Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Olallie Lake Campin' Trip Part Two

Sorry it's taken me so long to write "part 2" of my Olallie Lake camping adventure.  (I don't like to leave my readers hanging!)  But last weekend I was busy with a little relay race called "Hood to Coast" (those of you in the running world may have heard of it!)  And tomorrow I'm leaving for South Dakota to visit my family - so I'm hoping to get this post out before I go.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

Fireweed close-up
Day two of our camping trip began with Roger heading to the water - fishing pole in hand - to again try his luck landing a trout.  I was itching to explore Olallie's eastside lakeshore trail.  Grabbing backpack and camera, I set out to do just that.
Olallie Lake & Mt. Jefferson
The path from our campground to Olallie Lake's general store is about two miles.  It contours around the east shore, beginning in dead trees of the old fire, continuing into lovely subalpine forests, until finally reaching another campground and the resort proper.
Classic Olallie Lake boat dock photo
Early morning sun reflected off the lake, turning the water a brilliant blue. The clear skies, lovely at this hour, promised warm temperatures later in the day. I started my trek in the burn zone along the south end.  After a mile of walking, Mt. Jefferson began to make it's appearance over the southern skyline.  Canoes and rafts bobbed in Olallie's waters.  I encountered a couple of fisherman perched on rocks along the bank.  I made occasional photo stops to capture the nice lake views and prolific fireweed flowers.
Path around Olallie Lake
After about an hour of hiking, I reached my destination - Olallie Lake's boat dock and tiny general store.  From the dock, there's a classic view of the lake with Mt. Jefferson in the background.  Although midday light was not the best for photos, but I couldn't pass up a chance to capture this scene. 
Roger stands at the viewpoint
I returned to our campsite in time for lunch.  Roger, not having any luck luring a fish, had to settle for sandwiches instead.  After we finished eating, I asked my hubby if he'd like to accompany me on another hike.  The nearby  trail to Ruddy Hill was another of the unfinished "100 hikes" I had my eye on completing.
Fabulous view of Olallie and Monon Lakes
Roger was a good sport, and agreed to come along on another of my adventures.  The trailhead to this particular hike was 3.5 miles from our campground, down a rough gravel road.  We bumped along the first mile and a half no problem, but just past the final campground at Horseshoe Lake, a sign warned that the road ahead was unmaintained and not suitable for passenger vehicles. 
Horrible rocky road
But Roger was driving his new truck, so we thought "no problem" and continued on.  The road became horribly steep and rocky.  Our speed slowed to a mere crawl.  After a half mile of bumping along, we came upon a wide spot in the road, and Roger said "enough!"  He suggested we park the truck and walk to the trailhead.
Gibson Lake
So we continued on foot following that nasty, rocky road.  The dusty roadbed was mostly in the sun, so it was a hot, grimy trek.  Looking at some of larger rocks, you could see scrape marks where vehicles had bottomed out.  As expected, traffic was light.  But we did see a couple of pickups come bouncing along, and even one ancient Cadillac (we were both amazed the car had made it this far). 
After a long 3/4 mile march, Roger spotted a small sign next to a faint path.  It was the Gibson Lake trail, one of two leading to Ruddy Hill.  The other, the Pacific Crest Trail, was still another 0.7 of a mile down the road.  Not wanting to walk on this awful road another step, Roger and I both eagerly ditched our roadwalking for a nice, forested trail.
Mt. Jefferson from Ruddy Hill
We walked through a lovely alpine forest, and soon came upon tiny Gibson Lake.   It was a classic high mountain pond, surrounded by tall firs.  Continuing, our path climbed through the woods along a ridge until it reached a rim overlooking Horseshoe Lake.  Further down, we came upon a rocky clearing where Olallie Butte and a tiny Mt. Hood dominated the view.  Very nice!
Still some lingering snowdrifts
Then our trail intersected with the PCT.  Following the PCT for a very short distance, Roger spotted the sign to the spur trail for Ruddy Hill's summit.  The large, forested cinder cone rose up before us.  Yep, we were in for a climb. 
Great view of Olallie Butte and Mt. Hood
And what a climb it was!  The distance to the top was only a half mile, but the elevation gain was nearly 500 feet.  And it seemed to be concentrated in a few short sections.  I huffed and puffed under my backpack's weight, as my calves screamed.  By now it was midafternoon, and temps had risen to toasty levels.  Sweat poured down my face.  Ugh!  (who's idea was it to climb this thing, anyway?) 
Back at ultra-blue Gibson Lake
But I kept going, trying to keep up with my mountain goat husband.  Finally, I spied a large white object up ahead.  What in the world was that?  Reaching the top, I found myself in a large heather meadow with a huge snowdrift still lingering in a shady area.  Snow in August!  Only in the Cascades.
Smoke from a forest fire
I took a handful of snow and put it under my hat.  That felt good!  Then I joined Roger at the summit proper to take in the marvelous views.  Mt. Jefferson loomed large.  Forested hills spread out in all directions.  The soil at the very top was a red cindery rock, hence the name "Ruddy Hill."  This hill once used by rangers to spot forest fires, still had an ancient wooden telephone box sitting near the meadow's edge.  Very interesting stuff!
We had huckleberry bushes right in our campsite!
After a quick water and snack break, it was time to go.  Although I initially wanted to return via the PCT and make a loop hike, the heat was doing me in.  Not wanting to add more distance than we had to, Roger and I agreed we'd stick to the Gibson Lake trail.
Yummy ripe huckleberry
Our trip back was hot and mosquitoey, but uneventful.  We stopped at Gibson Lake for a quick wade in it's chilly waters  (a wonderful way to revive!)  Rounding Gibson lake, I spotted a plume of smoke rising from a nearby hill.  Uh-oh!  Looked like a forest fire.  Roger and I stood observing it for a minute or two.  Although the fire looked to be quite far away, we didn't like the look of things, and decided it was time to head back to the campground.
Roger shows off his haul
After an endless walk down that crummy, dusty road, we finally were back at the truck.  Arriving back at the campsite, Roger noticed a helicopter flying low.  Something was definitely happening with that fire.  We watched a couple of airplanes join the 'copter flying towards the smoke plume.  Although the smoky cloud hung in the sky, it didn't grow, and the smoke stayed away from the lake.  Roger and I figured we were safe.  (Note - two weeks after our trip, they ended up evacuating the Olallie Lake area due to a fire.)
Golden evening light on the dead trees
Our campsite had lots of great things going for it, but the best feature of all was the numerous huckleberry bushes growing right in our site.  And the huckleberries were ripe!  Roger and I picked a large ziplock bag to take home - they were so sweet and good! 
Lovely sunset view on Olallie Lake
As the sun set on another fun day, I made sure this time to not miss the lovely evening light.  The smoke cloud died down, and I was able to capture some lovely pink light on the barren trees.  A perfect finish to a perfect weekend!
(Note:  our hike to Ruddy Hill was about 4.4 miles round-trip, plus an extra 1.5 miles of road walking.  The total elevation gain was about 1000 feet).  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On The Street

This week's prompt for the 52 Photos Project is "On the Street."  I've missed a couple of weeks, but the current theme is right up my alley.  I'm a transportation engineer and street construction is my job.

This photo is from a project I worked on back in 2007.  We reconstructed the streets in the heart of downtown Portland to add light rail tracks. Of course, sometimes rebuilding the street also includes the sidewalk.  One pedestrian did not take kindly to our sidewalk detour.  This graffiti made me laugh and I had to memorialize it in a photograph.
The project has been complete now for three years, and I still smile when I see light rail trains traveling through the heart of the city. 
Check out more great images of "On the street" at the 52 Photos Project.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Campin' at Olallie Lake

There's a couple trails in the Olallie Lake area I've yet to visit.  On the ever-shrinking list of "uncompleted 100 hikes," these were next on my agenda.  But Olallie Lake is a long drive from Portland (almost three hours). In order to bag both hikes, I suggested a weekend camping trip to my hubby.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

On the shore of Olallie Lake

It's been many years since we've camped at Olallie Lake.  This lake is part of a larger scenic area consisting of a high forested plateau and lots of small, charming mountain lakes.  It's very remote - located deep in the Mt. Hood National Forest sandwiched between Mts. Hood and Jefferson.  I remembered a long drive over bumpy gravel roads to get there.

Fireweed flowers were everywhere

Thankfully, the roads have improved from our last visit.  My hubby and I arrived on a hot Friday mid-afternoon and scored one of the last shaded campsites near the lake.  After unpacking and putting up the tent, Roger grabbed his fishing pole and set out in search of the "big one."  I loaded up my backpack and camera, ready to explore the first of my new trails.

Monon Lake with the tip of Mt. Jefferson

Yes, "New Hike Friday" has been resurrected.  Today's trail of choice was a path from Olallie Lake around adjacent Monon Lake.  Only a half mile apart, these bodies of water are connected by a well-used path.  Once you reach Monon Lake, the trail continues, following the shoreline for a total of 2.9 miles.

It was another trek through an old fire zone.  In 2001, a large forest fire swept through this area and ghostly gray trees bore stark reminders of the disaster.  But like Canyon Creek Meadows, this area was well on its way to recovery.  Large bushes and small trees covered the ground.  Rose-colored fireweed flowers brightened the scene.

Ghostly trees

Vivid blue and beautiful, Olallie and Monon are the largest lakes in the Olallie Scenic Area.  But they couldn't be more different.  Olallie Lake boasts a small resort with cabins, boat rentals and a tiny general store.  It is ringed with three USFS campgrounds.  Since Olallie Lake is used as a drinking water source, swimming is not allowed, but fishing and boating are permitted. 

Olallie Butte makes a perfect reflection on Monon Lake

Monon Lake, on the other hand is totally undeveloped. No official campgrounds at all. But swimming is allowed, and there's a nice trail following the entire shoreline. Many people make the trek to Monon to get their water sports fix. (And I noticed lots of "squatter" campers clustered between the road and the west shore).

Boggy meadows around Monon Lake

I began my afternoon stroll on Olallie Lake's south shore.  It took a little bushwhacking to finally locate the trail, but once found, it was an enjoyable half mile from my campsite to Monon Lake.  Fireweed flowers bloomed profusely near the water's edge.  Olallie Butte, rising above the lake-dotted plateau, was my constant companion.  As I left Olallie's shore behind, I entered the burn zone from a previous fire. 

Entering the burn zone

Once again, this fire-ravaged area was much more interesting and scenic than expected.  The silvery gray dead trees made for a beautiful contrast with the blue sky.  Flowers and green shrubs rose from the forest's floor.  Good photographic material. 

Fireweed in the evening sun

As I approached Monon Lake, I was delighted to see the very tip of Mt. Jefferson appear over the treed horizon.  I circled the lake clockwise, first making my way through the burn zone.  As I approached the southern edge, dead trees gave way to untouched forest and swampy meadows.  In some areas, logs had been placed over the trail.  I'm assuming this area gets quite muddy certain times of the year.  Looking across the lake, I noticed Olallie Butte making a nice reflection on its lovely blue waters.  Kodak moment!


I continued along the western side of Monon Lake, past many primitive camps, where people had just pulled off the road and squeezed a tent in the narrow space between the road and shore.  After a half mile, I left the squatters behind, and wound through another brilliant green meadow, complete with boardwalks and a cute footbridge.  This led me back to the north side of Monon Lake, through another burn zone.  This area looked to have received the brunt of the fire's wrath.  Many trees still bore blackened scars from the inferno.  A very somber place.

Happy Anniversary to us!

I returned to our campsite to find Roger stoking a nice campfire, and prepping a steak dinner.  I opened up a bottle of wine and we had a toast.  It was our 27th wedding anniversary.  I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than being outdoors at this lovely lake with my wonderful husband.

Mt. Jefferson evening reflection on Olallie Lake

After dinner, the sun began to set over the forested hills.  It's rays turned the adjacent trees a soft pink hue.  Too late, I grabbed my camera and hurried to the lakeshore.  I caught the sun's last rays on Mt. Jefferson before it was gone for the night.  And I did get one nice reflection of the mountain on Olallie's ripply surface.

Ahhh.....what a great day!  And tomorrow held the promise of another new hike to explore.  Stay tuned for my next post for photos and story.

Linking to:  Share Your Cup Thursday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Canyon Creek Meadows

The day after I ran the Haulin' Aspen Half last year, I stopped for a hike at Smith Rock State Park on the way home.  This year's original plan was a repeat visit.  But temps were predicted to be toasty again Monday.  On an average summer day, Smith Rock is already a hot place.  Extreme heat turns it into an absolute oven.  Not wishing to endure more physical activity in the blazing sun, I perused my hiking books for an alternative spot.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

The trail beckons....

Within my "100 Hikes in Central Oregon Cascades" book (by none other than William L. Sullivan!) there's a description for the trail to Canyon Creek Meadows - a moderate trek to flower-filled alpine meadows with dramatic mountain views.  The book's narrative included a photo of an incredible in-your-face view of Three Fingered Jack Mountain from the lower meadow.  I've looked at this image many times thinking "I want to go there!"  Reading the directions, I was pleased to discover the trailhead was on my route home.  That made for a very quick decision.   

Three Fingered Jack makes a perfect reflection on Jack Lake

A bit tired and sore from the race, I didn't get as early a start as hoped.  It was midday before I pulled into the trailhead parking lot.  But the sky was a cloudless brilliant blue, and the scenery wonderful from the very start.  The trail began with a circuit of tiny Jack Lake.  This small body of water was ringed by silvery dead trees, remnants of a 2003 forest fire.  As I rounded Jack lake's eastern shore, Three Fingered Jack appeared above the trees, and reflected perfectly on the lake's calm waters.

Ghosts from a past fire

Of course I couldn't pass up a photo op like this!  After dozens of shots, I packed away my camera and continued to climb above the lake.  The trail wound through the burned-out forest.  Temps were already rising, and sweat began to pour down my face.  Some friendly mosquitoes decided to get up close and personal with my exposed arms.  That lead to another stop to apply bug spray.

Flowers brighten up the side of a pond

The trail passed the wilderness boundary sign, and continued its ascent through forest that was a mix of healthy green and gray dead trees.  The thick wooded areas gave cool relief to the already sizzling sun.  I passed by a couple of tiny ponds, one thick with lily pads, another its shoreline covered with fuzzy bright pink flowers.

Mt. Jefferson glimpse between the dead trees

Ambling through a barren, burned out area, I was delighted to see bright green undergrowth and lovely purple lupine flowers reaching up from the forest floor.  A wonderful sign of rebirth for this area so devastated by an inferno.  Looking through the tree skeletons, I noticed the fire had opened up views of adjacent terrain.  Through a large gap, I spotted Mt. Jefferson outlined against the sky.

Lupine going strong underneath the burned out area

I never knew there could be so much beauty in an old burned-out forest.  But the silver ghostly trees were quite scenic.

My first amazing view of Three Fingered Jack

I came upon a lush green meadow with a small tarn on the far edge.  Thinking the tarn might be a good photo subject, I shortcut through the meadow.  But up close, the dark murky water wasn't very interesting.  Preparing a return to the trail, I looked up and saw an incredible sight.  Rising above the trees like a huge, rocky fortress, was the craggy east face of Three Fingered Jack.

Amazing lower meadow

It was a most amazing, breathtaking view of the mountain!  TFJ looked like a huge wall of rock towering over the meadow.  The sun reflected off the mountain's crumbly basalt cliffs.  It appeared close enough to reach out and touch.  Sighting TFJ meant that the lower meadows were not far away.

The flowers were going strong

A short distance from the tarn, I came to a trail junction beside a small stream.  And beside this stream the trees parted to reveal a lovely green meadow chock-full of wildflowers.  A kaleidoscope of color. Such a beautiful place! 

"The hills are alive....."

I slowly made my way through these wonderful meadows, stopping for many, many "Kodak moments."  At the far end, the trail again climbed through a small wooded area.  But again the forest cleared and the terrain opened up into a breathtaking lush, green alpine wonderland, bookended by the mountain's rocky wall.  It looked as if I was in Austria. I felt a strong urge to do my Julie Andrews impression.  Or at least attempt a yodel.

Looks like  you can reach out and touch the mountain

The trail led straight into the very heart of the mountain.  I followed the path, reveling in the dramatic views.  Three Fingered Jack kept getting closer and closer, until it's bulk totally filled the sky.

View from the saddle

Then the forest and meadow terminated into a barren, rocky slope.  It was the moraine for the mountain's glacier.  I crossed a snowfield, and picked my way up through a steep climb in loose rocks and gravel.  There was a very faint user path through the rubble, but I lost it several times.  Route-finding became a challenge. 

Small lake in the crater is still not melted out

The book described a path through the moraine to a saddle high above the meadows.  After reaching the top of the first rocky slope, my legs, tired from the previous day's run, screamed uncle.  Looking ahead, I could see there was still a fair amount of climbing left to reach the saddle.  Although I'd been told by another hiker on the trail of amazing views from this perch, my body didn't have the energy to continue.  So I took a snack break and admired the scenery from where I stood.

A few hardy flowers grow amongst the rocks

And the sights were plenty nice.  Three Fingered Jack's steep cliffs dominated the western view.  The mountain's crater directly below it's summit was still snowed in.  A cirque lake in this crater, normally melted out by now, was just beginning to thaw (marked by a small blue ring in the snow).  Looking towards the north and east, miles of forested valleys spread out before me.

Lupine madness

It was breathtaking to be so close to this massive mountain.  I stayed atop the moraine for the better part of 30 minutes, just soaking in the views.  But then I noticed the sky starting to cloud over.  There had been a thunderstorm the night before, and the clouds looked as if they could do repeat of last night's performance.  Not wanting to be up so high if that happened, I decided it was time to go.

Purple meadows

I slid down the rocky slopes, and wandered back into the lush meadows below.  Now safely back in the forest, I embarked on a marathon lupine photo session.  The lovely purple flowers were everywhere.  They appeared to be at their peak, providing a colorful accent to the scenery.

Lovely forested meadow

Visitors to Canyon Creek Meadows have the option of returning on a loop hike via Wasco Lake.  Always up for seeing new places, I happily headed this way.  After leaving the wonderful meadows, the trail followed Canyon Creek, silty and roaring from the previous night's rain.  The path returned into the dense forest, but did open up occasionally to offer views of meadows richly carpeted in green.

Stark beauty of the burned area

And then I was back into the old forest fire area.  The bad news - no more shade.  It was afternoon by now and temps were plenty toasty.  But the good news - wide open views and fascinating scenery.  The stark gray tree trunks of the burned out forest were really great photo subjects.  The brilliant blue sky made for a nice contrast.  And it was good to see a huge amount of green undergrowth, signalling the forest's rebirth.  I even spooked a deer and got a quick glimpse as it ran away.

Quite a fire!

As I climbed back to the trailhead at Jack Lake, some of the clearings enabled me to see the wide extent of this fire.  I could see acres and acres of gray, dead trees.  Very sobering to think of the amount of devastation.

Jack Lake in the afternoon

Finally I was back to where I started, following Jack Lake's shoreline.  I passed by this morning's viewpoint of TFJ, and smiled remembering my amazingly close encounter with this stunning mountain. 

Although hot, dusty and tired, I was happy to discover yet another beautiful trail in the Central Oregon Cascades.  My trip to Bend was great fun - hanging out with my brother, completing a challenging trail run, and, best of all, discovering two new favorite hikes.

Linking to Share Your Cup Thursday and Sunny Simple Sunday.