emerged hot, cloudy, sultry, and hazy with smoke. Thunderstorms drenched us in the afternoon but the morning sprouted only a few pathetic rain drops. These only added to the sultry. A morning outside was about all we were up for. So we did two very short hikes which, when combined with a lunch outside at Beckie’s, made for a morning well spent. That there was pie 🥧 involved had nothing – Nothing I say! – to do with the quality of this day. 😉

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Castle Point (Crater Lake National Park) 20-Sep-2020

Our first ever mule packing trip was suitably adventurous but plagued by smoke for four of its six days. We came back to civilization to find that fire had ravaged (and is still ravaging 😥 ) a goodly part of our Oregon. We drove home in thick, acrid, choking smoke. And were then confined to our house (which we are thankful is still standing) by this foul miasma for all the next week. Finally, finally, last Friday the winds shifted a bit and we could breathe outside. By today the smoke had thinned enough – but not gone away, there are still fires burning – to allow for a short visit outside. Nothing dramatic, just anything other than staring out our living room window at drifting swirls of yellowish particulates and fetid vapors. 🙄

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Red Cone (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness) 13-Aug-2019

Red Cone is a small volcanic protuberance on the east side of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness (not to be confused with the Red Cone in nearby Crater Lake National Park). The cone in the wilderness is readily visible from Tipsoo Peak and I’ve long harbored a desire to see if it could be climbed. Leaving The LovedOne at the library talking 🙄 taxes, I went to the wilderness alone 😥 to explore Red Cone.

I started by taking the nice, easy trail up to the big views from atop Tipsoo. There was some high overcast – and a few overly hopeful mosquitoes – but it was otherwise a perfect day for a hike.

The easy trail to Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Peak (D), Cowhorn Mountain (C), and some of the Three Sisters (S) from Tipsoo Peak
Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey from Tipsoo
Howlock Mountain and Mount Thielsen from Tipsoo
Today’s goal – Red Cone

After soaking in the views from Tipsoo, I dropped off its southeast side to intersect the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the meadow below.

Tipsoo Peak from the PCT

From the PCT, I went east through the forest toward Red Cone. Although the cone is visible from Tipsoo, it’s totally invisible once you leave the divide, so I just navigated to where it’s shown on the map. The forest here has almost no understory and few fallen trees so it’s a lot like strolling through a manicured park. This was the easy part. After about two miles, I emerged from the forest at the prow of the cone’s rocky west ridge. The surface of the ridge was treacherously loose and slippery rock and scree – this was the hard part.

On Red Cone’s west ridge
Red Cone’s volcanic plug looms over the ridge
Howlock Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge from Red Cone’s west ridge

The map (and Google Earth) indicated that the cone’s east side might be the easiest path to the summit, so I worked my way – slowly and precariously – up and around to the east side.

Nearing the top of the cone’s east ridge
The steep east side of the cone

I came around to the east ridge to find about 50 feet or so of steep – and possibly loose – terrain between me and the true summit. A few Class 3 moves brought me to the base of a high Class 4 or low Class 5 crack system that looked as though it might go to the top. I imagined seeing a rappel sling near the top of this crack. I also imagined dying if I tried to climb it, so I didn’t. There might be an easier way to the top but I was in no mood to wander around on loose rock and scree looking for it. So a snack followed by an honorable retreat. 😦

Diamond Peak from the east side of Red Cone
Miller Lake from Red Cone
This tree fungus was the only “color” in the forest
Tipsoo Peak from my return to the PCT
The PCT near its high point in Oregon and Washington

Rather than climb back over Tipsoo, I circled around it to the south and rejoined the built trail at the end of its longest switchback. From there it was truly a stroll down to the trailhead. The sting of not making the summit was assuaged by a stop at Beckie’s in Union Creek for pie. 🙂

Howlock and Thielsen from the south side of Tipsoo

Some post-hike research found that there was a fire camp somewhere near the cone in the 1920s (it wasn’t officially Red Cone until 1940). There was one listing that even suggested a fire lookout had actually been on the summit at one point. I did find a few pieces of wire and some milled wood at the base of the crack – these could have been from a lookout or a triangulation station. In either case, there’s no indication of how they might have gotten to the top back in the day. Of course, then they were adept at notching tree trunks to make ladders…

My track to and from the attempt on Red Cone
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Rogue Gorge Trail (Union Creek, Oregon) 15-Nov-2018

We hiked our first Rogue River-related trail (to Boundary Springs) in 2012. Over the next six years, we hiked all of the other river-related trails between the springs and the ocean, culminating (we thought) with the Lower Rogue River Trail this year. Having thus declared victory, we were chagrined :/  to find we’d missed one. Map-gazing revealed the Rogue Gorge Trail (USFS #1034A), which links the Rogue Gorge Viewpoint to the north with the Natural Bridge Viewpoint to the south. This slight required remedy! >:D So, taking advantage of the excellent autumn hiking weather (which needs to give way soon to rain and snow), we started at the #1034A’s north end and wound our way along the river, past several placid sections, to where it’s waters are noisily constricted into a basalt channel above a footbridge. We continued on to the Natural Bridge Viewpoint, checked-out the lava tube, and then made our way north on the #1034 to the footbridge and crossed over to the #1034A. Here the thought of pie overwhelmed us and we left the trail to make a beeline on back roads (which serve the riverside cabins) directly to the Beckies Café. Once there, we declared victory (again) with lunch and pie! 😀

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Union Creek Trail (Union Creek, Oregon) 06-Nov-2018

No better place to wait out the end of the seemingly endless 2018 Midterm election cycle than on a hike. With The LovedOne temporarily liberated from the Palace of Cellulose (i.e., the library), we set out to hike one of the smaller trails we’d by-passed on our many trips to the Upper Rogue. Of course, pie at Beckie’s Cafe on our return was a major motivating factor.  The Union Creek Trail (USFS #1035) runs from Highway 62 at the Union Creek Resort upstream along Union Creek – a minor tributary of the Rogue River – for about four miles to an upper trailhead just off of Highway 62. The selling points for this hike were the creek’s varied riparian habitats, the stands of immense old-growth Douglas-firs through which the trail passes, and Union Creek Falls near the upper trailhead. The Forest Service’s website, while extolling the beauty of the creek (they were right about that) was suspiciously silent with regards the trail’s condition. We would be left to discover conditions for ourselves.  Much fun ensued…

The day was crisp, but clear and sunny, as we parked at the Union Creek Rest Area, dashed across Highway 62 like dithering squirrels, and made our way to the #1035’s start behind Cabin #21 (no relation to Area 51) at the Union Creek Resort.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Cabin #21
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
At the trailhead

The height of the Fall color had passed and most of it was now on the trail.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
The Fall color has fallen

But there were plenty of huge, old-growth trees to keep us in awe.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
One of the smaller ones – “only” 5 feet in diameter!
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Along the trail
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek

A mile in, we came to a massive new bridge spanning the creek. This now allows for an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) route around the resort. Up to here, the trail had been pretty good but it now began a slow deterioration due to an obvious lack of maintenance.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
The trail starts to falter
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek

And there were still plenty of big, big old trees needing a hug.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Easily 8 feet in diameter!

But the farther upstream we went, the more the ferns encroached on the trail. We had to push or stomp our way through them, looking for the tread underneath. There were fallen trees of different sizes too. It wasn’t like trying to work through buckbrush but it was tedious, slow, and a bit tiring.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Fighting the ferns
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
The ferns may be winning

It’s too bad that the trail is in such poor shape because Union Creek is a really pretty little creek to walk along.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek

About 3 miles from the parking lot, after much fern-thrashing, we came to a signed junction with the Old-Growth Trail which, judging from how high up the signage and the blue blazers are, is a nordic trail. This is apparently an alternative way back to the resort, one that stays away from the creek. We kept it in mind for our return. We continued upstream on the #1035 and almost immediately ran into a confusing mass of downed trees of different sizes, followed by more ferns. Some navigation was necessary.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
The brush put up a good fight

Finally, about 3.5 miles in, trail conditions improved markedly and we were soon zooming (relatively speaking) upstream on forest duff without having to fight any vegetation. We passed the Tammy Kay Johnson Memorial at a nice spot where Union Creek funnels through a breach in the basalt,

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Memorial
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek at the memorial
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek

continued on past an unnamed falls where the creek makes a constricted and dramatic plunge of some eight feet between walls of basalt,

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
8-Foot Falls

to Union Creek Falls, a 10-foot high cascade spanning the creek.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek Falls
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Union Creek Falls

Upstream we found another constricted cascade and another memorial.

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
More of Union Creek Falls
Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Memorial

We ate a late lunch at the falls, all of that fern-bashing having taken more time than expected. Now we had a decision to make – go back along the #1035 and maybe the Old-Growth Trail or not? Fighting our way back along the #1035 didn’t appeal – and it was slow – and we couldn’t be sure the Old-Growth Trail would be any better. The day was waning and the pie was waiting, so we went on to the #1035’s upper trailhead [judging from the width of the trail here, this is how most people get to the falls] and hiked west along OHV Road #42 (you need the Prospect OHV Trail System map to know this leads back to the resort),

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Along OHV #42

to its junction with OHV #31 & #35,

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
At the OHV junction

then followed OHV #31 over to the #1035 where it passes that big new bridge and then took the trail back to the cafe for the now long anticipated pie. 😀 ❤

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Cherry 3.14159265359….

Our loop ended-up being 8.8 miles, with only 700 feet of elevation gain and would have been delightfully easy had the trail been clear. The Union Creek Trail follows along a beautiful creek through an amazing forest of massive old-growth trees to a nice collection of cascades and falls. The only thing wrong with it is a lack of maintenance. The Forest Service supposedly has made it a priority for refurbishment and was planning to get to it this year. We suspect all of the wildfire activity this season absorbed most of their resources and budget.  Here’s hoping they get to it in 2019!

Union Creek Trail Upper Rogue River Oregon
Our loop hike along Union Creek
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Wiley Camp Loop (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 11-Sep-2018

Wiley Camp Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

In May of 2015, we did a loop hike through Buck Canyon, the only part of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness that sits on the east side of the divide. We came in from Muir Creek and left via Meadow Creek, passing Wiley Camp along the way. I got to wondering if you could loop around Fish Mountain from the Wiley Camp Trailhead and today I decided to find out (The LovedOne opted for a library board meeting instead). It was a crisp, cool almost-Fall day for hiking. A change in the weather (and much firefighting) had reduced the smoke a lot but had also brought in a cloud cover. This made for a glaringly reflective sky that wasn’t conducive to photos but was still way better than being smoked.  Further scouring of smoke and a few sunbreaks later in the day would reinvigorate memories of what hiking in clear air is like (since it’s been awhile).

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Timber Crater (Crater Lake National Park) 06-Jul-2018

Timber Crater Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Crater Lake National Park is, for most visitors, all about the lake and only the lake. Which is understandable, given that the park’s roads take them right to this utterly stunning natural feature. Even popular hikes in the park, like Garfield Peak or Mount Scott, are mostly about getting a better view of the lake. But what about some of the park’s other natural features, like its cinder cones or bogs or desert? Granted, We went to see Crater Lake! sounds a lot better during show-and-tell than We went to see a bog!  But, still, some of these underdog features deserve a little recognition. With that it mind, I (while The LovedOne caught up on her library duties) set out to summit Timber Crater, a well preserved shield volcano in the park’s largely untracked northeast quadrant. Continue reading “Timber Crater (Crater Lake National Park) 06-Jul-2018”

Anderson Camp (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 01-Jun-2018

Anderson Camp Trail Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Oregon

The Forest Service styles the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail (USFS #1470) as the primary route through the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.  This may be true in concept but, in practice, they seem to have given little, if any, attention to its maintenance.  We have been exploring it in sections for the last few years and have found tread ranging from good (from its southern trailhead to Abbott Butte Lookout) to non-existent (between Falcon Butte and Abbott Butte).  It would be the obvious thru-hike for this wilderness if one could trust the tread (and also find water sources).  But our explorations continue, this time between Anderson Mountain and Hershberger Mountain, with a visit to Anderson Camp, Anderson Prairie, and the site of the Anderson Mountain fire lookout. Continue reading “Anderson Camp (Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness) 01-Jun-2018”

Cowhorn Mountain (Deschutes NF) 05-Oct-2017

Cowhorn Mountain Deschutes National Forest Oregon

First off, it seems useful to review where we are here.  This is not the Little Cowhorn Mountain topped with a lookout and located on the Willamette National Forest at the end of a one mile trail. This Cowhorn – what some also, for extra confusion, call Cowhorn Butte – is on the Deschutes National Forest (in the Oregon Cascades Recreational Area) a few miles southwest of Crescent Lake.  Back before this Cowhorn’s cow-horn shaped summit spine fell over in a 1911 storm (some storm!), it was called Little Cowhorn to distinguish it from Mount Thielsen, which was then called Big Cowhorn.  The hike to this Cowhorn Mountain’s 7,664-foot summit is along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) starting north from Windigo Pass, which is reached via Forest Road (FR) 60 (a good gravel road) off State Highway 138 about six miles north of Diamond Lake.

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