Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Other Eagle Creek

Every Portland area hiker knows of the Columbia River Gorge's famous Eagle Creek Trail.  I've visited it many, many times.  If you're new to my blog, or need a refresher, click on these links for past posts about Eagle Creek in the spring and the fall.

Rainy leaf

But there's another Eagle Creek in Oregon.  Sullivan's first edition "100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon" has a description of a trail to a different Eagle Creek.  It's located in the Mt. Hood foothills, near the town of Estacada.  From reading local hiking websites, I learned it's a rarely-visited path with a trailhead that's difficult to find.  Sounded like a grand adventure - high time to check it out!

The trail started on an abandoned road

I have a special Mother's Day tradition.  On this day, I go hiking with my family on the trail of my choice.  I'll bet you can guess which trail I chose for this year's hike!  Although my daughter was busy with college and unable to join me, my son came home.  He and hubby agreed to accompany me on my Eagle Creek quest.

Rhodie sighting

Armed with maps and directions printed from the web, we set out that rainy Sunday, bound and determined to find this trail.  Glancing at the raindrops splattering the windshield, I asked my hubby if he'd packed his rain jacket.  Roger, who hardly ever wears a coat, admitted he didn't think to grab one.  Anticipating a wet hike, I joked about creating him a makeshift raincoat by cutting holes in a plastic garbage bag.

My guys stop and smell the rhodies

As expected, the trailhead was a challenge to find.  We got lost right off the bat.  I missed our first turnoff and traveled 10 miles in the opposite direction before realizing my mistake.  Then, due to poor signage, I drove right by the second road junction, and ended up backtracking once again.  Finally, we came to a rough gravel logging road.  The trailhead was supposed to be off this road, described as a pullout just past a forked junction. 

Cody ponders an old nurse log

Bumping down the rough rocky surface, it appeared the adjacent forest was getting ready to be logged.  Large tractors and other logging equipment were parked on the shoulders.  Of course, none of the roads were signed, so when we finally arrived at a pullout that looked right, I had to study my map and gps to confirm.  Although still not 100% positive we were in the right place, I decided to take a chance and directed the guys down an adjacent overgrown road.  If nothing else, we'd get a nice walk in the woods.

Dutchman breeches

The multiple wrong turns on the way to the trailhead burned a lot of time.  It was late morning when my crew finally started hiking.  But the upside was all our running around had given the rain time to fall and be done.  When we finally emerged from the car, the skies were dry.  Roger wouldn't need that garbage bag after all!

Bear eyes Cody's lunch

We started out on a wide dirt road that was gradually being reclaimed by the forest.  It immediately pitched downhill rather steeply.  Although it made the going easy, I knew it meant a steep climb at the end of our hike.  A short distance from our car, the guys spotted a bush full of beautiful pink rhododendrons.  I hoped this was a sign of more good things to come.

Delicate ferns

Gradually, the trees and bushes began to close in.  The road shrunk into a mere path through the greenery.  Small springs trickled from the bank above one side of the trail, making the ground boggy in places.  We'd traveled about a mile when I spotted a brown Forest Service sign on a tree.  Although it didn't provide any names, the sign did confirm we were on a trail.

Blowdown tree hanging over the trail

Another half mile into the hike, a second sign announced the boundary of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.  A quick map check confirmed our location matched that of our desired route.  We were on the correct trail.  Whew!

Rain dappled yellow flower

From that point on the hike was nothing short of spectacular.  We entered a grand old-growth forest, full of enormous Douglas Fir and Cedar trees.  Moss draped over gnarled branches and crept up the trunks of these old giants.  The forest floor was carpeted with ferns and other bright green vegetation.

Cody admires a granddaddy tree

Huge fallen tree trunks lay across the ground.  Half-decayed, these "nurse logs" provided nutrients for new plant growth.  Lots of ferns, small vegetation, and even some young trees were sprouting from their topsides.

Huge rootball of a blowdown tree

Every once and awhile we'd run across the rootball of one of these monster trees.  And they were enormous!  High winds and saturated soils combine to occasionally fell these big boys.  I can't imagine the racket when a tree of this size topples over!  (however.....if no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?)

Mossy old log

All this lovely greenness was occasionally interrupted by a patch of brightly colored wildflowers.  There were bleeding hearts, corydalis, delicate ivory flowers called Dutchman Breeches, trilliums, and little yellow unknown flowers.  Having Cody on the hike (who has a Bachelor's degree in botany) was a big plus.  He named a lot of the plants and flowers for me (I just can't remember what he called the yellow flowers)

Cute corydalis blossoms

There was so much wonderful scenery to photograph, I lagged far behind the men.  Every once and awhile Bear would come loping back to be sure I was still following.  Roger and Cody occasionally stopped and waited for me to catch up.  It was Mother's Day, so they were more patient than usual.  I got to meander at my own pace without any complaints.

Cedar forest

Although this was the Eagle Creek Trail, for most of our hike the creek itself was hidden down a steep bank below.  We could hear it's gurgling waters, and would occasionally glimpse small rapids between the thick trees.  Finally, around mile three, a small path led to a nice campsite beside it's rushing waters.

Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek was lovely.  It's clear waters were dotted with many colorful rocks.  Lush fir and hemlock trees lined the banks.  The sound of rushing rapids serenaded us.  We sat on some logs in the campsite, had a snack, and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.

Photo op under a mossy branch

The afternoon was getting late, so after our wonderful break at the campsite, the men and I turned around.  Although I snatched a photo or two on the return trip, we mostly hiked straight back without any breaks.  And we arrived at the car not any too soon.  Driving back home, the rain returned with a vengeance.  Boy, did Roger get lucky with the weather!  (The garbage bag will have to wait for another day)

My three favorite guys - Roger, Cody and Bear

I've discovered a hidden jewel of a trail, deep in the woods outside Estacada.  With the entrance road about to be logged, I can't help but wonder if access will soon be blocked.  I hope this doesn't happen.  It's too wonderful a place to be sealed off from hikers.

Another perfect Mother's Day spent doing what I love best - exploring new trails with my favorite guys.

Linking to:  Sweet Shot Tuesday.


  1. Wow! You got so many fabulous images in this post. I wish I could enjoy a walk in those woods! My dog would love it too!

  2. This is my new favorite post of yours! Forests are such magical, wonderful places with their trees, mosses, wildflowers. LOVE!!!
    Thank you for making my evening:)
    PS: LOVE your Mother's Day tradition!

  3. It would be a great pity if that walk disappeared. Well done for persevering until you found the track as your efforts were well worth while. I feel I've walked the trail with you.

  4. These are just the kind of of places I like to explore. You got some great photos to show off.

  5. Your trails looks so different from ours. This is just beautiful. And hey, don't knock the garbage bags - I carry two with me in my backpack at all times and you wouldn't believe the uses I've found for them. Most recently, waders cause it was just too cold to deal with water shoes. It worked!

  6. What a wonderful way to spend Mothers Day. I'm so happy you're back on the hiking trail. You got some stunning photos!!

  7. Absolutely stunning! The tree roots and the moss have to be my favourite, and well done to your son for being brave enough to stand under that fallen tree! Beautiful shots. Chel x

  8. It is so beautiful there! Wow! I love that shot of the blowdown tree hanging over the trail. The color of the moss is just so pretty and bright. I love your mother's day tradition!

  9. Looks like a really nice hike. It all looks very lush. I especially liked your close ups.

  10. What an amazing place, the cedar forest looks magical! Kiss for Bear from my Izzy pup ;)

  11. Great photos. I can't resist photographing nature either!

  12. My 'Among Soaring trees' was in appropriately labelled after reading this post. You were certainly walking among soaring giants and the moss so thick. Magnificent!

  13. Linda -- The photos reminded me of the HO Rainforest in Washington state.

  14. Beautiful hike, Linda. What is the tick situation out there this time of year?

  15. The trail is amazing with plenty of flora. I would love to take this trail with my camera.

  16. Looks like a magic forest! How beautiful.

  17. The best of Mother's Days! I was struck by the huge potential to get lost in that forest, despite the trails. Glad you found the right one!

  18. I love less popular trails like this, and your photos of it are lovely. Sometimes I dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest but I think the rain would get to me.

  19. These old growth forests are some of the prettiest places in the PNW. You captured great shots. Makes me miss it :)


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